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UT Humanities Center: Public Books Circle with Professor Katy Chiles
Discussion of The Age of Phillis, by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers

In 1773, a young, African American woman named Phillis Wheatley published a book of poetry that challenged Western prejudices about African and female intellectual capabilities. Based on fifteen years of archival research, The Age of Phillis, by award-winning writer Honorée Fanonne Jeffers, imagines the life and times of Wheatley: her childhood in the Gambia, West Africa, her life with her white American owners, her friendship with Obour Tanner, and her marriage to the enigmatic John Peters. Woven throughout are poems about Wheatley's "age"—the era that encompassed political, philosophical, and religious upheaval, as well as the transatlantic slave trade. For the first time in verse, Wheatley's relationship to black people and their individual "mercies" is foregrounded, and here we see her as not simply a racial or literary symbol, but a human being who lived and loved while making her indelible mark on history.

Katy L. Chiles is an associate professor of English at the University of Tennessee, where she teaches and writes about African American and Native American literature, early American literature, and critical race theory. Her first book, Transformable Race: Surprising Metamorphoses in the Literature of Early America, was published by Oxford University Press. Her work has appeared in journals such as PMLA, American Literature, and Early American Literature and has been supported by the Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities. She is co-editor for reviews for Early American Literature. Her current book project examines race, collaboration, and print history in early American literature.

(Union Ave Books in downtown Knoxville will be happy to handle your book order: )

Feb 17, 2021 07:00 PM in Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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