Arnold Rampersad, and Others, Ed., the Collected Works of Langston Hughes

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18 vol.; Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 2001.

Langston Hughes is one of the most prolific writers of the twentieth century. His literary works reveal the diversity, beauty, and pain of the African American experience from the early 1900s to the present time. The Collected Works of Langston Hughes, published by the University of Missouri Press provides what is undoubtedly the most comprehensive collection of Hughes' work to date. Each of the eighteen volumes covers a specific time period or genre. Through Hughes' literature, the reader gains insight into the historical conditions of the era and the role and struggle of the African American writer in the changing society.

The first three volumes cover Hughes' poems dating from 1921 to 1967. The introduction of each volume, written by Arnold Rampersad, provides the context of the poetry. Rampersad discusses the events in Hughes' life that may have paralleled and in some cases motivated themes reflected in the poems. Rampersad even discusses the significance of the writer's technique that is revealed in the meter and rhyme throughout much of Hughes' poetry. The introductions are a thoughtful and effective companion for students and admirers of Langston Hughes.

Hughes' novels Not without Laughter and Tambourines to Glory can be found in volume four of the collection. Rampersad's introduction in these volumes places the novels in a historical context, and discusses Hughes' literary style in relation to other writers of the time. These writers include Claude McKay, Carl Van Vechten and Paul Laurence Dunbar. Rampersad also discusses how other well-known literary critics received the novels.

The organization and exhaustive presentation of the first four volumes offer students of Langston Hughes' literature the opportunity to become re-acquainted with Hughes as a poet and a novelist. …