The Harlem Renaissance
|The course will study the literature, politics, and art of the Harlem Renaissance- roughly a period from 1915-1940. This was a time when African American writers, artists, philosophers, activists, and musicians, congregating in New York City's Harlem, sought to define African American culture. The era has most frequently been thought of as a 1920s-only phenomenon, and many have suggested that it was less a "renaissance" than a first flowering of a collective artist spirit. We will energetically take on the debate, examining the roots of the movement and critically reading Alain Locke, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Jean Toomer, Sterling Brown, Nella Larsen, and others.|
Cary Wintz, Black Culture and the Harlem Renaissance, the entire text
George Hutchinson, The Harlem Renaissance in Black and White, Part I and Chapter 14 of Part III
Jean Toomer, Cane
Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God
Nella Larsen, Quicksand
Alain Locke, editor, Harlem: Mecca of the New Negro, Survey Graphic, pg. 629-634, 659-660, 668-683, 689-691
In the course packet: All Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Mae Cowdery and Sterling Brown poems.
On May 30 a 4-5 page paper is due. Taking one of the poets listed above, discuss the language, voice and tone of no more than three poems with an eye toward formulating a thesis about why the poet made such choices. You might consider the tension between dialect poetry, vernacular poetry and poems written with formal diction. How does a poet’s choice of language highlight a literary issue of the era?
On June 6 another 4-5 page paper is due on Alain Locke. Read Locke’s “Harlem” and “Enter the New Negro” from the anthology, Harlem: Mecca of the New Negro and Chapter 6 of Wintz. Locke was engaged in formulating a New Negro literary aesthetic, writing what he hoped would emerge in black letters. Consider Locke’s assumptions about art, the United States and blacks. As one one of the “fathers” of the Harlem Renaissance, what does he ask of his “children” and what are his expectations for them?
There will be small supplementary handouts all week.
Details will follow on the final assignment.
Backgrounds to the Harlem Renaissance
"The Search for an Aesthetic" - Langston Hughes
"The Search Continues" - Sterling Brown, Claude McKay
"King for a Day" - Jean Toomer
"Queen of the World" - Zora Neale Hurston
Afternoon: "Empress of the Blues" - Nella Larsen