front cover of Langston Hughes and the Blues
Langston Hughes and the Blues
Steven C. Tracy
University of Illinois Press, 2024
The shades and structures of the blues had an immense impact on the poetry of Langston Hughes. Steven C. Tracy provides a cultural context for Hughes’s work while revealing how Hughes mined Black oral and literary traditions to create his poetry. Comparing Hughes’s poems to blues texts, Tracy reveals how Hughes’s experimental forms reflect the poetics, structures, rhythms, and musical techniques of the music. Tracy also offers a discography of recordings by the artists--Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Blind Lemon Jefferson, and others--who most influenced the poet.

front cover of Langston Hughes and the *Chicago Defender*
Langston Hughes and the *Chicago Defender*
Essays on Race, Politics, and Culture, 1942-62
Langston Hughes. Edited by Christopher C. De Santis
University of Illinois Press, 1995
Langston Hughes is well known as a poet, playwright, novelist, social activist, communist sympathizer, and brilliant member of the Harlem Renaissance. He has been referred to as the "Dean of Black Letters" and the "poet low-rate of Harlem."

But it was as a columnist for the famous African-American newspaper the Chicago Defender that Hughes chronicled the hopes and despair of his people. For twenty years, he wrote forcefully about international race relations, Jim Crow, the South, white supremacy, imperialism and fascism, segregation in the armed forces, the Soviet Union and communism, and African-American art and culture. None of the racial hypocrisies of American life escaped his searing, ironic prose.

This is the first collection of Hughes's nonfiction journalistic writings. For readers new to Hughes, it is an excellent introduction; for those familiar with him, it gives new insights into his poems and fiction.


front cover of Montage of a Dream
Montage of a Dream
The Art and Life of Langston Hughes
Edited by John Edgar Tidwell & Cheryl R. Ragar, Foreword by Arnold Rampersad
University of Missouri Press, 2007

  Over a forty-six-year career, Langston Hughes experimented with black folk expressive culture, creating an enduring body of extraordinary imaginative and critical writing.  Riding the crest of African American creative energy from the Harlem Renaissance to the onset of Black Power, he commanded an artistic prowess that survives in the legacy he bequeathed to a younger generation of writers, including award winners Alice Walker, Paule Marshall, and Amiri Baraka.

            Montage of a Dream extends and deepens previous scholarship, multiplying the ways in which Hughes’s diverse body of writing can be explored.  The contributors, including such distinguished scholars as Steven Tracy, Trudier Harris, Juda Bennett, Lorenzo Thomas, and Christopher C. De Santis, carefully reexamine the significance of his work and life for their continuing relevance to American, African American, and diasporic literatures and cultures.

            Probing anew among Hughes’s fiction, biographies, poetry, drama, essays, and other writings, the contributors assert fresh perspectives on the often overlooked “Luani of the Jungles” and Black Magic and offer insightful rereadings of such familiar pieces as “Cora Unashamed,” “Slave on the Block,” and Not without Laughter. In addition to analyzing specific works, the contributors astutely consider subjects either lightly explored by or unavailable to earlier scholars, including dance, queer studies, black masculinity, and children’s literature.  Some investigate Hughes’s use of religious themes and his passion for the blues as the fabric of black art and life; others ponder more vexing questions such as Hughes’s sexuality and his relationship with his mother, as revealed in the letters she sent him in the last decade of her life.

            Montage of a Dream richly captures the power of one man’s art to imagine an America holding fast to its ideals while forging unity out of its cultural diversity.  By showing that Langston Hughes continues to speak to the fundamentals of human nature, this comprehensive reconsideration invites a renewed appreciation of Hughes’s work—and encourages new readers to discover his enduring relevance as they seek to understand the world in which we all live.


front cover of New World Maker
New World Maker
Radical Poetics, Black Internationalism, and the Translations of Langston Hughes
Ryan James Kernan, foreword by Robin D. G. Kelley
Northwestern University Press, 2022
In an ambitious reappraisal of Langston Hughes’s work and legacy, Ryan James Kernan reads Hughes’s political poetry in the context of his practice of translation to reveal an important meditation on diaspora. Drawing on heretofore unearthed archival evidence, Kernan shows how Hughes mined his engagements with the poetics of Louis Aragon, Nicolás Guillén, Regino Pedroso, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Federico García Lorca, and Léopold Sédar Senghor, as well as translations of his own poetry, to fashion a radical poetics that engaged Black left internationalist concerns. As he follows Hughes from Harlem to Havana, Moscow, Madrid, and finally to Dakar, Kernan reveals how the writer’s identity and aesthetic were translated within these leftist geographies and metropoles, by others but also collaboratively. As Kernan argues, we cannot know Hughes without knowing him in translation.
Through original research and close readings alert to the foreign prosody underlying Hughes’s work, New World Maker recuperates his political writing, which had been widely maligned by Cold War detractors and adherents of New Criticism, and affirms his place as a progenitor of African diasporic literature and within the pantheon of US modernists. Demonstrating the integral part translation played in Hughes’s creative process, this book challenges a number of common assumptions about this canonical thinker and offers important insights for scholars of African diasporic literature, comparative literature, and American, Caribbean, and translation studies.

front cover of Not So Simple
Not So Simple
The "Simple" Stories by Langston Hughes
Donna Akiba Sullivan Harper
University of Missouri Press, 1995

The "Simple" stories, Langston Hughes's satirical pieces featuring Harlem's Jesse B. Semple, have been lauded as Hughes's greatest contribution to American fiction.  In Not So Simple, Donna Akiba Sullivan Harper provides the first full historical analysis of the Simple stories.

