Abstract

Abstract:

Phillis Wheatley's modern critics are divided. Some, for example, have characterized the slave-poet's work as examples of a colonized mind. Other scholars, however, have observed in her writings an appropriation of Western traditions to subtly critique slavery, remember her native Africa, and contemplate freedom. In none of these analyses have scholars begun to consider her elegies. Indeed, missing in modern studies of Wheatley's work is a critical examination of how Wheatley manipulated typography as a literary device to transform the literal meanings of her funerary poems: "Sass." An aesthetic adopted by peoples of Africa or of African descent in response to racial prejudice, Sass represents an expression of agency that is at once deferential and defiant, polite and contrarian. In the essay that follows, Wheatley's Sass, a unique part of the poet's elegiac style, is explored.

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