Abstract

Investigating the figure of the queer black dandy in the art and literature of the Harlem Renaissance, this article argues that African American modernists such as Wallace Thurman and Richard Bruce Nugent revise nineteenth-century, European models of dandyism and decadence in order to critique the cult of authenticity surrounding the cultural construction of blackness. Their rebellion against the commodification of black identity gives birth to a new aesthetic that combines the naturalized simplicity and vigor of primitivism with the artifice of decadenceÐmaking legible a distinctly African American incarnation of the new forms of desire, identity, and community emerging in modern, urban culture.

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