'The Tongues of the Learned are Insufficient': Phillis Wheatley, Publishing Objectives, and Personal Liberty

Resources for American Literary Study, Vol. 20, No. 2, pp. 149-179, 1994

31 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2009

Date Written: June 1, 1994

Abstract

In grounding Wheatley's importance in terms of the specifics of the publication of Poems on Various Subjects, one is able to see the significance of a canonical work as both a literary achievement and an important moment in the history of the book in America. Wheatley's sense of history was, first and foremost, intended to create in her audiences a profound sense of the "constructedness" inherent in self and society. After the publication of Wheatley's poetry, her view took on a new force and importance as a number of New England writers sought to anchor their examinations of liberal democracy in the "authenticity" of their writing. These writers knew, as Jefferson did, that histories were written less to glorify God than to transform an audience's conception of its social world. Wheatley revised the project of revolution in terms of her own humanity. She did so for two reasons: to accommodate radical cultural, social, political, and religious change; and to alter her readers' conception of the meaning of Republicanism, directing readers to act and think and see in such a way that their reconstructed vision of America's critical mission would, through the audience's reception of the text, duplicate many of the insights Wheatley herself held to be essential to the expression of progressive government.

Suggested Citation

Felker, Christopher Daniel, 'The Tongues of the Learned are Insufficient': Phillis Wheatley, Publishing Objectives, and Personal Liberty (June 1, 1994). Resources for American Literary Study, Vol. 20, No. 2, pp. 149-179, 1994, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1458067

Christopher Daniel Felker (Contact Author)

UC San Diego Health ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Mail Code 0502
La Jolla, CA 92093-0112
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Christopher_Felker

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
44
Abstract Views
1,043
PlumX Metrics