Racechanges: White Skin, Black Face in American Culture

By Susan Gubar | Go to book overview

4
DE MODERN DO MR. BONES (and All That Ventriloquist Jazz)

Oh! tis consummation
Devoutly to be wished,
To end your heartache by a sleep;
When likely to be dished,
Shuffle off your mortal coil,
Do just so,
Wheel about and turn about
And jump Jim Crow.
-- Anonymous Minstrel

De fust great epitaph was written by Homer . . . He wrote de "Oddity." It is de story ob Ulysses. We know Ulysses' las' name -- it was Grant. De "Oddity" is written in heroic cutlets wid miasmatic feet. Does you know what a miasmatic foot is? Well, dat is de meter. An' I don' mean de gas meter an I don' mean de water meter. It mean de heavenly meateor what comes shootin' from de stars.

-- Anonymous Minstrel

-- Mr Bones, you too advancer with your song, muching of which are wrong.

-- John Berryman

Why did Gertrude Stein take "the first definite step away from the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century in literature" by writing not only about but also as "Melanctha the negress" ( Stein, 50)? What does it mean that the outrageous promoters of the Dada movement banged on drums while performing "Negergedichte" or "Negro poems" in the Cabaret Voltaire's 1916 avant-garde shows in Zurich? Is there a connection between Vachel Lindsay's frenzied recitation of "The Congo" at a banquet sponsored by Harriet Monroe's magazine Poetry and the patron Carl Van Vechten's decision to title his novel about Harlem after the speech of a Lennox Avenue character who declares, "I jes' nacherly think dis heah is Nigger Heaven" (15)? Or between T. S. Eliot's use of the nickname "Possum" (or Pound's of "Brer Rabbit") and Nancy Cunard's creation of footnotes for works she

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