american modernist poetry and the new negro renaissance

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American History


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Teresa H


Date added:

July 19, 2012








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3 / 643


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Disagreements among literary theorists and writers as to when the movement really began and who pioneered such a movement prevent any kind of immediate consensus. The most surprising aspect about the study of this movement is the controversy concerning the very definition of the modernist aesthetic of American poetry...
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Indeed, Lost Generation member Archibald MacLeish and many of his colleagues (mostly white men) believed that “a poem should not mean but be”—that poetry is just a language effect with little or no direct reference beyond the formal arrangement of the words on the page. However, in the early twentieth century, the poetry of the New Negro/Harlem Renaissance, particularly the works of Claude McKay, Langston Hughes, and Jean Toomer, debunked MacLeish’s renowned modernist dictum; though attentive to the modernist use of language, these three authors of the Harlem Renaissance proved, through their focus on either the African-American “double consciousness,” the black presence in America, or the horrid reality of American racial oppression, that American modernist poetry does indeed have material, political, and social consequences and implications...
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