Last Thursday, Tiffany Martinez, a first generation Latina college student at Suffolk University, posted “Academia, Love Me Back” on her blog. The post, written by the McNair Fellow, describes how a professor accused her or plagiarism for using the transition word “hence” and called her out during class. The teacher, in front of the class, told her “This is not your language,” and on the top of the page wrote, “Please go back and indicate where you cut and paste.” If the professor’s exclamation to her in class were not enough, the authority figure in the course circled the word “hence” on the literature review and wrote in the margin, “This is not your word,” underlining “not” twice.
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While some critics see Phillis Wheatley as a poet who does not address racism and slavery in her poetry, some, like Frances Smith Foster, read the poet as revising “traditional poetic forms and language to accommodate new messages” and to ultimately present her writing as “a political act” (31). This aspect of Wheatley’s poetry can be seen from the very beginning of Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773) with the opening poem, “To Maecenas.” As a patron of the arts, the ancient Roman Maecenas supported poets such as Virgil and Horace. In the poem, Wheatley thanks her patron for supporting her writing. Vincent Carretta argues that the patron, rather than being John Wheatley or Mather Byles is actually the Countess of Huntington, who Wheatley dedicates the volume.
Previously, I have written about calls for distinctly American literature in the early part of the eighteen hundreds and the role of newspaper reporting in Lydia Maria Child’s “Slavery’s Pleasant Homes.” Today, I want to take a moment and look at Child’s “Chocorua’s Curse,” a short story that originally appeared in The Token in 1830. (Page 257 in the link.) Child’s story, short as it is, provides interesting avenues for discussion in the classroom. Specifically, it calls upon students to think about the history that Child draws upon in her early writings, and it also brings up discussions surrounding debates about American literature during the period.