Included in the new sixth edition of the Norton Anthology of English Literature, Aphra Behn's Oroonoko has passed a literary milestone, raising anew the question of how it fits into and plays against the literary "canon" it is more and more coming to inhabit. While Oroonoko's literary indebtedness has often been noticed, critics have seldom examined how specific literary allusions contribute to the novel's structure and meaning. Citing English heroic drama and French romance as immediate precursors of Behn's work, they view her either as slavishly derivative or as holding a politically conservative ideology. One view produces a picture of Behn as a marginally competent artist following older models, while the other ignores the possibility that Behn's use of convention might be in part subversive. Its subversion does not lie, however, in portraying successful rebellions against those in power--Oroonoko and Imoinda are defeated both at home and abroad--but in revealing the mechanisms by which power operates, including both physical force and subtle forms of mental or psychological control.
Hoegberg, David E.
"Caesar's Toils: Allusion and Rebellion in Oroonoko,"
3, Article 4.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.mcmaster.ca/ecf/vol7/iss3/4