CANE by Jean Toomer, Renaissance Novel

Aaron Douglas is particularly appropriate because he is the key painter and visual artist associated with the Harlem Renaissance, the topic of our next segment in which we are reading Jean Toomer's CANE, a groundbreaking and unprecedented Modernist novel. It was written in 1923 and I first read it in about 1970 when I was a student at CCNY, myself. I don't believe I read it in a class. I read it on my own and had no one to talk about it with since African American Literature was still a very new field in academia.

CANE was the first of a series of African American novels to come into vogue in the 70s along with a renewed interest in the Harlem Renaissance. CANE was for me then a wonderful book set in Georgia and Washington D.C., and exhibiting some of the features of the stream-of-consciousness technique I found so fascinating in James Joyce's PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN. CANE is made up of a series of short stories, poems and dramatic sequences. Jean Toomer, himself, was quite a character. After he wrote CANE, since he was very racially mixed, he decided from then on that he would no longer be black, making him a highly controversial figure in African American studies to this day.

No comments: