Compare and contrast the Romantic poetic tradition and Negritude poetic tradition.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that one point of similarity between both poetic traditions is the affirmation of self.  For the poets of the Negritude tradition, this resulted in the constant understanding that what it meant to be Black is a part of one's identity and not something from which one should run or to which timidity is needed:

[Negritude is ]the simple recognition of the fact that one is black, the acceptance of this fact and of our destiny as blacks, of our history and culture.

This understanding can be found in Romanticism, where the individual embraces their own condition as an individual as part of their being.  They are not chained to the condition of being a part of society as much as they are an individual, something in which primacy is placed on the subjective.  Both poetic understandings stress the need for what should be in reality as opposed to what is present in reality.  The Romantic needs to transform reality into a vision of the subjective that is universally shared is present in the Negritude poetic tradition in which one constructs reality with the understanding that one's condition of being Black is not a source of shame, but rather one of power and insight.

Of course, it is here where the poetic traditions diverge, I feel.  The Romantic thinkers believed that the subjective could be powerful enough to overcome the conditions of reality.  "Carpe diem" or taking the moment as one's own to revel in life is what the Romantics see as its own goodness and its own state of being in the world.  Yet, for the poets of Negritude, I think that they would see this as something that is limited for those who are Black.  While the White, European Romantics are able to assert quite clearly the idea of "seizing the day," for people of color, specifically those who are Black, racism and the social conditions that exist make this a bit difficult.  If someone is victim to enslavement, them seizing the day is either the grounds for false exceptionalism or downright insensitive.  I tend to think that the faith in the individual consciousness that is almost endless in the Romantic tradition would be met with a more critical eye by the poets of the Negritude tradition, suggesting that the fight for individual acknowledgement takes on different forms when critically analyzing social conditions that exist.

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