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Harlem Renaissance poets - Assignment Example

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In analyzing four poems (two by Jean Toomer and two by Langston Hughes), in the context of the Harlem Renaissance, this paper will attempt to shed light on the following: the significance of Jean Toomer and Langston Hughes in their respective roles in the Harlem Renaissance; the evidence of “doubleconsciousness” in their respective poems; …
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Download file to see previous pages Harlem Renaissance Poets Project Paper Significance of Jean Toomer’s and Langston Hughes’ Roles in the Harlem Renaissance A mere fact will suffice to encompass a man’s life. In Jean Toomer’s case, that fact pertains to P. B. S. Pinchback, Toomer’s maternal grandmother who served as acting governor of Louisiana (Ramsey, 2003). In Langston Hughes’ case, the fact pertains to Hughes’ stint as a bellhop in a Washington, D.C. hotel where he managed to persuade a prominent, literary hotel guest to read three of his’ poems which led to the inauguration of Hughes’ literary career (Lewis, 1994, p. xxv). What can we infer from these facts? The obvious inferences are that Toomer was rich and Hughes was poor. The not so obvious inferences are that their names are remembered, and they are remembered on the strength of the experimental novel Cane, in Toomer’s case; and speaking for myself, in Hughes’ case, for bold pronouncements such as “If white people are pleased we are glad…If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn’t matter either (Lewis, 1994, p. xxx).” Toomer, who wasn’t as outspoken as Hughes, would’ve applauded Hughes’ for Hughes’ was alluding to artistic freedom which bows to no ideology, political agenda, nor common goal. Alas, artistic freedom will only get you so far, for what is required is talent and, when the going gets tough, genius. It goes without saying that Toomer and Hughes had talent. Let’s see where it took them—artistically....
It goes without saying that Toomer and Hughes had talent. Let’s see where it took them—artistically. ‘Double-consciousness’ in the Poems of Toomer and Hughes In the poem “Cotton Song,” Jean Toomer introduces a syntactical shift in the third stanza, going from Standard American English to American dialect of the Deep South. This is a manifestation of ‘double-consciousness.’ How do we explain it? We don’t. What we do is read the line “We ain’t agwine t wait until the Judgment Day (Toomer,1993, p. 9),” and let the words do their magic. I doubt a five hundred page biography, describing the hardscrabble life of an American Negro cotton picker at the turn of the 20th century could do as well and as much in evoking the feel and texture of a time and place, which no longer exists, than this one extraordinary, singular line of verse that flouts all convention of Standard American English, and gets away with it. And Toomer gets away with it because his English is otherwise prim, neat, and familiar. Consider the last four lines of his poem the “November Cotton Flower:” “Superstition saw/ Something it had never seen before:/ Brown eyes that loved without a trace of fear,/ Beauty so sudden for that time of year (Toomer, 1993, p. 4). In “November Cotton Flower,” the ‘double-consciousness’ is semantic, the miraculous transformation of a cold, drought stricken land to a blooming field of cotton. In Langston Hughes’ poem “The Negro speaks of Rivers,” a Negro speaks in the first person while invoking the poem. The ‘double-consciousness’ is evident in the use of the third person in the title. It’s as if the poet has split himself in two and the older, wiser version of ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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