By James Smethurst
The interval among 1880 and 1918, on the finish of which Jim Crow was once firmly demonstrated and the nice Migration of African americans used to be good lower than method, was once no longer the nadir for black tradition, James Smethurst finds, yet as an alternative a time of profound reaction from African American intellectuals. The African American Roots of Modernism explores how the Jim Crow approach caused major inventive and highbrow responses from African American writers, deeply marking the beginnings of literary modernism and, finally, notions of yank modernity.
In picking the Jim Crow interval with the arriving of modernity, Smethurst upsets the general review of the Harlem Renaissance because the first nationally major black arts flow, exhibiting how artists reacted to Jim Crow with migration narratives, poetry in regards to the black event, black functionality of pop culture kinds, and extra. Smethurst introduces an entire forged of characters, together with understudied figures corresponding to William Stanley Braithwaite and Fenton Johnson, and extra regularly occurring authors equivalent to Charles Chesnutt, Pauline Hopkins, and James Weldon Johnson. through contemplating the legacy of writers and artists energetic among the top of Reconstruction and the increase of the Harlem Renaissance, Smethurst illuminates their impression at the black and white U.S. modernists who followed.
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Extra info for African American Roots of Modernism
And considers some of the ways the work of black writers between the end of Reconstruction and the beginning of the New Negro Renaissance informed the corpus of interwar modernism. 24 | INTRODUCTION Particular attention is paid to the poetry of T. S. Eliot and William Carlos Williams and to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and William Faulkner’s Light in August, as well as to the work of Jessie Fauset, Rudolph Fisher, Nella Larsen, Claude McKay, Wallace Thurman, and Jean Toomer, not only demonstrating structural, tonal, and thematic resonances between the work of the black writers of the Nadir and the modernists but also locating, in an extreme anxiety about racial identity primarily, but not solely, on the part of white (or, in the case of Williams perhaps, offwhite) writers, a paradoxical adoption and adaptation of the dualism of their black predecessors.
The speaker weirdly stands outside himself or herself, describing the existence and something of the nature of “the mask” that he or she as part of the “we” wears. Or does he or she really stand outside? How is that possible? On the other hand, is it not a contradiction for the speaker to proclaim that “the world” never really sees “us,” only the disguise “we” put on because this naked exposure would seem to involve a lowering of the mask—unless the revelation about the mask is a mask? Is “the mask” something willingly assumed as a sort of camouflage protection, or is it imposed from the outside—or both?
Such scholars as Aldon Nielsen, Michael North, Carla Peterson, and Geoffrey Jacques have noted that many of the “high” modernist INTRODUCTION | 21 writers, such as T. S. Eliot, Gertrude Stein, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, and William Carlos Williams, have a deep, if ambivalent, relationship to minstrelsy, ragtime, the “coon song,” and forms of popular culture that presented a stylized black body and sounded the black voice. As North and Ann Douglas have pointed out with respect to Eliot (and which might also be extended to Stevens, Williams, and Pound, among others), the flip side of this attraction to black masks and ventriloquisms was a deep anxiety about the stability of one’s racial status and identity, which is to say the status of one’s political, cultural, and even existential citizenship in the Jim Crow United States—an anxiety that could lead to terror and madness, as seen in William Faulkner’s Light in August and Nella Larsen’s Quicksand.
African American Roots of Modernism by James Smethurst