Socialist Joy in the Writing of Langston Hughes

By Jonathan Scott | Go to book overview

2
Socialism, Nationalism,
and Nation-Consciousness

The Antinomies of Langston Hughes

If there is something in the African past that is of great importance to us to-
day, we in the Western world will be able to find it and develop it when we
have gotten rid of—and are free of—the domination of these imperialist
countries. Then we will be able to find and decide what we really want. That
is an idea that is to be put forward as a law and advocate. You cannot find
something about Africa if French imperialists and other people are sitting
on you. Your first business is to fight against them and get rid of that, and
make yourself free. Then you can decide what you really want; what is your
past and how much of it you really want to keep.

—C. L. R. James, Black World

Claude McKay's poem "Outcast" can be read as a statement of nationconsciousness. He wrote: "But the great western world holds me in fee, and I may never hope for full release while to its alien gods I bend my knee. Something in me is lost, forever lost, some vital thing has gone out of my heart, and I must walk the way of life a ghost among the sons of earth, a thing apart." While European nationalism is commonly seen as having arisen in the early nineteenth century, when "a scene of individual cultures chasing after nationhood" was ubiquitous,1 McKay's poem

1. The phrase is from Simon During's "Literature—Nationalism's Other? The Case
for Revision," 139.

-56-

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Socialist Joy in the Writing of Langston Hughes
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The Backward Glance 14
  • 2: Socialism, Nationalism, and Nation-Consciousness - The Antinomies of Langston Hughes 56
  • 3: The Poet as Journalist - Aesthetics of Black Equality 106
  • 4: The Collage Aesthetic - The Writer as Teacher 156
  • Conclusion 219
  • Bibliography 227
  • Index 245
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