Skip to main content
Article thumbnail
Location of Repository

Transforming America : Toni Morrison and classical tradition

By Tessa Kate Roynon

Abstract

This thesis examines a significant but little-studied feature of Toni Morrison's\ud work: her ambivalent engagement with classical tradition. Analysing all eight\ud novels. it argues that her allusiveness to the cultural practices of Ancient Greece\ud and Rome is fundamental to her political project. Illuminating hegemonic\ud America's consistent recourse to the classical world in the construction of its\ud identity, I expand on prior scholarship by reading Morrison's own revisionary\ud classicism as a subversion of dominant US culture. My three-part study\ud examines the way her deployment of Graeco-Roman tradition destabilizes\ud mythologies of the American Dream, prevailing narratives of America's\ud history, and national ideologies of purity. Part I shows that Morrison enlists\ud tragic conventions to problematize the Dream's central tenets of upward\ud mobility, progress and freedom. It argues that while her engagement with Greek\ud choric models effects her refutation of individualism, it is her later novels'\ud rejection of a wholly catastrophic vision that enables her to avoid reinscribing\ud the Dream. Part II demonstrates that it is through her classical allusiveness that\ud Morrison rewrites American history. Her multiply-resonant echoes of the epic,\ud pastoral and tragic traditions that have consistently informed the dominant\ud culture's justifications for and representations of its actions enable her\ud reconfiguration of colonization, of the foundation of the new nation, of slavery\ud and its aftermath and of the Civil Rights Movement. Part III illuminates how\ud the author uses the discourse of pollution or miasma to challenge\ud Enlightenment-derived valorizations of racial purity and to expose the practices\ud of scapegoating and revenge as flawed means to moral purity. Her interest in\ud the hegemonic fabrication of classical tradition as itself a pure and purifying\ud force is matched by her insistence on that tradition's African elements, and thus\ud on its potent impurity. Her own radical classicism, therefore, is central to the\ud transformation of America that her novels envision

