African American Literature and the Classicist Tradition: by Tracey L. Walters (auth.)

By Tracey L. Walters (auth.)

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Additional info for African American Literature and the Classicist Tradition: Black Women Writers from Wheatley to Morrison

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131) CLASSICAL DISCOURSE AS POLITICAL AGENCY 49 Wheatley’s acknowledgment by these eighteenth-century female writers underscores her significance not only as a Black poet, but also as a female writer. ” A number of Black poets and writers also applauded Wheatley’s achievements. Vincent Caretta notes that both fellow-American slave Jupiter Hammon and the free Black British writer Ignatius Sancho acknowledged Wheatley’s accomplishments. In a letter addressed to a friend, Sancho wrote: “Phyllis’s poems do credit to nature—and put art—merely as art—to the blush.

The compositions published under her name are below the 48 AFRICAN AMERICAN LITERATURE AND THE CLASSICIST TRADITION dignity of criticism. The heroes of the Dunciad are to her, as Hercules to the author of that poem” (quoted in Caretta xxxvii). Jefferson’s scathing critique of Wheatley’s poetry undermines the relevance of Wheatley’s poetic contribution. It is likely that Jefferson refused to recognize Wheatley as a poet because to do so would be to acknowledge her humanity. Although pro-slavery Americans disregarded Wheatley’s poetic talent, the British were more receptive of her brilliance and regarded her as a prominent literary figure.

Whereas Euripides’ play highlights Medea’s struggle to determine the fate of her children, Ovid’s narrative says nothing about Medea’s ambivalence toward killing her children. Moreover, the infanticide itself is barely noted. At the end of the narrative Ovid remarks that after killing Glauce, Medea’s “wicked sword was drenched in her son’s blood; and thus winning a mother’s vile revenge” (Melville 156). Unlike Euripides, Ovid does not explain why Medea commits infanticide and readers are left with the impression that Medea is a ruthless killer who uses her powers to kill her enemies.

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