Reinvention and Globalization in Hughes's Stories

By Miller, R. Baxter | MELUS, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Reinvention and Globalization in Hughes's Stories


Miller, R. Baxter, MELUS


In short, there seems to be a powerful disjuncture between the global narratives and images that attract postcolonial critics and another set of narratives and images which do not exactly fit into a theoretical apparatus that seems bent on difference and hybridity. Postcolonial literature is not, of course, deaf to the disjuncture between its performance of a global culture and the persistence of this other, darker, older narrative of poverty, of failed nationalism, of death, that will simply not go away. Postcolonial theorists may have sought to forget the nation in order to become global, but the nation has not forgotten them.

--Simon Gikandi

By reconsidering the narrative posture of Langston Hughes, transnational readers may well perceive a negotiated balance through which his narrators provide the world a way out of global paradox. Reinvention of the communal perception is necessary because the dislocation of an African American on the Atlantic Ocean or in Havana requires adaptation of the explorer's internalized nation. Finally, the wanderer's homeland needs to readapt to the reinvention of what American really means. I propose that the emerging greatness of Langston Hughes was and remains the structuring of synchronic history and diachronic time within the immediate space of a narrative event.

Langston Hughes reinvents an African American imagination at port in Senegal ("The Little Virgin" 1927) and re-adapts the international perspective to the reassessment of Civil Rights in Hopkinsville, Missouri ("Home" 1934). Given Hughes's well-known travel to France during 1922-23, it is not surprising that he was prepared to explore the historical locale of Cuba in 1934. (1) Often his forte was representing the vision of a Diaspora in French and Spanish as well as German. He represented African American voice to Africa and Europe, and then translated the transnationalized voice back to the Americas.

Juxtaposing an early modern poet with a post-modern theory produces a kind of historical incongruity. James Langston Hughes emerged as a lively storyteller during the 1920s and 1930s, but the subsequent term of globalization has developed only since the 1970s. Often globalization involves an international traveler's willingness to adapt the cultured values and texts of one's native land to new ones. While such a process takes place within national discourses, its real mission is to dissolve them. Perhaps one could reassess the importance of stories by Langston Hughes by testing the assumptions of globalization in light of his implied concept of an internalized nation, while working one's way backwards through the global framework to a few lively moments in the texts. Langston Hughes emerges as an African American standard by which global theory should be reassessed.

Globalization entails an international flow of capital along with a worldwide development in the new communications such as the telephone, fax, email, and internet. Leading the vanguard are such international corporations as Microsoft, Gateway, and McDonald's. According to Jackie Smith and Hank Johnson in Globalization and Resistance (2002), at least six compulsions to globalize emerge. First, a global era demands world responses because political policies have effects beyond nation states. Second, the expansion of new technologies such as satellite transmissions and internet shrink the distance between nations, collapsing them into a shared cyberspace. Third, the radically increasing power of transnational corporations (and I would add activist governments), that enables them to control the flow of raw materials (and fission materials for weapons and wealth) has outpaced the effectiveness of local and national movements to contain them. Fourth, today the environmental movement has become worldwide as was the peace movement in earlier decades. Fifth, the human rights movement, one so informed by racial and female liberation, assumes a global logic.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Reinvention and Globalization in Hughes's Stories
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?