Gayl Jones’s novel Corregidora has most often been read as testament to the continuity of the traumas of slavery and sexual violence across temporal and spatial boundaries—traumas transmitted and affirmed both through familial descent and through the enduring vitality of the blues aesthetic. This essay argues, however, that what Corregidora affirms most strongly is not a more accurate (because more traumatic) history but rather what Stephen Best has recently called the desire to make the past present. What Ursa Corregidora struggles to realize in the novel is precisely the pastness of the past, the recognition that the past need not determine the present. Because this realization is thematically bound up with a celebration of nonprocreative sexuality and with an ambivalent critique of futurity, it anticipates a number of contemporary emphases within queer theory.
Unmaking Generations: On Gayl Jones’s Corregidora and the Pastness of the Past
Thomas F. Haddox is Lindsay Young professor and associate head of English at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, where he teaches courses in twentieth-century American literature, southern literature, religion and literature, and literary theory. He is author of Fears and Fascinations: Representing Catholicism in the American South and Hard Sayings: The Rhetoric of Christian Orthodoxy in Late Modern Fiction, and the coeditor, with Allen Dunn, of The Limits of Literary Historicism.