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Olanna Mills


Contact Information
Phone: (213) 740-3676
Office: THH 256


Biographical Sketch

Olanna Mills received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Southern California. She is currently working on a second major research project. "Rethinking the Classical Tradition: The Place of Antiquity in African American Literature" is a comparative study of the ways in which cultural and literary models from ancient Greece and Rome both implicitly and explicitly operate as a vehicle in African American texts to shape, reform, and make sense of the construction of racial categories in the United States. It reflects her broader scholarly interests in the current state and future prospects of Classica Africana. The project includes the exploration of previous scholarship beginning with Michele Valerie Ronnick's notions of Classica Africana, which carefully delineates the achievements of African American scholars of Classics in the United States from the late eighteenth-century to the mid twentieth-century, but moves through the terrain of African American Classicism in order to explore the appropriation of certain motifs from ancient Greek and Latin texts in ways that resist, challenge, and in some cases radically transform notions of personhood within a racially stratified society. The writings of Phillis Wheatley, Frederick Douglass, W.E.B. Du Bois, Countee Cullen, Toni Morrison, and Rita Dove represent the richness of the classical experience within African American literary works and invite further discussion as to how the discipline of Classics has itself transformed the African American experience during the late eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth-centuries.



Ph.D. Comparative Literature, University of Southern California, 8/2010
M.A. Comparative Literature, University of Southern California, 5/2004
B.A. Classics, Howard Univ, 5/1998

New Courses Developed

The Literatures of Greece and Rome and African American Writers, American Studies and Ethnicity, This course will explore the history of African American Classicism from the late 18th century to the late 20th century. We will examine the appropriation of literary and historical figures from ancient Greece and Rome by African American writers, from Phillis Wheatley and her Poems on Various Subjects Religious and Moral (1773) to Rita Dove's Oedipus Rex play, The Darker Face of the Earth (1994). A central theme that we will consider throughout is the changing American reception of Greek and Latin literature and history, especially as it was inflected by U.S. racial politics and the accessibility of classical learning to African Americans during the colonial and antebellum periods as well as slavery's aftermath. We will ask how the meaning of classics and the classical changed over time and space as African American writers continued to invoke various themes from antiquity in order to challenge, disrupt, and interrogate racial hierarchies that were developing in a U.S. context. , Fall 2011   
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