This introductory chapter positions the argument of this book in relation to recent scholarship in the field of ‘black classicism’. It posits the ‘strategic ambivalence’ of Morrison's classicism, outlining the dominant cultural uses of the classical tradition in definitions of American history and identity with which the text takes issue, and suggesting that the novelist's allusiveness is fundamental to the critical intervention in the politics of race and gender that her oeuvre constitutes. The chapter discusses prior scholarship on Morrison's classicism and presents an overview of the role of classics in Morrison's intellectual formation, and of her own discussion of the classical tradition in essays, interviews, and speeches. Finally, it outlines the book's argument regarding the key narratives of American history that Morrison's classicism transforms.
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