Ambiguous Heritage: Classical Myths in the Works of Nineteenth-Century American Writers

Elzbieta Foeller-Pituch*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


American writers of the nineteenth century display deeply ambiguous attitudes towards classical culture, regarded both as the fountainhead of the American republic and as an outdated, elitist, and alien mode. Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Elizabeth Stoddard, Harold Frederic, Henry James, and Sarah Orne Jewett are among the authors to use significant allusions to classical myths, thus placing American self-identity within the context of a long and idealized cultural tradition. The ancient myths, through their disruptive grappling with the dark side of the human psyche and sexuality, also provided writers with a coded medium through which to question nineteenth-century American values. Hence the ambivalent and even unstable treatment of classical myths in the works of these authors, echoing a more general unease about the role of the Old World in the making of America.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)98-108
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of the Classical Tradition
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1995

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Classics
  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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