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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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America, Africa, and Classical Traditions

America, Africa, and Classical Traditions

(p.162) 6 America, Africa, and Classical Traditions
Toni Morrison and the Classical Tradition

Tessa Roynon

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines Morrison's challenge to the fabricated conception of classicism as a ‘pure’ boy of culture, as a European pedigree on which so many aspects of dominant American identity depend. It demonstrates the novelist's interest in the historical connectedness of Africa (both North and West) with Ancient Greece and Rome. It explores her affinities with Martin Bernal, Paul Gilroy, Joseph Roach, and Wole Soyinka; her anthologizing of African literature in the 1970s; her use of Egyptian traditions and of the Gnostic gospels in the Nag Hammadi library; her revisionary deployment of Ovid's Metamorphoses to restore Africa to both the classical tradition and to the American structures that depend on that tradition; and her adaptations of Aesop's fables. The key novels discussed her are Sula, Paradise, and Jazz.

Keywords:   Africa, Martin Bernal, Paul Gilroy, Egypt, Nag Hammadi, Wole Soyinka, Ovid, Aesop, Sula, Paradise

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