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The Making of the New Negro

The Making of the New Negro: Black Authorship, Masculinity, and Sexuality in the Harlem Renaissance

Anna Pochmara
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    The Making of the New Negro
    Book Description:

    The Making of the New Negro examines black masculinity in the period of the New Negro/Harlem Renaissance, which for many decades did not attract a lot of scholarly attention, until, in the 1990s, many scholars discovered how complex, significant, and fascinating it was. Using African American published texts, American archives and unpublished writings, and contemporaneous European discourses, this book focuses both on the canonical figures of the New Negro Movement and African American culture, such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Booker T. Washington, Alain Locke, and Richard Wright, and on writers who have not received as much scholarly attention despite their significance for the movement, such as Wallace Thurman. Its perspective combines gender, sexuality, and race studies with a thorough literary analysis and historicist investigation, an approach that has not been extensively applied to analyze the New Negro Renaissance.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-1423-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 7-8)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 9-16)

    This book sets out to analyze gender and sexuality constructions in selected texts of New Negro Renaissance discourse.³ One of the main aims of this book is to examine the production of literary and cultural history as an ongoing dialogic process that is mediated through the notions of gender and sexuality. Such a dialogue is exemplified by the opening epigraphs. J. Saunders Redding and Amiri Baraka refer to the same period of black literary history and yet their assessments are diametrically opposed. More significantly, both views are expressed in a gender-marked way – on the one hand, the New Negro Renaissance...

  5. Chapter 1 Prologue: The Question of Manhood in the Booker T. Washington-W.E.B. Du Bois Debate
    (pp. 17-54)

    The emergence of the New Negro movement was entangled in powerful dynamics and paradigms involving race, gender, and sexuality that defined Jim Crow America. The opening chapter presents these ideological constructs, and the following chapters explore how they were echoed and rewritten in New Negro discourse. As I have indicated, the main focus is the debate between Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois, which has shaped modern African American discourse in general and the New Negro Renaissance in particular. Both participants of the dispute are numerously referred to in the discussions of the politics and rhetoric of...


    • Chapter 2 Midwifery and Camaraderie: Alain Locke’s Tropes of Gender and Sexuality
      (pp. 57-94)

      “Alain Locke was best known for his espousal andfatheringof the ‘New Negro Movement,’” as Eugene C. Holmes puts it in his tribute to the famous Howard professor.⁵ Since not only Holmes but also other prominent historians of the era perpetuate the image of Locke as aparentalfigure, his relation to the Negro Renaissance encourages an examination that focuses on gender and sexuality in his rhetoric. A strong tendency to conceptualize the patronage politics of the movement as a procreative filial relationship and more particularly midwifery is pointed out by Ross, who claims that “a crucial figure of...

    • Chapter 3 Arts, War, and the Brave New Negro: Gendering the Black Aesthetic
      (pp. 95-108)

      Whether it is evaluated as reactionary or revolutionary, advancement through cultural productivity was unquestionably the fundamental element of Locke’s strategy of racial emancipation. Whereas the previous chapter analyzed gender and sexuality constructions in the rhetoric of the movement, this chapter examines these notions in Locke’s vision of the black aesthetic. His interest in aesthetic theory is manifest both in his doctoral dissertation on the philosophy of values as well as in his thirty-year-long engagement as a literary and art critic. Between 1928 and 1954, Locke wrote a series of annual retrospective reviews of Negro literature for theOpportunityand later...


    • Chapter 4 Gangsters and Bootblacks, Rent Parties and Railroad Flats: Wallace Thurman’s Challenges to the Black Bourgeoisie
      (pp. 111-140)

      Whereas the first part of the book explored the writings of Alain Locke, a mentor of young black artists, the second focuses on a representative of the mentored generation: Wallace Thurman. It examines his embrace of diverse gender and sexuality constructions and their interrelatedness with race and class representations. Thurman’s portrayal of the Harlem community and black arts strikingly differs from Locke’s vision of the Renaissance. Instead of brave avant-garde, noble mentors, and spiritual comrades, this part will explore much more outrageous figures such as dandies, sweetbacks, and gangsters.

      Analogous to Locke, Thurman was recognized as a key participant of...

    • Chapter 5 Discontents of the Black Dandy
      (pp. 141-178)

      Interestingly, the European connection in Thurman’s project is produced through the same intertextual references that are central to Locke’s rhetoric of friendship. On Thurman’s self-declared reading list, one can find authors fundamental for Locke’s homoerotic idiolect, such as Plato or Nietzsche. Both writers forge a network of cosmopolitan textual influences. These intertextual bonds are articulated on a number of levels: in Hughes’s literary recollections of Thurman, in Thurman’s own correspondence, and in the declarations of his textual alter-egos such as Raymond Taylor or Paul Arbian. Such celebrations of literary predecessors signify that in Thurman’s writing just as in Locke’s, in...

    • Chapter 6 Epilogue: Richard Wright’s Interrogations of the New Negro
      (pp. 179-216)

      According to traditional African-American literary histories, the turn of the twentieth century was dominated by the Washington-Du Bois debate, the 1920s and early 1930s by the New Negro movement, and the following years by the unquestionable hegemony of a single figure: Richard Wright. Since my study is interested in the dialogic relationships in literary history, the concluding chapter examines the ways in which the rhetorical tropes and ideological dynamics hitherto introduced and analyzed are employed in Wright’s early writings. It focuses on the way Wright forges collective black subjectivity in response to the earlier concepts of the Talented Tenth, different...

    • Conclusion Black Male Authorship, Sexuality, and the Transatlantic Connection
      (pp. 217-220)

      The Epilogue, like the Prologue, expanded the scope of this study’s main focus to demonstrate the work of dialogical relationships in the process of constructing literary history with the tropes of gender and sexuality. What emerges as the most relevant dynamic in the history of African American literature in the Jim Crow era is the double bind of the anxiety of influence and the anxiety of authorship, both resolved through different masculinity politics, which either challenge the father figures or celebrate male filial relationships. Whereas their need to resolve the anxiety of influence varies, none of the authors discussed here...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 221-254)
  9. Bibliography
    (pp. 255-266)
  10. Index
    (pp. 267-278)
  11. Curriculum Vitae
    (pp. 279-280)