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Toni Morrison and the Classical TraditionTransforming American Culture$
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Tessa Roynon

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199698684

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199698684.001.0001

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The New England Colonies and the Founding of the New Nation

The New England Colonies and the Founding of the New Nation

(p.45) 2 The New England Colonies and the Founding of the New Nation
Toni Morrison and the Classical Tradition

Tessa Roynon

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines Morrison's use of the classical tradition to challenge, in A Mercy and Paradise, the prevailing mythology that has come to define colonial New England and the founding of the new American nation in the late eighteenth century. It examines the dialogue with John Milton's Paradise Lost and Ovid's Metamorphoses in A Mercy, and with Cotton Mather's Magnalia Christi Americana (and with Virgil) in Paradise. It discusses the concept of ‘representative men’, the ‘hero’, and Aristotle's ‘tragic fall’ throughout the oeuvre, particularly in Love and Song of Solomon. It demonstrates that the works' critique of America's Enlightenment-derived narratives of self-definition and racial identity takes issue with mainstream analogies between America and Ancient Greece and Rome, for example through the analogy between the Oven and the Greek koine hestia in Paradise.

Keywords:   A Mercy, Paradise, Love, Song of Solomon, John Milton, Ovid, Cotton Mather, racial identity, Enlightenment, Aristotle

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