cover of book
 

Split-Gut Song: Jean Toomer and the Poetics of Modernity
by Karen Jackson Ford
University of Alabama Press, 2005
Cloth: 978-0-8173-1456-9 | eISBN: 978-0-8173-8961-1 | Paper: 978-0-8173-5846-4
Library of Congress Classification PS3539.O478Z64 2005
Dewey Decimal Classification 813.52

ABOUT THIS BOOK | AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY | TOC
ABOUT THIS BOOK
In Split-Gut Song, Karen Jackson Ford looks at what it means to be African American, free, and creative by analyzing Jean Toomer's main body of work, specifically, his groundbreaking creation Cane. When first published in 1923, this pivotal work of modernism was widely hailed as inaugurating a truly artistic African American literary tradition. Yet Toomer's experiments in literary form are consistently read in terms of political radicalism—protest and uplift—rather than literary radicalism.



Ford contextualizes Toomer's poetry, letters, and essays in the literary culture of his period and, through close readings of the poems, shows how they negotiate formal experimentation (imagism, fragmentation, dialect) and traditional African American forms (slave songs, field hollers, call-and-response sermons, lyric poetry). At the heart of Toomer's work is the paradox that poetry is both the saving grace of African American culture and that poetry cannot survive modernity. This contradiction, Ford argues, structures Cane, wherein traditional lyric poetry first flourishes, then falters, then falls silent.



The Toomer that Ford discovers in Split-Gut Song is a complicated, contradictory poet who brings his vexed experience and ideas of racial identity to both conventional lyric and experimental forms. Although Toomer has been labelled a political radical, Ford argues that politics is peripheral in his experimental, stream-of-consciousness work. Rather Toomer exhibits a literary radicalism as he struggles to articulate his perplexed understanding of race and art in 20th-century America.
 



Reference metadata exposed for Zotero via unAPI.