Jean Toomer Reader: Selected and Unpublished Writings

Overview

Jean Toomer achieved instant recognition as a critic and thinker in 1923 with the publication of his novel Cane, a harsh, eloquent vision of black American hardship and suffering. But because of his reclusive, introspective nature, Toomer's fame waned in later years, and today his other contributions to American thought and literature are all but forgotten. Now, this collection of unpublished writings restores a crucial dimension to our understanding of this important African American author. Thematically ...
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Overview

Jean Toomer achieved instant recognition as a critic and thinker in 1923 with the publication of his novel Cane, a harsh, eloquent vision of black American hardship and suffering. But because of his reclusive, introspective nature, Toomer's fame waned in later years, and today his other contributions to American thought and literature are all but forgotten. Now, this collection of unpublished writings restores a crucial dimension to our understanding of this important African American author. Thematically arranging letters, sketches, poems, autobiography, short stories, a play, and a children's story, Frederik Rusch offers insight into Toomer's mind and spirituality, his feelings on racial identity in America, and his attitudes toward and ideas about Cane. Rusch highlights Toomer's reflections on America, its people, landscape, and politics, reveals his significance for the problems and issues of today, and helps us understand Toomer not only as writer, but also as social critic, prophet, mystic, and idealist. Exploring Toomer's attempts to find self-realization and transcend social and cultural definitions of race, this book offers a unique view of the United States through the life of one of its most significant and fascinating intellectuals.

"A useful addition to African-American literary scholarship....Properly emphasizes what Toomer critics have identified as the major themes of his life and work."--Choice
"A valuable addition to the body of Toomer's work."--Georgia Historical Quarterly
"Toomer was one of the most talented authors of the Harlem Renaissance, and he made valuable contributions to modernist literature, unfortunately forgotten, that this volume helps makeclear."--Mary Ann Wimsatt, University of South Carolina
"Continuing a decade's work on Jean Toomer's literary development, Frederick L. Rusch's exemplary edition of the unpublished works invites us to follow the work of a writer whose project was no less than defining the subjective creation of a multi-cultural American."--John M. Reilly, State University of New York at Albany
"Valuable supplementary material from one of the most important African-American writers of all time. This will help to re-establish his worth and make him more widely known and appreciated."--Dennis Brutus, University of Colorado
"A valuable addition to the primary source materials on Toomer."--Joseph McLaren, Hofstra University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195077339
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 12/16/1993
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.31 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Meet the Author

John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York
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Table of Contents


I. Cane

1. Pre-Cane

Letter to Waldo Frank, John McClure, Frank, The Liberator, Lola Ridge, Sherwood Anderson

2. Cane

Letter to Gorham Munson, Kenneth Macgowan, Frank

3. Post-Cane

Letter to Frank, Horace Liveright

II. The Mystical Experience

The Experience

III. The Negro, the Blue Man, and the New Race

Introduction: Prejudice; Germ Carriers; The Fable of a Creature

2. The Negro

Negro Psychology in The Emperor Jones

Letter to Sherwood Anderson

The Negro Emergent

3. The Blue Man

Letter to Horace Liveright, Waldo Frank

Not Typically American

Fighting the Vice

4. The New Race

A New Race in America

Letter to James Weldon Johnson

The Americans

Oppose the Force, Not the Man

Mankind Means Brotherhood

IV. Caught in the Machine

To Dyke

Selling

A Comment on the Vegetable by, F. Scott Fitzgerald

Drackman

The Scottsboro Boys

American Letter

To Sleep

Love on a Train

Man's Home Companion

Lump

The Spoken Word

Winter Road

George Washington

Atomic Energy

V. A Children's Story

Monrovia

VI. The Land

1 Introduction.

Highways Should Be Rightways

It Used to Be

Why These?

The Extremes Are Great

2. The Northeast

New York

The Brilliant Brotherhood: New York City during the Mystical Experience of 1926

Doylestown

The Presence of a Field

3. The South

Night

4. Chicago

5. New Mexico

To the Land of thePeople

Rainbow

The Dust of Abiquiu

Taos Night

New Mexico after India

Part of the Universe

Santa Fe Sequence

6. California

Caromb

America's Proposed Riveria: A Chicagoan's Impressions of Los Angeles

VII. Epilogue

Music

A Double Portrait

To Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz

Tired, I have come to the door

Bibliography

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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    letters reveal the writer's complexity

    Lewis Mumford, Alfred Steiglitz, Harte Crane, Countee Cullen, and Sherwood Anderson were among the notables of his era the leading Harlem Renaissance writer Jean Toomer corresponded with. Toomer's letters to these and others have meticulous notes by Whalen, a lecturer in American literature at the U. of Exeter which notes give a pronounced biographical and critical dimension to the volume. Most of the letters are now at the Beinecke Library at Yale. They were written in the few years surrounding the publication of Toomer's book 'Cane' which brought him into the spotlight. Not only this and other works, but also many of the letters try to come to grips with Toomer's complex racial make-up. In a letter to his publisher Horace Liveright, he writes, 'My racial composition and my position in the world are realities which I alone may determine...Feature Negro if you wish, but do not expect me to feature it in advertisements for you...Whatever statements I give will inevitably come from a synthetic human and art point of view not from a racial one.' Such letters record Toomer's finely-tuned thoughts on social, political, and literary realities and issues in America at the time. The letters from the relatively short period associated with the completion and publication of Toomer's signature work 'Cane' give a crystallized picture of the psychology, values, and aims of this author.

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