Early American History Seminar: Betsy Erkkila, Northwestern University

Early American History and Culture Seminar
Thursday, April 14, 2011

5:30 pm to 7:00 pm

Scholl Center Seminar papers are pre-circulated electronically.  For a copy of the paper, e-mail the Scholl Center at scholl@newberry.org.  Please do not request a paper unless you plan to attend.

“Phillis Wheatley and the Revolutionary Transatlantic
Betsy Erkkila, Northwestern University

Phillis Wheatley was the first poet of the American Revolution, the first person of African descent to publish a book of poems in English, and the first American of either sex to publish a book of poetry that addresses social and political events. And yet because Wheatley is a poet, her work has not been recognized by either historians or literary critics for the historically and imaginatively rich record it presents of the American and the transatlantic freedom struggle told from the point of view of an African woman poet and slave. By reading Wheatley’s writings as works of simultaneously imaginative and political creation, this paper will seek to illuminate hitherto unstudied or understudied dimensions of the Revolutionary transatlantic, including the contribution her writing made to the nascent antislavery movement, the Black Atlantic literary tradition, and our understanding of the American Revolution in its more socially revolutionary and transnational context.