In The Conjure Woman, Charles Chesnutt alludes to Virgil’s treatment of lost land and lost love in Eclogues and of agricultural economies in Georgics. The divergent reception history of these 2 two Virgilian traditions--georgic and eclogue as they were understood in the nineteenth century--reflects sectional differences between North and South. Analyzing representations of contested Southern landscape, I define the Northern georgics of Reconstruction as hope for a future Golden Age realized through labor, and the Southern eclogues of slavery as nostalgia for Arcadian leisure. Instead of idealized aesthetic and economic treatments of Southern landscape, Chesnutt’s allusions to Virgil evoke the mythological proportions of suffering during slavery. Integrating conjure with classical metamorphoses, Chesnutt’s The Conjure Woman provides a literary model for reconciliation in which African-American cultural inclusion--through education, publication, and ultimately, canonization--is essential for national progress.


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pp. 199-220
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