Race and the Modern Artist

Race and the Modern Artist

Race and the Modern Artist

Race and the Modern Artist


Definitions of modernism have been debated throughout the twentieth century. But both during the height of the modernist era and since, little to no consideration has been given to the work of minority writers as part of this movement. Considering works by writers ranging from B.A. Botkin, T.S. Eliot, Waldo Frank, and Jean Toomer to Pedro Pietri and Allen Ginsberg, these essays examine the disputed relationships between modernity, modernism, and American cultural diversity. In so doing, the collection as a whole adds an important new dimension to our understanding of twentieth-century literature.


Four Types of Writing under
Modern Conditions; or, Black Writers
and “Populist Modernism”
werner sollors

When the Stranger says, “What is the meaning of this city? Do you huddle together because you love each other?” What will you answer? “We all dwell together To make money from each other”? or “This is a community”? and the Stranger will depart and return to the desert. O my soul, be prepared for the coming of the Stranger, Be prepared for whom who knows how to ask questions.

—T. S. eliot, Choruses from “The Rock”

The stranger is thus being discussed here, not in the sense often touched upon in the past, as the wanderer who comes today and goes tomorrow, but rather as the person who comes today and stays tomorrow. the unity of nearness and remoteness involved in every human relation is organized, in the phenomenon of the stranger, in a way which may be most briefly formulated by saying that in the relationship to him, distance means that he, who is close by, is far, and strangeness means that he, who also is far, is actually near.

—GEORG simmel, Das individuelle Gesetz: Philosophische Exkurse (trans. Werner Sollors)

“What Is the Meaning of This City?” was a question raised by T. S. Eliot in “Choruses from ‘The Rock.’” Modern urban civilization is looked at from the point of view of the Stranger (for Eliot that appears to be death), who questions human aims and the “meaning of this city.” the answer Eliot proposes in the poem seems to be: the departure from a sacred purpose makes city dwellers empty pursuers of monetary gain, technological progress, secular happiness, and collective enthusiasm. Eliot's chorus continues in the following way right after the quotation excerpted in the epigraph:

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