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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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Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction

Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction

(p.77) 3 Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction
Toni Morrison and the Classical Tradition

Tessa Roynon

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that in Beloved and Jazz, Morrison writes against the identification that the ‘Old South’, the Confederate cause, and the pro-slavery elements of American society consistently make with Athens, with Ancient Greek culture, and with ancient slavery. In so doing, she participates in and extends the tradition of abolitionist classicism that harnessed the same body of culture — that of the ancient world — to completely opposing ends. It explores Morrison's motivated use of tragic, epic and pastoral conventions in these contexts, and her revisionary dialogue with Virgil, Ovid, Phillis Wheatley, Crévecoeur, and with William Faulkner in her rewritings of Southern history.

Keywords:   Beloved, Jazz, South, slavery, tragic, epic, pastoral, Virgil, Phillis Wheatley, Crèvecoeur

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