The Africanness of Classicism in the Work of Toni Morrison

Tessa Roynon

in African Athena

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780199595006
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191731464 | DOI:

Series: Classical Presences

The Africanness of Classicism in the Work of Toni Morrison

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  • Ancient History (Non-Classical, to 500 CE)


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Building on recent scholarly interest in Toni Morrison's engagement with the classical tradition, this chapter demonstrates that her interest in the Africanness of classicism is a significant feature of novels she published both before and after the appearance of Bernal's Black Athena in 1987. It examines key vignettes in Sula, The Bluest Eye and Paradise, showing that though repeated engagement with Ovid's Metamorphoses the author asserts the confluence of African, Greek, and Roman cultures. Exploring her interest in the Nag Hammadi texts; in African‐American strategic appropriations of a performed ‘Egyptianness’; in Aesop; in the Antiquities collections at the Louvre; and in the work of other ‘diasporic classicists’ such as Wole Soyinka, it concludes that the Morrisonian oeuvre forms a significant contribution to recent reconceptualization of classical culture, and of the implications of this for modernity.

Keywords: Toni Morrison; Martin Bernal; Classical tradition; Africa; Egypt; Ovid's Metamorphoses; Aesop; Nag Hammadi; Wole Soyinka; Louvre; Pauline Hopkins

Chapter.  6721 words. 

Subjects: Ancient History (Non-Classical, to 500 CE)

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