Quoting Literary History

Within his own autobiographical narrative, Olaudah Equiano occasionally emulates the style of (and quotes) famed authors such as Homer, Milton, or Cibber, often using these quotations during particularly influential sections of his narrative.

Equiano does not limit himself to quoting one genre, author, or style of work, and inserts literary allusions from every form of literature in his day. This is likely a symbolic choice, as Equiano invokes the words of well-respected (or at least well-known) writers and politicians as a way to appeal to the readers of his own work. He likely incites their wisdom and displays his knowledge of these powerful works of literature in order to gain credibility with his audience, while at the same time suggesting that the knowledge, insight, and wisdom of the art form of literature – of any kind – can be applied to the struggles of anyone and everyone.

The selection of these quotations may be Equiano’s way of subtly suggesting that language and literature has somewhat stagnated during this time; he intentionally quotes some of the most influential (and controversial) authors in order to highlight the lack of new ideas and perspectives during the time of his writing his narrative. Equiano bombards the reader with quote after quote, showing his audience the brilliance of past literature and subtly calling for a resurgence in the literary arts.

Olaudah Equiano has crafted a carefully-constructed piece of literature that has had the impact on modern literature that he urged his contemporaries to make.

-Shawn Pintor-Day

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