Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance
The first volume of a projected trilogy by a distinguished critic best known for THE JOURNEY BACK and BLUES, IDEOLOGY AND AFRO-AMERICAN LITERATURE: A VERNACULAR THEORY, this curiously titled study focuses on neither modernism nor the Harlem Renaissance, at least as the terms are normally understood. In part, this reflects Houston A. Baker, Jr.’s, belief that general critical apprehension of the terms is inadequate. Indeed, Baker’s arguments that modernism has been construed in narrowly Euro-American elitist terms and that the Harlem Renaissance has attracted only a fraction of the serious critical attention it deserves are accurate. Nevertheless, his decision not to address either issue directly guarantees that this book will have little impact on either of the revisions he desires.
This is not to say that Baker’s study is without value. In fact, he has written an intriguing study of pre-Harlem Renaissance rhetorical strategies. While not fully developed, his discussions of Booker T. Washington, W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Charles W. Chesnutt suggest interesting, and in some cases, radical, new approaches to the discursive options available at the beginning of the Renaissance. Similarly, his discussion of Sterling Brown--normally viewed as a literary heir to the major Renaissance writers--provides a clear introduction to the poet’s sensibility.
Baker’s successes, however, render the absence of any real discussion of the...
(The entire section is 342 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!