New Voices on the Harlem Renaissance by Australia Tarver
This volume of essays, privileging mostly new scholars in the field of Harlem Renaissance studies, is a representative sampling of the kind of literary scholarship and continuing study needed for this period, also often referred to as the New Negro Renaissance. As a body, the collection recognizes the evolving literary discourse that reflects interdisciplinarity and fluidity among boundaries of race, class, gender, sexuality, and pedagogy. Aimed at scholars, college teachers, upper-level undergraduates, graduate students, and those with special affection and interest in the era, these essays are divided into three sections: exploring the modernist project through Harlem Renaissance writers' views of art, using empire and gender as focal points; critiquing the politics of color and race, sexuality and hybridity; and examining the pedagogical and technical aspects of poetry, fiction, and other art forms. The essays on empire and gender are very different, showing the dialogic quality of the era itself. However, both feature Alain Locke and The New Negro, first published in 1925. The first argues that Locke engages in the rhetoric of empire as he advances notions that, as the superior race, African Americans can enhance African art while using it to improve their status in America. The second compares visual images of women in Locke's book to illustrations by Gwendolyn Bennett and Lois Mailou Jones, to explore women's and men's depictions of each other during the era. Taken together, the second section of essays, on Dorothy West, Jessie Fauset, Langston Hughes, Wallace Thurman,and Countee Cullen, treat multiple migrations, from social, economic, and racial passing to sexual and homoerotic identification. The third section includes essays about Langston Hughes and teaching the Harlem Renaissance through literature and the arts. While one essay views Hughes as a source through which to teach composition, the other uses a technological and jazz lens to examine Hughes's poem, 'The Weary Blues'' The final essay advocates a more integrative approach, teaching the era as an interdisciplinary, collaborative movement involving literature and the arts, and thereby emphasizing the ways the artists themselves saw, lived, and contributed to the cultural life of their time. Overall, the collection celebrates new scholars and selected Harlem Renaissance writers, many of whom deserve and, it is hoped as a result of this effort, will be granted more critical space.