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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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Fighting for Rights: from Emmett Till’s Murder to the Ronald Reagan Years

Fighting for Rights: from Emmett Till’s Murder to the Ronald Reagan Years

(p.131) 5 Fighting for Rights: from Emmett Till’s Murder to the Ronald Reagan Years
Toni Morrison and the Classical Tradition

Tessa Roynon

Oxford University Press

This chapter explores Morrison's stake in the Civil Rights Movement, the opposition to the Vietnam War, and in the experiences of women and/or the role of feminism within both these movements. Analyzing, Song of Solomon, Paradise, and Love, it argues that a revisionary dialogue with both generic features of classical culture (such as the chorus in Greek tragedy) and specific texts (such as Aeshchylus's Oresteia, Euripides's Baccahe, and Ovid's Metamorphoses) is central to the novelist's depiction of the cataclysmic clashes and gradual transformations that characterized American cultural and political life in the 1960s and 1970s. The chapter examines her critique of American individualism; her exposure of the misogyny of the Civil Rights Movement; her on-going concern with questions of miasma, justice, revenge, and atonement in the struggle for racial equality; and her interest in the ‘Dionysiac’ excesses that characterized both the institutions of the state and the culture of protest at this time.

Keywords:   civil rights, Vietnam War, Song of Solomon, Paradise, Love, Aeschylus, Euripides, Ovid, feminism, miasma

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