Topics: PS
OAI identifier: oai:wrap.warwick.ac.uk:3672

Suggested articles

Citations

  1. (1930). ("Twelve Southerners"). I'll Take My Stand: The South and the Agrarian Tradition.
  2. (1944). 2 nd ed.
  3. (1989). A New Context for a New American Studies?". doi
  4. A Response to Hume".
  5. (1961). Aesop Without Morals: The Famous Fables and a Life of Aesop. doi
  6. (1947). America in George Sandys's Ovid". doi
  7. (1997). American Cultural Studies: An Introduction to American Culture. London and doi
  8. (1989). American Pastoral Ideology Reappraised". doi
  9. (1986). An American Farmer and Sketches of Eighteenth-Century America. doi
  10. (1974). Angela Davis: An Autobiography. doi
  11. (1987). Aunt Medea".
  12. (1989). Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins UP,
  13. (1980). Black Women Novelists: The Development of a Tradition, doi
  14. (1984). Blues, Ideology and African-American Literature: A Vernacular Theory. Chicago and London: U of Chicago P, doi
  15. (2004). Clotel, or: The President's Daughter.
  16. (1998). Collected Essays. Selected by Toni Morrison.
  17. (1991). Comparatil'e American Identities: Race, Sex and Nationality in the Modem Text. Ed. Hortense Spillers. doi
  18. (2000). Corti Lillian. "Medea and Beloved: Self-Definition and Abortive Nurturing
  19. (2002). Critical Practice. 2nd ed. London and doi
  20. Democracy: An American Novel. doi
  21. (2001). Durham and London: Duke UP, doi
  22. (1915). Epoch Producing Corporation,
  23. (1984). Essays in Ancient Egyptian Studies. Los Angeles: U of Sankore P,
  24. (1949). Everybody's Protest Novel". doi
  25. Extracts from the Poetics".
  26. (1992). Film Preservation Associates,
  27. (2003). Ghosts in the Attic: How Toni Morrison Fostered a Generation of Black Writers".
  28. (1998). His Mind Aglow': The Biological Undercurrent in Fitzgerald's Gatsby and Other Works". doi
  29. (1994). Imaginal)' Greece: The Contexts of Mythology. doi
  30. (1998). Impossible Purities: Blackness, Femininity, and Victorian Culture. Durham and London: Duke UP, doi
  31. (1988). In the African-American Grain: The Pursuit of Voice in Tlrentieth-Century Black Fiction. Urbana and Chicago: U of lllinois P,
  32. (1989). Inspiriting Influences: Tradition, Revision, and AfroAmerican Women's Novels. doi
  33. (1966). Landmarks in Greek Literature. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, doi
  34. (1966). Language as Symbolic Action: Essays on Life, Literature and Method. Berkley and Los Angeles: U of California P, doi
  35. Letters from an American Farmer. doi
  36. (1997). London and doi
  37. (1981). Melodramas of Beset Manhood: How Theories of American 326 Fiction Exclude Women Authors". doi
  38. (1987). New Dimensions of Spirituality: A Biracial and Bicultural Reading of the Novels of Toni Morrison. doi
  39. (1975). New York and Harmondsworth: Penguin,
  40. (1979). Ovid and Universal Contiguity".
  41. (1955). Poet-Adventurer: A Study doi
  42. (2000). Random House, doi
  43. (1987). Reconstructing Womanhood: The Emergence of the Afro-American 329 Woman Novelist. doi
  44. (1982). Redefining Destruction: the Liberation of the Medea
  45. (1940). Sapphira and the Slave Girl. doi
  46. (1983). Scapegoat Rituals in Ancient Greece". doi
  47. (2000). The Aesthetics of Toni Morrison: Speaking the Unspeakable. Jackson, Miss.: UP of Mississippi, doi
  48. (1965). The American Dream and the American Negro".
  49. (2003). The American Dream: A Short History of an Idea that Shaped a Nation. doi
  50. (1978). The American Jeremiad. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, doi
  51. (1995). The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States."
  52. (1959). The Discovery of What It Means to Be An American".
  53. (1977). The Dream of Reason: American Consciousness and Cultural Achievement from Independence to the Civil War. doi
  54. (1907). The Education of Henry Adams. doi
  55. (1983). The Education. New York: Library of .L\.merica.
  56. (1978). The Egyptian Revival: Its Sources, Monuments and Meaning 1808-58. Berkeley: U of California P, doi
  57. (1981). The Eleusinian Mysteries as an Organising Principle in The Pisan Cantos".
  58. (1987). The Fabrication of Ancient Greece.
  59. (1986). The Gods Made Flesh: Metamorphosis and the Pursuit of Paganism. New Haven and London: Yale UP, doi
  60. (1975). The Greatest: My Own Story. With Richard Durham.
  61. (1951). The Greeks and the Irrational. Berkeley: U of California P, doi
  62. (1991). The Myth and Ritual School: 1. G. Frazer and the Cambridge Ritualists. doi
  63. (1968). The Mythmakers of American History". doi
  64. (2001). The One All-Black Town Worth the Pain: (African) American Exceptionalism, Historical Narration, and the Critique of Nationhood in Toni Morrison's Paradise". doi
  65. (1925). The Professor's House. doi
  66. (1912). The Promised Land. doi
  67. (1988). The Puritan Vision of the New World". Columbia Literary History of the United States. Ed. Emory Elliott. doi
  68. (1980). The Salt Eaters. doi
  69. (1974). Theater of the Oppressed. doi
  70. (1990). Unruly and Let Loose: Myth, Ideology and Gender in Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon". Modem Critical Interpretations: Toni Morrison's Song of doi
  71. (1985). White Noise. doi
  72. (1998). Whiteness Visible: The Meaning of Whiteness in American Literature and Culture. doi

To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.