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Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genius in Bondage (Sarah Mills Hodge Fund Publication) Hardcover – November 1, 2011


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Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genius in Bondage (Sarah Mills Hodge Fund Publication) + Phillis Wheatley, Complete Writings + The Trials of Phillis Wheatley: America's First Black Poet and Her Encounters with the Founding Fathers
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Product Details

  • Series: Sarah Mills Hodge Fund Publication
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press; 1st Ed. edition (November 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0820333387
  • ISBN-13: 978-0820333380
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,416,463 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“This is a satisfying study of the ‘elusive’ Wheatley, fleshed out with succinct, discerning readings of the body of her work. . . . Especially noteworthy is the book’s attentiveness to Wheatley’s involvement in the production and promotion of her book, the contemporary responses to her work, and an unprecedented account of her marriage to the debt-ridden John Peters, whose death forced her into domestic service.”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)


“Surprisingly the first full biography … Carretta presents his significant research in this comprehensive study of Wheatley. He uncovered her previously unknown earliest writings in the personal papers of a contemporary. Using court documents about her husband, John Peters, Carretta found new information about Wheatley’s postemancipation life in Boston and London, years about which scholars still know very little. He also provides fresh analysis of Wheatley’s poetry and gives the reader a glimpse into the lives of both free and enslaved blacks in Colonial New England.” —Library Journal


“Phillis Wheatley is a much too little-known figure, but at last she has found the right biographer. Those who have admired the clear, informed and judicious light that Vincent Carretta has already shed on the life and work of Olaudah Equiano will find the same qualities in this book. His deep knowledge of both shores of the eighteenth-century Atlantic make him the perfect person to bring alive this remarkable woman and the world of bondage and wary freedom in which she lived.”—Adam Hochschild, author of Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves



"Phillis Wheatley is one of the very few women writers to have invented a literary tradition. Lavishly praised and viciously maligned, the enormity of Wheatley’s artistic achievements has long been obscured by the political uses to which she and her poetry have been put. Even more obscured have been the details of Wheatley’s life. At last, Vincent Carretta has written a biography of this great writer as complex and as nuanced as Wheatley and her work themselves. This book resurrects the 'mother' of the African American literary tradition, vividly, scrupulously, and without sentimentality, as no other biography of her has done."—Henry Louis Gates Jr., Alphonse Fletcher University Professor, Harvard University, and author of The Trials of Phillis Wheatley: America's First Black Poet and Her Encounters with the Founding Fathers


"An extraordinary achievement. Carretta's ground-breaking research and sensitive readings greatly enrich our understanding of Wheatley's life and work."—John Wood Sweet, author of Bodies Politic: Negotiating Race in the American North, 1730-1830



"Phillis Wheatley for a generation has been a vehicle for ideological warfare. Was this first internationally recognized African-American poet a race traitor or the spiritual foremother of anti-materialism, post-racial amity, and gracious community? In the heat of the argument Phillis Wheatley herself melted into near insignificance. Vincent Carretta’s biography brings the person—her life—career—literary context—marriage—illness—religious life—death—back into startling view. With his characteristic depth of new research and scrupulously even-handed assessment of evidence, Carretta makes us understand the milestones of her transit from slavery to freedom, from a local curiosity to an international celebrity. We see for the first time her earliest attempts at verse. We finally grasp the drama and negotiation surrounding her return to America from the virtual freedom of post-Mansfield decision England. We understand the dynamics of the transatlantic abolition movement and its support of her efforts. We encounter her husband John Peters as a complex entrepreneurial man, not a one-dimensional exploiter and cad. We grasp why the advertised second volume of poems—one of the great lost books of American literature—never came to press. In short, we come to know Phillis and her world in a way we were never able to before."—David S. Shields, McClintock Professor, University of South Carolina



"[Carretta's] wellresearched narrative succeeds in bringing the 'genius in bondage' out of history's shadows. . . . Wheatley emerges from the pages of Carretta's biography as a resourceful poet who played an active role in the production and distribution of her own writing on both sides of the Atlantic."—Douglas Field, Times Literary Supplement


"Such scholars as Vincent Carretta, in Phillis Wheatley, find her poetry more nuanced than her modern black critics have allowed. . . . Phillis Wheatley is a reminder that African-American literature began not as autobiography or protest but religious poetry, the literature of yearning. Phillis Wheatley was special, but her poetry was not. It earned her a place among the white contregants of her church precisely because it behaved, conformed. There is a speed and rhythm in her letters that is personal, whereas a poem by her can sound like the eighteenth-century poem next to it by someone else. We leave her, thirsting for the upper courts of the Lord."—Darryl Pinckney, Harper's Magazine

About the Author

Vincent Carretta is a professor of English at the University of Maryland. He is the author or editor of more than ten books, including scholarly editions of the writings of Olaudah Equiano, Phillis Wheatley, Ignatius Sancho, and Ottobah Cugoano. His most recent books are Equiano, the African: Biography of a Self-Made Man, winner of the Annibel Jenkins Prize, and The Life and Letters of Philip Quaque, the First African Anglican Missionary, coedited with Ty M. Reese (both Georgia).

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Chimonsho on January 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Unlike many literary scholars, Vincent Carretta does in-depth archival research, going beyond analysis of formal texts. This prodigious effort on Phillis Wheatley does not yield startling revelations like his "Equiano, the African." The current book is thus less controversial but likely definitive. Wheatley is less well-documented so this is perhaps more a life-and-times work, but Carretta tells much about the "founding mother" of African American and Black Atlantic literature. As with Equiano, Carretta is cautious in his conclusions where facts are inconclusive. (He's skeptical, e.g., that Wheatley actually had tea with George Washington, without ruling it out.) But he follows the evidence diligently, and argues forthrightly that Wheatley was a subtle but dedicated proponent of African capacities and interests. The material on Wheatley's post-emancipation life is important and revealing about her and husband John Peters. S.& E. Kaplan, "The Black Presence in the Era of the American Revolution" provides broader context and has a fine discussion on Wheatley.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Krista Ann Revak on November 17, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a great and interesting biography, of a very intersting woman. I learned alot from reading about her. Thank you to the author for all his hard work, and dedication to researching Phillis Wheatley.
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By makoto on February 15, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Perfect
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kay T Roberts on January 30, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is easy reading with great historical content, combined with a heart stopping saga of a brilliant, but compromised heroine.
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Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genius in Bondage (Sarah Mills Hodge Fund Publication)
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