(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Infants of the Spring is a satire of the temper and of the major and minor figures of the Harlem Renaissance. As such, the novel details a number of artists and their struggles to be faithful to their artistic visions, along with their knowledge that what they produce has consequences for African Americans as a group. Efforts to maintain artistic integrity while promoting social causes produce individuals who are often culturally confused and display divided loyalties.

The characters who live at Niggeratti Manor, a fictional Harlem brownstone that has a real-life counterpart, are mainly younger artists trying to arrive on the literary, artistic, and music scenes. Many of them perceive a mission to produce a counter-movement to the ideology advocated by the Harlem Renaissance’s more notable and older members.

Raymond Taylor, the central consciousness, is one of the manor’s more talented writers and offers a running commentary on action at the manor. The plot of the novel moves forward when Raymond meets Stephen Jorgenson, a graduate student from Copenhagen, Denmark, who has come to New York to study for a Ph.D. at Columbia University.

Raymond and Stephen become instant friends. When they become roommates, the two are constantly together, so that when Raymond comments on what is happening at the manor, he and Stephen spend long hours discussing it. Moreover, Stephen is initially fascinated with black people, their culture, and their struggles for racial equality and artistic integrity. Soon, though, Stephen’s Scandinavian upbringing, coupled...

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(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

De Jongh, James. Vicious Modernism: Black Harlem and the Literary Imagination. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1990. Examines major historical and literary events that made Harlem a culture capital. Suggests that Harlem as a cultural center is the main theme in Infants of the Spring.

Gayle, Addison, Jr. The Way of the New World: The Black Novel in America. Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor Press, 1976. General overview of the development of the African American novel. Sees Thurman as an important dissenter among writers of the 1920’s and 1930’s.

Lewis, David Levering. When Harlem Was in Vogue. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989. Good readable general discussion of the contexts and people that made the Harlem Renaissance so important to black culture. Significant discussion of Wallace Thurman.

Perkins, Huel D. “Wallace Thurman, Renaissance ‘Renegade’?” Black World 25 (February, 1976): 29-35. Sees Thurman as an instigator of new thought and direction during the 1920’s.

West, Dorothy. “Elephant’s Dance, a Memoir of Wallace Thurman.” Black World 20 (November, 1970): 77-85. A reflection on who Wallace Thurman was, by a woman who was a part of the Harlem Renaissance.