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Hemingway and the Black Renaissance

Edited by Gary Edward Holcomb and Charles Scruggs

Publication Year: 2012

Hemingway and the Black Renaissance, edited by Gary Edward Holcomb and Charles Scruggs, explores a conspicuously overlooked topic: Hemingway’s wide-ranging influence on writers from the Harlem Renaissance to the present day. An observable who’s who of black writers—Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Wallace Thurman, Chester Himes, Alex la Guma, Derek Walcott, Gayl Jones, and more—cite Hemingway as a vital influence. This inspiration extends from style, Hemingway’s minimalist art, to themes of isolation and loneliness, the dilemma of the expatriate, and the terrifying experience of living in a time of war. The relationship, nevertheless, was not unilateral, as in the case of Jean Toomer’s 1923 hybrid, short-story cycle Cane, which influenced Hemingway’s collage-like 1925 In Our Time. Just as important as Hemingway’s influence, indeed, is the complex intertextuality, the multilateral conversation, between Hemingway and key black writers. The diverse praises by black writers for Hemingway in fact signify that the white author’s prose rises out of the same intensely American concerns that their own writings are formed on: the integrity of the human subject faced with social alienation, psychological violence, and psychic disillusionment. An understanding of this literary kinship ultimately initiates not only an appreciation of Hemingway’s stimulus but also a perception of an insistent black presence at the core of Hemingway’s writing.

Published by: The Ohio State University Press


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p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-6


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pp. vi-10

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pp. ix-12

The editors met in Washington DC at MLA 2005, when GEH put on the “Hemingway and the Black Renaissance” panel for one of the Hemingway Society sessions. A year later we mapped out the book’s themes over a bottle of Rioja at the historic HS conference in Ronda, Spain. Indeed, several contributions to this book came about through HS meetings, including the annual convention in Kansas City, in 2008. Consequently, we wish to acknowledge...

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Introduction: Hemingway and the Black Renaissance

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pp. 1-26

In his first memoir, The Quality of Hurt: The Early Years (1972), Chester Himes recalls a French newspaper reporter asking his opinion of Ernest Hemingway. Posed during the 1950s by a member of the Parisian press who anticipated interviewing the newly arrived black American author, the question is apposite. Like his friend Richard Wright, the black émigré writer who became a kind of...

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A Shared Language of American Modernism

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pp. 27-37

Hemingway exemplified the spirit of the twenties in America more vividly than any In a June 28, 1957, letter, Zora Neale Hurston wrote:You know about the literary parties, etc. that sap everything out of you. Ernest Hemmingway [sic], also a Scribners author, beats me hopping around and living informally. He suggested that I run over to the Isle of Pines [sic], an island belonging to Cuba and buy a spot. It is not so well ...

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Hemingway’s Lost Presence in Baldwin’sParisian Room

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pp. 38-54

European cities have long served Americans not only as practical, but symbolic loci of expatriate literary work. Going “back east,” and more specifically having a connection with Europe, has often meant having confusing and uncomfortable ties to Americans’ own past—hereditary or personal, real or psychic. American literary representations of European cities recurrently describe the psychological states of individu-als who have been drawn from home either to seek what America cannot ...

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Looking for a Place to Land

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pp. 55-77

Georg Lukacs referred to the novel as an “expression of . . . transcen- dental homelessness” in which the traditional epic metamorphoses into “a world that has been abandoned by God” (Lukacs 41, 88). The fiction of the African American writers I will discuss faced another kind of “homelessness,” the post-Negro Renaissance blues in which Harlem as “home” faded into the realities of the Depression. When Wright, Baldwin, and Ellison were starting out in the 1930s and 40s, Heming-...

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Knowing and Recombining

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pp. 78-119

...“I respected Wright’s work and I knew him, but this is not to say that he ‘influenced’ me,” Ralph Ellison wrote to critic Irving Howe. “I sought out Wright because I had read Eliot, Pound, Gertrude Stein and Hemingway, and as early as 1940 Wright viewed me as a potential rival. . . . But perhaps you will understand when I say he did not influ-ence me if I point out that while one can do nothing about choosing one’s relatives, one can, as an artist, chose one’s ‘ancestors.’ Wright was, in this ...

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Free Men in Paris

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pp. 120-132

Although James Baldwin and Ernest Hemingway are two of the twentieth century’s most prominent American writers, they do not invite immediate comparison. Representatives of different generations with differing values and morals, they clearly diverge in both the style and the subject matter of their writings. Baldwin was tormented about the role of the exiled artist both separate from and connected to a society in crisis: his legacy rests largely on his response to the turbulent ...

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Hemingway and McKay, Race and Nation

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pp. 133-150

A crucial literary dialogue of the 1920s that has gone all but unno- ticed1 occurs in an exchange between American expatriate writer Ernest Hemingway’s novel of white bohemians, The Sun Also Rises (1926), and Harlem Renaissance author Claude McKay’s novel of black proletarians, Home to Harlem (1928).2 The substance of this intertextual mano a mano, however, is not a clear-cut matter of a prior publication shaping a subsequent text, a major novel influencing a minor one. ...

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Cane and In Our Time

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pp. 151-176

Albeit neither friends nor acquaintances, Jean Toomer and Ernest Hemingway published their first books—Cane (1923) and In Our Time (1925) are short story cycles,2 collections of interdependent narratives linked through repetition of character, setting, or theme. Within each cycle, stories alternate with poems (Toomer) or vignette chapters (Hemingway). Cane opens with ...

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Rereading Hemingway

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pp. 177-213

Art critic Patrick Heron is . . . enchanted by “the white areas which lie scattered thick as archipelagoes” across Cézanne’s water colors: “I would almost say that in them expression is at its most intense; that it is precisely the white patches that are the most potent in form. . . . White is where he dared not tread: the vital node of every form, where false statements would destroy the whole. White is the unstateable ...

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“Across the river and into the trees, I thought”

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pp. 214-228

Best known for his novels, short stories, political journalism, and comic strips, the South African writer Alex La Guma (1925–85) was a staunch pro-Soviet communist and leading member of the African National Congress (ANC).1 La Guma was born in District Six, a vibrant slum, on the edge of Cape Town’s central business district, that the National Party destroyed as part of its “grand apartheid” scheme. Detained without trial several times in the 1950s and 1960s, his works ...

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pp. 229-231

ROGER FIELD is senior lecturer in the Department of English at the University of the West-ern Cape, South Africa. He is the author of Alex la Guma: A Literary and Political Biography (James Currey), and coeditor of Trauma and Topography: Proceedings of the Second Colloquium of the Landscape and Memory Project (University of the Witwatersrand) and Liberation Chabalala: The World of Alex la Guma (Mayibuye)....


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pp. 232-259

E-ISBN-13: 9780814270431
E-ISBN-10: 0814270433
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814211779
Print-ISBN-10: 0814211771

Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2012