The Harlem and Irish Renaissances: Language, Identity, and Representation

Synopsis

Drawing fascinating comparisons between two literary movements for social justice, Tracy Mishkin explores the link between the Irish Renaissance that began in the 1880s and the African-American movement of the 1920s known as the Harlem Renaissance.

Starting with evidence that Ireland's Abbey Theatre tours of the United States before World War I influenced such African-Americans as Alain Locke and James Weldon Johnson, Mishkin offers the first full-scale discussion of the historical similarities and differences of the two movements. Both rose from the ashes of history -- from people suffering years of oppression during which their native languages were lost or stolen -- to confront issues of language and identity; and both had to combat negative mainstream representation of their people, all the while debating how to create their own literature. Included throughout is the work of women who participated in both movements but who often have been marginalized in their histories.

Going beyond national boundaries, Mishkin takes the study of interracial literary influence across the Atlantic and establishes important parallels between the Harlem and Irish Renaisances.