The Novels of the Harlem Renaissance: Twelve Black Writers, 1923-1933

The Novels of the Harlem Renaissance: Twelve Black Writers, 1923-1933

The Novels of the Harlem Renaissance: Twelve Black Writers, 1923-1933

The Novels of the Harlem Renaissance: Twelve Black Writers, 1923-1933

Synopsis

[Singh] gives us a sober, sensitive, and well-digested analysis of twelve black novelists of the Harlem Renaissance in an attempt to focus on 'interracial issues of self-definition, class, caste, and color in the work these writers.' The twelve writers discussed are Bontemps, Cullen, DuBois, Redmon Fauset, Fisher, Hughes, Larsen, McKay, Schuyler, Thurman, Toomer, and White. It can be said that not all of these writers are of the first rank, nor do they exhaust the complex history of the Renaissance they represent. But the strength of Singh's study is in its extensions into the ideological and cultural history of America in the Twenties-a history which is as much on the main highway as the history of the American Jazz Age. -World Literature Today

Excerpt

This study is based primarily on twenty-one novels published between 1923 and 1933 by twelve black writers of the Harlem Renaissance--Arna Bontemps, Countee Cullen, W.E.B. DuBois, Jessie Redmon Fauset, Rudolph Fisher, Langston Hughes, Nella Larsen, Claude McKay, George S. Schuyler, Wallace Thurman, Jean Toomer, and Walter F. White. It focuses on the intraracial issues of self-definition, class, caste, and color in the works of these writers, using an integrated approach that simultaneously evaluates aesthetic and sociocultural impulses. Organizing the study around a few key themes transfers the emphasis from a discussion of individual authors to a cohesive commentary on the central values suggested by their works as a whole.

Chapter 1 describes and analyzes at length the social, political, and cultural forces at work in the black scene of the twenties, providing the backdrop against which Alain Locke, Charles S. Johnson, and others tried to develop a conscious movement of the black American arts. It also suggests reasons for the failure of the Harlem Renaissance writers to form a literary movement or develop a shared aesthetic and critical outlook on matters relating race to art and literature. In chapters 2 through 5, works are grouped according to thematic affinities; their sequence within each chapter is determined by ideational content. The book discussed last in each chapter culminates the discussion of the selected theme. My analysis of self-definition in chapter 2 confirms that the Afro-American's cultural roots lie overwhelmingly within the range of his American experience. Chapter 3 reveals the class conflicts and distrusts that are deeply embedded in black life. Chapter 4 travels part of the way along the long road traversed by black Americans in their continuing confrontation with American color caste. Chapter 5 underscores the international implications of an intraracial issue that is still moderately important in Afro-America.

The twenty-one novels selected for this study reveal the variety and richness of black writing during the Harlem Renaissance years. I have not included any of the white novelists of the twen-

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