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Claude McKay, Code Name Sasha

Queer Black Marxism and the Harlem Renaissance

Gary Edward Holcomb

Publication Year: 2007

In recent years, access into McKay's work has been transformed by new methods of interpreting the politics of literary texts, the growing significance of transnationality in literary and cultural analysis, and the impact of "queer theory." Holcomb analyzes three of the most important works in McKay's career--the Jazz Age bestseller Home to Harlem, the négritude manifesto Banjo, and the unpublished Romance in Marseille. Holcomb uncovers ways in which Home to Harlem assembles a homefront queer black anarchism, and treats Banjo as a novel that portrays Marxist internationalist sexual dissidence. Among the most notable contributions to black modernist study, Holcomb's scholarship is the first to assess the consequence of McKay's landmark Romance in Marseille, a text that is, despite its absence from broad public access for nearly 80 years, conceivably the most significant early black diaspora text. Finally, he examines McKay's extensive FBI file and his late-1930s autobiography, A Long Way from Home, in which McKay disguises his past as a means of eluding his harassers. The memoir is essential to understanding McKay's first three novels. Relying on queer theory and related language-oriented approaches, moreover, this study emphasizes that the key to McKay's queer black Marxism lies as much in confronting his textual absence as it does in rereading the author historically.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quotes

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xiv

Claude McKay, Code Name Sasha: Queer Black Marxism and the Harlem Renaissance is intended to be useful to those working in a range of critical studies. As McKay is among the foremost New Negro movement authors, this work should interest those who study and read African American literature, and not only the writers of the...

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Introduction: Manifesting Claude McKay

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pp. 1-22

In view of the mounting wave of scholarship concerning the Harlem Renaissance author, Festus Claudius McKay (1889–1948) is at last in vogue.1 Even in his glory days McKay was something of a marginalized figure among various constituencies. During the 1920s, McKay saw himself as the wandering bard of a...

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1. Code Name Sasha, “My Real Name”

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pp. 23-53

The following investigation places Claude McKay’s first and unquestionably most important memoir, A Long Way from Home (1937), next to his FBI file in order to demonstrate that in certain respects the once classified dossier is a more dependable portrayal of his years in Europe and North Africa than his...

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2. The “Distilled Poetry” of Queer Black Marxism in A Long Way from Home

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pp. 55-90

It is noteworthy that in A Long Way from Home (1937), Russia’s sensational “Byzantine” effect on McKay is simultaneously “Oriental” (159). Throughout the text, the memoirist weaves a web of narratives and observations that generate linguistic and epistemological confrontations between native and foreign, state...

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3. “Dark Desire All Over the Pages”: Race, Nation, and Sex in Home to Harlem

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pp. 91-138

Although several valuable readings of McKay’s first novel have appeared over the past ten years or so, it is my view that because nothing has been said about Home to Harlem’s assemblage of queer black Marxism, no criticism on the novel has met the text’s merging of multiple subjectivity and therefore radical...

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4. The “Rude Anarchy” of “Black Boys” in Banjo

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pp. 139-170

In 1929, the same year that Alexander “Sasha” Berkman spelled out the ABC of Anarchism, Claude McKay published his second primer of transnational black queer permanent revolution, Banjo: A Story without a Plot. My interest is in expanding the critical discussion of McKay’s second novel beyond its importance...

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5. “Swaying to the Music of the Moon”: Black-White Queer Solidarity in Romance in Marseille

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pp. 171-224

The aim of this final chapter is to tease Romance in Marseille (c. 1929–32) from its archival vault in order to discover the novel’s role as the crucial third text in McKay’s queer black Marxist trilogy. McKay’s merging of black proletarian being and revolutionary black queer becoming make Romance in Marseille a vital...

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Conclusion: Some Remarks on the Critical Implications of Queer Black Marxism

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pp. 225-232

In my introduction, I said that one of my aims is to open McKay’s critical closet door for a more expansive discussion than has been possible until now. For this conclusion, I would like to offer a few comments on the future of McKay studies as well as black literary studies, radical leftist historicism, and queer cultural studies and to map out the...


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pp. 233-247


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pp. 249-262


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pp. 263-273

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About the Author

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pp. 274

A California native, Gary Edward Holcomb is associate professor of English at Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas. His scholarship has appeared in such periodicals as American Quarterly, Callaloo, Critique: Studies in Contemporary Fiction, Journal of Caribbean Studies, Journal of West Indian...

E-ISBN-13: 9780813045320
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813034508
Print-ISBN-10: 0813034507

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2007