Reminders: All IRJs now on Moodle. Syllabus change for Thursday: read “Sweat” (1022) and “The Gilded Six-Bits” (1033) The Harlem Renaissance 1919-1940
Zora Neale Hurston Someone is always at my elbow reminding me that I am the granddaughter of slaves. It fails to register depression with me. Slavery is sixty years in the past. The operation was successful and the patient is doing well, thank you. Langston Hughes We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves.
Q#7: Constructing and defining “Blackness” What is the “racial mountain” for Hughes? (p 1311-12) What is the “old” way of viewing Blackness? How does Huges redefine it? (1312) How does Hurston define it? (1041 & ff) What are the benefits--and what are the possible drawbacks-- of these revised constructions of Blackness?
Q#1: Extra-literary expectations • What does DuBois expect Black artists to do? (782-3) • Politically engaged • Entirely positive, “respectable” portrayal of Black people • No sex, no violence, no “low” culture • How does Hughes respond to this? (1312-14) • How does Hurston? (1048, 1052) • Link to Q#5: the link between writing and freedom. • “An artist must be free to choose what he does” (1314)
Q#3: The vernacular tradition • Traditional (Western) hierarchy of art: • High culture/fine art painting, poetry, theater, symphony, museums, etc “Literature” • Low culture/folk art jokes, popular music, folktales, jook joints, etc. “Vernacular tradition” • Based on what you have read of them, how would you imagine DuBois differs from Hughes and Hurston on the issue of how to use the vernacular tradition in art? • Hurston describes signifying as a characteristic of Black art without naming it that (1046-7)
Questions to consider… • Based on these artistic manifestos, what do you expect to see in this week’s reading? • What are the boundaries of the art that Hughes and Hurston are talking about? • What, if anything, rubs you the wrong way in these pieces? What might be the reason for that?
For Tomorrow:Gwendolyn Bennett & Claude McKay + R #5 #2 Resistance to racism & oppression • Images of Africa. • Gender roles • think about Riggs’ ideas. • “The Mask” from Dunbar. • Other models of resistance they enact or propose? **NOTE Syllabus change for Thursday: Read “Sweat” (1022) & “The Gilded Six Bits” (1033)
Gwendolyn Bennett Idealism is like a castle in the air if it is not based on a solid foundation of social and political realism. Silence is a sounding thing To one who listens hungrily. Claude McKay
Africa • Gender • Silence • Resistance • Blackness • Come up with a claim about the two poems and 3 points of evidence that support it. • Your claim and evidence should… • Say something that’s not obvious. • Be arguable. • Dig beneath the literal (surface) meaning. • Take theme(s) of the class into account. • Pay close attention to language. • Word choice. • Figurative language (meta- • phor, paradox, etc). • Imagery. • Blow our minds in a short presentation about the poems • “Africa” and “Heritage” • “The White House” and “To a Dark Girl” • “Enslaved” and “Hatred” • “If We Must Die” and “To a Dark Girl” • “Heritage” and “The White House”
Zora Neale Hurston Love-making and fighting in all their branches are high arts.
Key questions…and some others #2 What are the sources of oppression that the characters in the stories resist? #4 Hurston demonstrates a range of possibilities for signifying in the tales. What are examples and how is such wordplay used in each tale? • How do Hurston’s stories extol the same economic virtues praised by Booker T. Washington? Do they do so in a straightforward or ironic way (or both)? • Why did Missie May sleep with Otis? What are we supposed to make of her infidelity? Ex. 1027, 1034
Opening lines… “The Gilded Six Bits” It was a Negro yard around a Negro house in a Negro settlement that looked to the payroll of the G and G Fertilizer works for its support. But there was something happy about the place. “Sweat” It was eleven o’clock of a Spring night in Florida. It was Sunday. Any other night, Delia Jones would have been in bed for two hours by this time. But she was a washerwoman, and Monday morning meant a great deal to her.
