MHS: Notes on Phillis Wheatley: Prodigy, Poetics, and the Science of the Human, 1761-1800


Friday, July 13, 2018, 12:00pm to 1:00pm


1154 Boylston Street, Boston, MA

Event is Free. No Registration Required. 

Camille Owens, Yale University

This talk studies Phillis Wheatley’s significance to the history of black prodigy, focusing on Wheatley’s education as an enslaved child. It reconstructs Wheatley’s education in relation to early American philosophy and pedagogy of childhood, looking to primers, tract literature, and the influence of Locke. From there, it examines the often-cited (and likely fictionalized) “trials” of Phillis Wheatley—and to Jefferson’s Notes on Wheatley—to show the performance of authenticating and/or discrediting black intellect as a cultural tradition which Wheatley’s literary career inaugurated.