Joyce Carol Oates

Lorna Hardwick and James I. Porter

in Sibylline Sisters

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780199582969
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731198 | DOI:

Series: Classical Presences

Joyce Carol Oates

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As the work of Boland, Wittig, Wolf, and Byatt reminds us Virgil speaks with especial force at times of national crisis. Thus, there is almost a sense of inevitability to a Virgilian presence in the work of those attempting to articulate the anger, cultural rifts, and bewildered grief of the United States after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. The title character in Joyce Carol Oates's The Tattooed Girl is a barely literate young girl who, driven by the anti-Semitic hatred of her pimp boyfriend, wages a murderously vengeful campaign against her employer, a writer engaged on a translation of the Aeneid. It is natural for Oates to look to Virgil in the wake of attacks that threatened the very fibre of America's being precisely because Virgil is associated so strongly with the reassertion of national identity after conflict. In addition to her invocation of Virgil at a time of national crisis, Oates also has the immigrant element of her family history that predisposes so many writers towards Virgil.

Keywords: Virgil; women writers; The Tattooed Girl; national crisis; September 11

Chapter.  8901 words. 

Subjects: Classical Literature

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