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Daniel Orrells, Gurminder K. Bhambra, and Tessa Roynon

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199595006

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199595006.001.0001

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The Africanness of Classicism in the Work of Toni Morrison

The Africanness of Classicism in the Work of Toni Morrison

(p.381) 22 The Africanness of Classicism in the Work of Toni Morrison
African Athena

Tessa Roynon

Oxford University Press

Building on recent scholarly interest in Toni Morrison's engagement with the classical tradition, this chapter demonstrates that her interest in the Africanness of classicism is a significant feature of novels she published both before and after the appearance of Bernal's Black Athena in 1987. It examines key vignettes in Sula, The Bluest Eye and Paradise, showing that though repeated engagement with Ovid's Metamorphoses the author asserts the confluence of African, Greek, and Roman cultures. Exploring her interest in the Nag Hammadi texts; in African‐American strategic appropriations of a performed ‘Egyptianness’; in Aesop; in the Antiquities collections at the Louvre; and in the work of other ‘diasporic classicists’ such as Wole Soyinka, it concludes that the Morrisonian oeuvre forms a significant contribution to recent reconceptualization of classical culture, and of the implications of this for modernity.

Keywords:   Toni Morrison, Martin Bernal, Classical tradition, Africa, Egypt, Ovid's Metamorphoses, Aesop, Nag Hammadi, Wole Soyinka, Louvre, Pauline Hopkins

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