Abstract

Using Mikhail Bakhtin’s concept of dialogism, I examine issues of orality and literacy, dialect and formal diction in relationship to identity in three Harlem Renaissance short stories—Dorothy West’s “The Typewriter” and Anita Scott Coleman’s “Cross Crossings Cautiously” and “Three Dogs and a Rabbit.” These stories, written by women within a four-year period, use male voices to interrogate the sanctity of orality and the purported superiority of writing. Protagonists in these stories negotiate the reality of their dual existence, their black culture, their white environment, maneuvering through both worlds and both linguistic approaches. Survivors learn to balance past and present, oral and written cultures, literal and figurative discourses, since denying either category risks sacrificing heritage or political efficacy.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1464
Print ISSN
0022-281X
Pages
pp. 58-76
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-11
Open Access
No
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