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Oroonoko: An Authoritative Text, Historical Backgrounds, Criticism (Norton Critical Editions) Paperback – 19 Feb 1997

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; New Ed edition (19 Feb. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393970140
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393970142
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.5 x 21.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,786 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


'Excellent copy text and really outstanding collection of contextual material - and at a remarkably low price...Congratulations!' - Peter New, University of Exeter --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Aphra Behn flourished in the cosmopolitan world of the London playhouse and the court. It was she, Virginia Woolf wrote, "who earned [women] the right to speak their minds." Joanna Lipking is Lecturer in English at Northwestern University, where she has taught since 1979. A Columbia Ph.D., she writes on women's emergence in print culture. Her articles and reviews on Aphra Behn and other early women writers appear in Studies in the Eighteenth Century, The Eighteenth Century: A Current Bibliography, and the recent Cambridge University Press collection, Aphra Behn Studies.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book is mainly extra infomation on the time and the author. The story is not too long but very interesting read. It shows a different insight in to the slave trade and the people who where the slaves. A very good read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars 43 reviews
38 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very moving 6 Dec. 2002
By bixodoido - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a classic story about the horrors of slavery. I've heard this compared to "Uncle Tom's Cabin," but I don't think that's an accurate comparison. The story is about Orookono, an African prince who is deprived of his true love by his grandfather, the king. He is betrayed and sold into slavery, and happens to encounter his lost love in the New World, in the British colony of Suriname. The valiant prince (now called 'Caesar' by his overseers) tries to gain freedom for his wife and family, but in vain. If there is a story that does justice to the horrors of slavery, this is it.
I don't think this is the typical slave narrative because Orookono is a prince. Even the overlords treat him that way, and he seems more a victim of cruel fate than of slavery. Still, this valiant, brave-hearted soul is subjected and finally overcome by the cruel actions of the English colonists.
This story was written at the time the novel was first coming into being in England. It is revolutionary, and becomes even more so when considered that it came from the pen of a woman. Aphra Behn was one of the first major female English writers, and is arguably the best of her time. This is is great (short) novel, definitely well-worth your time.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Brave New World 8 Jun. 2004
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book was required reading for my American Literature course. Why read a story about an African prince in Surinam in an American Lit class? Voyage to a brave new world! That was the theme of the class. It encompassed the whole colonial experience in all of the "Americas". I am glad my professor went that route or I probably would never have read OROONOKO. This is a wonderful read. It is more a love story to me than a slave story. This book was written centuries ago but it is a very easy read. The footnotes in this version are a great help but the context of the story is enough for most readers to not get lost in archaic language. Add this one to your library. It is definitely worth it.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An Important Read 31 Dec. 2014
By Katherine Mackenzie - Published on
Format: Paperback
Oroonoko is a complicated novel for me to rate.

I think Virginia Woolf was correct in stating that Aphra Behn's career as a whole was more important than any particular work, but I suppose I still have to rate the novella as it stands. I will start by saying that it's historical context seems to be extremely important in understanding before reading it, and for a few reasons. First, Aphra Behn is considered to be the first woman to make a career for herself* (and without a male pseudonym!) from writing. Oroonoko was published in 1688 near her death to some success, but it's subject matter is just as significant, which brings me to my second point -- Oroonoko is also considered to be the first story written and published in English to show African slaves in a sympathetic manner. For these two reasons alone it is certainly worth reading, but it is not without it's faults as a novel.

If you have no problem with random capitalization, italicized dialog, and no chapter breaks, (it's a short novel so this didn't take it's toll on me) this is an "easy" adventure/tragedy to read. But the subject matter isn't always painless to uncover. As sympathetic to Oroonoko and his loyal Imoinda as it may be, it's sentiments are most definitely not modern and were at times difficult to read.

With everything going for it (and against it), Oroonoko is an interesting and important read that should continue to be discussed and not forgotten, like it nearly was.

*Also, before Behn had even begun her career as a writer, she was a spy for a bit after her husband croaked shortly after marriage. Behn is pretty rad.

And a note on the edition: The Art of the Novella series is great if you haven't already heard of it, the copy is slim and pantone-like. The paper is a nice stock too. I recommend this edition above all the others.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A surprising anti-slavery novel from the 17th century 8 May 2004
By gac1003 - Published on
Format: Paperback
Young Oroonoko, a Prince of Surinam, falls in love with a beautiful young maid named Imoinda. but unbeknownst to Oroonoko, his grandfather the King also has designs on the young maid. While the Prince is away, the King sends his vail to Imoinda, a sign that he wants to bed her. She reluctantly goes and staves off all his advances, professing her love for Oroonoko.
Upon his return, Oroonoko learns what happened to his love and finds her at the King's seraglio. they share a night together, but when the King finds out, he sells Imoinda as a slave, telling Oronooko that she died.
Despondent, Oroonoko is tricked by a British captain and becomes a slave. Taken to a new land, he accidently discovers his true love Imoinda and determines to escape the bonds of slavery no matter what it takes.
This story deals with true love and is probably one of the first novels to deal with the issue of slavery -- even though it wasn't a hotbed issue during the 1680's. The characters are very well-defined, either incredibly good or monstrous, even though they sometimes act more over-the-top or overly dramatic than normal. Oroonoko himself is even based upon a real prince that Behn had met from Surinam. It does take a bit to get used to the lingo and word usage of the 17th century, but I found myself seriously enjoying the story.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Assigned College Reading 13 May 2014
By David H. Birley - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A view of slavery written in the 18th century, and assigned as part of a college literature class. It is hard to say "I enjoyed it" because much of its content is painful. However the authoress, at a time when female novelists were a true rarity, has a powerful and poignant way of presenting slavery as I had never seen it before. The majority of the story takes place in Suriname, a small Dutch colony in South America, on a plantation. It happens at a time when slave labor was taken for granted. Slaves were chattels to be bought, sold, used, worn out, and, if circumstances required, executed. Much more powerful than later offerings like Uncle Tom's Cabin, Aphra Behn makes the protagonist a truly human person, despite being a slave.
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