By Tracey L. Walters (auth.)
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Extra resources for African American Literature and the Classicist Tradition: Black Women Writers from Wheatley to Morrison
Eubouleus says that when he looked down into the chasm he saw Persephone with Hades. After hearing Eubouleus’ story Demeter travels to hell and retrieves both the pigs and Persephone. Graves describes a similar Orphic story. Graves notes that the Eleusian prince Triptolemos tells Demeter that while tending to his herd he saw Hades take Persephone and rape her. 5 One of the most significant changes found in the Orphic tales is a narrative recording that Zeus, not Hades, rapes Persephone. The rape results in the birth of Zagreus, also known as Dionysus, god of the vine.
The most significant variation between ancient versions of the myth and the revisions by Brooks, Morrison, and Dove is that the women rewrite the narrative so that Persephone’s perspective is presented. The Homeric, Ovidian, and Orphic versions of the narrative highlight Demeter’s traumatic response to Persephone’s absence, her search to find her, and her fight to be reunited with Persephone. Brooks, Morrison, and Dove bring to life Persephone’s story. These writers imagine Persephone’s experience with puberty and Hades’ sexual violation of her, Persephone’s journey to hell, and Persephone’s experience being separated from her mother.
It was Pope’s neoclassical verse that greatly influenced Wheatley’s own classical renderings, most notably his translation of Homer (Mason 16). , “imitating Pope in rhythm and meter Phillis wrote in decasyllabic lines of closed heroic couplets. There is much use of invocation, hyperbole, inflated ornamentation, and an overemphasis of personification all of which characterize neoclassical poetry” (228). 1 40 AFRICAN AMERICAN LITERATURE AND THE CLASSICIST TRADITION Wheatley’s version of the “Niobe” story demonstrates her ability to translate classical tales using her own distinct voice, from her own unique Black feminine perspective.
African American Literature and the Classicist Tradition: Black Women Writers from Wheatley to Morrison by Tracey L. Walters (auth.)