A Jean Toomer Reader: Selected and Unpublished Writings / Edition 1

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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 Now, this collection of unpublished writings restores a crucial dimension to our understanding of this important African American author.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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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 make clear."—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"Continuing a decade's work on Jean Toomer's literary development, Frederick L. Rusch's exemplary edition of the unpublished works invites us to follow the work of a writer whose project was no less than defining the subjective creation of a multi-cultural American."—John M. Reilly,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: 9780195083293
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 12/28/1993
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.06 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.70 (d)

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
A Comment on the Vegetable by, F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Scottsboro Boys
American Letter
To Sleep
Love on a Train
Man's Home Companion
The Spoken Word
Winter Road
George Washington
Atomic Energy
V. A Children's Story
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
The Presence of a Field
3. The South
4. Chicago
5. New Mexico
To the Land of the People
The Dust of Abiquiu
Taos Night
New Mexico after India
Part of the Universe
Santa Fe Sequence
6. California
America's Proposed Riveria: A Chicagoan's Impressions of Los Angeles
VII. Epilogue
A Double Portrait
To Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz
Tired, I have come to the door

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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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