Harper traces the evolution and development of Simple from his 1943 appearance in Hughes's weekly Chicago Defender column through his 1965 farewell in the New York Post. Drawing on correspondence and manuscripts of the stories, Harper explores the development of the Simple collections, from Simple Speaks His Mind (1950) to Simple's Uncle Sam (1965), providing fresh and provocative perspectives on both Hughes and the characters who populate his stories.

Harper discusses the nature of Simple, Harlem's "everyman", and the way in which Hughes used his character both to teach fellow Harlem residents about their connection to world events and to give black literature a hero whose "day-after-day heroism" would exemplify greatness. She explores the psychological, sociological, and literary meanings behind the Simple stories, and suggests ways in which the stories illustrate lessons of American history and political science. She also examines the roles played by women in these humorously ironic fictions. Ultimately, Hughes's attitudes as an author are measured against the views of other prominent African American writers.

Demonstrating the richness and complexity of this Langston Hughes character and the Harlem he inhabited. Not So Simple makes an important contribution to the study of American literature.




front cover of Omnicompetent Modernists
Omnicompetent Modernists
Poetry, Politics, and the Public Sphere
Matthew Hofer
University of Alabama Press, 2022
An innovative exploration of early twentieth-century avant-garde poetry’s relationship to the public sphere
“It is difficult / to get the news from poems / yet men die miserably every day / for lack / of what is found there,” as the poet William Carlos Williams memorably declared. In Omnicompetent Modernists: Poetry, Politics, and the Public Sphere, Matthew Hofer examines, through a multilayered literary critique of interwar modernist poetry, what it might mean to get the news, and more, from a poet.

Using pragmatist ideas about the public sphere as a tool, Hofer reveals how Langston Hughes, Ezra Pound, and Mina Loy sought to use literature to both express and enable thought. In Hughes, Pound, and Loy, Hofer attends to poets whose work vigorously imagined possible new relationships between language, thinking, and public society. Each poet had different goals and used different methods, but all found both inspiration and encouragement in popular political theory. Hughes advocated for a more just vision of color and class in the United States. Pound sought to condemn those whom he associated with public harm, linguistically, socially, economically, and politically. Loy championed the “psycho-democratic” representation of women, in both public and private life.

Although Hughes, Pound, and Loy are rarely considered together, what unites these three writers is how each reconceived the public realm, and revolutionized aesthetic form to articulate those visions. Hofer combines sharp intellectual historiography with rigorous literary criticism and the result is a study that reinvigorates both the poems and poets under consideration and speaks to the immense power of language in manipulating public opinion—with pertinent implications for the politics of the present.

front cover of Socialist Joy in the Writing of Langston Hughes
Socialist Joy in the Writing of Langston Hughes
Jonathan Scott
University of Missouri Press, 2007
One of the foremost African American writers of his generation, Langston Hughes waged a tireless campaign against racial oppression that defied the anticommunist currents of cold war America. Socialist Joy in the Writing of Langston Hughes examines his writing during this period to show that his approach to the main philosophical currents of the era was original, dynamic, and systematic in ways that most scholars have yet to appreciate.

Jonathan Scott has written the first book-length study to analyze the extraordinary range of Hughes’s creative output, showing that his unassailable reputation as one of America’s finest “folk poets” barely scratches the surface of his oeuvre. Scott offers a robust account of the relations between Hughes and political activism to show that Hughes’s direct involvement with the U.S. socialist movement of the 1920s and 1930s was largely responsible for the variety of his writing. Scott also contends that the goal of overthrowing white oppression produced a “socialist joy” that would express itself repeatedly in Hughes’s work during the anticommunist crusades of the 1950s and 1960s.

In his provocative study, Scott explores four areas of Hughes’s intellectual work: his relationship with Afro-Caribbean arts, Soviet Russia, and the Harlem Renaissance; his postwar newspaper writing for the African American press; his extensive cultural work as an anthologist; and his writings for young people. Through these analyses, Scott proposes the concept of “red, white, and black” as an alternative paradigm for appreciating Hughes in particular and the American scene in general. 

Scott views Hughes not simply as a great author but as an American working-class intellectual trickster whose eccentric projects require a redefinition of the very concept of authorship. By focusing on Hughes’s intellectual method, Scott also contests the notion of reducing all African Americans to one undifferentiated social status beneath that of any class within the white oppressing group—a hallmark of racial oppression that has diminished, in the U.S. academy, Hughes’s international status.

As Scott persuasively argues, it is only through an understanding of Hughes’s literary method that we can undertake a thorough account of his prolific production during the cold war era. His book situates Hughes’s life and work in their proper contexts, both reconfirming Hughes’s reputation as an intellectual of the American Left and establishing his long-denied place in American studies as the most well-rounded writer of his time.

Send via email Share on Facebook Share on Twitter