“Sweat” Just then something long, round, limp and black fell upon her shoulders and slithered to the floor beside her. A great terror took hold of her. It softened her knees and dried her mouth so that it was a full minute before she could cry out or move. Then she saw that it was the big bull whip her husband liked to carry when he drove. (1022) Compare to 1033 (Joe’s trick on Missie May)
“Sweat” She saw him on his hands and knees as soon as she reached the door. He crept an inch or two toward her—all that he was able, and she saw his horribly swollen neck and his one open eye shining with hope. A surge of pity too strong to support bore her away from that eye that must, could not, fail to see the tubs. He would see the lamp. Orlando with its doctors was too far. She could scarcely reach the Chinaberry tree, where she waiting in the growing heat while inside she knew the cold river was creeping up and up to extinguish that eye which must know by now that she knew. (1030) Compare to 1038, ¶ 2: “Missie May was sobbing…”
“The Gilded Six Bits” The great belt on the wheel of Time slipped and eternity stood still. By the match light he could see the man’s legs fighting with his breeches in his frantic desire to get them on. He had both chance and time to kill the intruder in his helpless condition—half in and half out of his pants—but he was too weak to take action. The shapeless enemies of humanity that live in the hours of Time had waylaid Joe. He was assaulted in his weakness. Like Samson awakening after his haircut. So he just opened his mouth and laughed. (1037)
For tomorrow: Jean Toomer’sCane (1923) + R#6 #2 Resistance: how do Toomer’s characters resist oppression? How does Toomer himself resist it in his writing? #8 Identity: What questions about identity are grappled with, and how? #10 Hybridity & Performativity: What makes Cane unique? Consider its hybrid form and the multiple layers of performance.
Zora Neale Hurston …for the national welfare, it is urgent to realize that the minorities do think, and think about something other than the race problem.
If Zora Neale Hurston and Jean Toomer had played music… with a partner, please complete that sentence and explain your reasoning.
Jean ToomerCane “Box Seat” What’s the plot—what literally happens in the story? What recurring images or themes did you notice? What might be going on beneath the literal plot?
What is the source of oppression for Dan and Muriel?How do they (attempt to) resist it? Harlem (p. 1309) What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore— And then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over— like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode? -Langston Hughes We Wear the Mask (p. 918) We wear the mask that grins and lies, It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes— This debt we pay to human guile; With torn and bleeding hearts we smile, And mouth with myriad subtleties. [….] We smile, but, O great Christ, our cries To thee from tortured souls arise. We sing, but oh the clay is vile Beneath our feet, and long the mile; But let the world dream otherwise, We wear the mask! -Paul Laurence Dunbar
“Box Seat” Dan: Old stuff. Muriel—bored. Must be. But she’ll smile and she’ll clap. Do what youre bid, you she-slave. Look at her. Sweet, tame woman in a brass box seat. Clap, smile, fawn, clap. Do what youre bid. Drag me in with you. Dirty me. Prop me in your brass box seat. I’m there, am I not? because of you. He-slave. Slave of a woman who is a slave. I’m a damned sight worse than you are. I sing your praises, Beauty! I exalt thee, O Muriel! A slave, thou art greater than all Freedom because I love thee. (1208)
Metaphors to trace… HOUSE • 1202 • 1207 • 1210 • 1211 STREET • 1202 • 1203 • 1208
“Box Seat” Through the cement floor her strong roots sink down. They spread under the asphalt streets. Dreaming, the streets roll over on their bellies, and suck their glossy health from them. Her strong roots sink down and spread under the river and disappear in blood-lines that waver south. Her roots shoot down. (1208)
“Bona and Paul” “Crimson Gardens. Hurrah! So one feels” (1216, 1217, 1218). Consider the text in between each recurrence of the line. • Music • Inner monologues (Paul, Art, Bona) • Conversation (not much)
For Monday: Wright and Ellison, I#7 • #8 Identity: This is the first autobiography we’ve read since Douglass and Jacobs. Are there any continuities or inheritances? • #3 Vernacular traditions: The role of the Blues in Black Boy • #1 Extra-literary expectations: Do you agree with Ellison’s description of what Wright is doing, besides just writing a great book? • #2 Resistance: How do Wright and Ellison respond to the idea of “The Mask” that we have seen so often as a (not always effective) strategy of resistance?