Published January 23, 2022 | Version Original
Journal article Open

Procne in Toni Morrison's Beloved

  • 1. Uppsala University


Sethe Suggs, the protagonist in Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved, is often

compared to Medea. The same analogy with the Colchian princess was often

made by contemporaries in relation to Margaret Garner, the historical person on

whose life the novel is loosely based. An enslaved African-American woman in

the mid-nineteenth century, Garner killed her own daughter after being found by

her former owner and was styled a ‘Modern Medea’ in the press. Despite

Morrison’s dislike of the comparison as well as its obvious asymmetries, it has

become so prominent in recent scholarship on Beloved that it tends to eclipse

other elements of classical mythology in the novel. This article explores the

hermeneutic productivity of reading Sethe’s infanticide against the backdrop of

the myth of Procne and Philomela.


This article was written with funding from the Swedish Research Council, project 2019-02584. It has also received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 952366.


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10.1093/crj/clab002 (DOI)


MotherNet – Developing a new Network of Researchers on Contemporary European Motherhood 952366
European Commission