By Tracey L. Walters (auth.)
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Extra info for African American Literature and the Classicist Tradition: Black Women Writers from Wheatley to Morrison
A comparative reading of ancient versions alongside the modern adaptations by Brooks, Morrison, and Dove illustrate that the writers make subtle and overt allusions to versions of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and the Orphic texts. In Brooks’ In the Mecca, for example, as in the Orphic myth, Ms. Sallie ventures deep into the depths of hell where she discovers Pepita. And in The Bluest Eye, similar to an Orphic version, which recounts that Persephone’s father (Zeus) rapes her, Pecola’s father rapes his daughter.
Hamilton indicates that after Cupid pierced Medea’s heart with love potion, Medea’s love for Jason is so strong it overwhelms her. Medea is tormented by both her love for Jason and her allegiance to her country. Hamilton rewrites Ovid’s narrative by showing that Medea was so overwrought that she considers killing herself: “She sat alone in her room, weeping and telling herself she was shamed forever because she cared so much for a stranger that she wanted to yield to a mad passion and go against her father.
Conversely, Wheatley’s Niobe lacks the pretentious attitude that Sandys’ and Croxall’s Niobes possess. Wheatley focuses less on Niobe’s emotions and more on her physical appearance, thereby deflecting our attention from Niobe’s obstinate demeanor: Niobe comes with all her royal race, With charms unnumbere’d, and superior grace: Her Phrygian garments of delightful hue, Inwove with gold, refulgent to the view, Beyond description beautiful she moves Like heav’nly Venus, ’midst her smiles and loves: She views around the supplicating train, And shakes her graceful head with stern distain, Proudly she turns around her lofty eyes, And thus reviles celestial deities.