Other Families: Dryden’s Theory of Congeniality in Dante, Chaucer, and Naylor

  • Matthew X. Vernon
Part of the The New Middle Ages book series (TNMA)


This chapter moves to consider more abstract questions of inheritance, by examining how an African-American writer can position her own work in relationship to a larger literary tradition, derived from the Middle Ages. It focuses on Gloria Naylor’s use of Dante and Chaucer in her sequential novels Linden Hills and Bailey’s Café. Naylor encountered both of these authors in a college “Great Literature” course and struggled with treating them as her literary antecedents. Their position within the literary canon and the lineage of texts that followed them seemed to chart a trajectory that would not incorporate her authorial voice. The rewriting of these texts, Vernon argues, is Naylor’s way of reading them not as “classics” to which she is beholden and which would prescribe the sorts of engagement she could have with them.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew X. Vernon
    • 1
  1. 1.University of California, DavisDavisUSA

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