Archive for February, 2013

Rampersad Visit to UMW this Week

Tuesday, February 19th, 2013

Arnold Rampersad, the Hughes biographer, will be at UMW this Thursday!

Hughes biography, Volume I

He will be delivering a Great Lives lecture on Arthur Ashe, AND visiting Professor Tweedy’s 11:00 African American lit class to talk about Hughes.  I am planning on attending this class period, which is in Combs 003.  Tweedy says that he thinks there are 4 or so extra chairs, plus floor/standing room.  If any of you are free right after Long Poems on Thursday and would like to attend, please let me know by sending me an email so I can get a headcount.  It’s a pretty cool opportunity since Rampersad is, at least now, the definitive biographer.

Hughes biography, Volume II

Critical Summary and Analysis 2: Langston Hughes

Saturday, February 16th, 2013

We have talked about form and voice within A Montage of a Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes, but we haven’t discussed the change in voice and form in his later poetry. During the 1930’s, Hughes shifted from a nationalist view point with an overwhelming sense of race pride to an internationalist including the black and white working class struggle within in the United States. Anthony Dawahare’s article “Langston Hughes’s Radical Poetry and the ‘End of Race’” makes a claim that Hughes’s 1930’s poetry or ‘red’ poetry has not received the scholarly interest or attention it deserves. After reading the article, I was surprised to find out the extent of Hughes’s view point on internationalism or Communism, how it affected his work and how that work had been neglected, academically. Dawahare shares his reasons as to why Hughes’s works of the 30’s have had this lack of attention.

Hughes’s later ‘red’ poetry changed from a nationalistic to an anti nationalistic or internationalist point of view during and after World War I. The United States had a sharp peak of nationalism during and after the war, but, according to Dawahare’s article, internationalism was making its way into the political sphere of the United States. In response to this, the US government acted in squashing the spread of Communism or internationalism. Dawahare believes that Hughes’s voice or language and form changed with the incoming view of internationalism. The change of voice and form was a drastic difference from his 1920’s or Harlem Renaissance poetry, where, as Dawahare explains, the voices were “an essentially politically passive, oppressed black subject”(26), but Hughes made the voices conscious of the passiveness and oppression like we noticed in A Montage of a Dream Deferred. Hughes’s shifting political views were made prominent through his agreement or support of the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA). Dawahare, however, makes it clear that Hughes was not a Communist in the sense that he was for some of the ideologies of t

Hughes, according to Hawahare, left his patron, Charlotte Mason, to write about working class inequality. He joined the proletarian literary movement. It is explained that Hughes’s political views are not solely Communist in the sense that Hughes did not believe that the black community was “a nation within a nation” being oppressed and should be democratized within the “black belt”(29). Dawahare makes it really clear that he doesn’t think that Hughes was of a separate opinion on this Communist ideology.  His internationalist view on class inequality made a huge influence on his ‘red’ poetry, because he wanted to write about the inequality aspect of Communism thinking, he had to change forms and voices or language. Dawahare writes that Hughes dropped his previous use of African expressive forms to include a more multiracial form. . Dawahare goes on to explain that the proletarian movement thought that the absence of African forms “lead Hughes to produce a poetry that was a little too ‘internationalist’ according to the standards in proletarian movement for black writing.” I believe that Hughes’s move away from African expressive forms made his writing about class inequality in the United States stronger.

Dawahare talks about critics that think the vernacular forms that Hughes adopted made his poetry “not black enough” or “not enough race pride” (37). Hughes change in language and form is explained in the article as a necessary and practical choice. A quote from a Soviet critic, Lydia Fliatova, emphasizes the point of “not black enough”:

“Hughes’s verses are impregnated with the spirit of proletarian internationalism, which ought to be welcomed in every way. Yet the poet goes to extremes by obliterating national boundaries and to some extent destroys the specific national atmosphere of his poetry. We are for an art that is national in form and socialist in content. Hughes first of all is a poet of the Negro proletariat…The writer should present with the utmost sharpness the problems of his own race, but they must have a class aspect. The force of Hughes’s [sic] poems will be stronger, the influence deeper, if he will draw closer to the Negro masses and talk their language. (107 emphasizes added)” (37).

Although the critics were more interested in the emphasis on the “Negro Question”, Hughes continued to write about multiracial working class inequality. For this reason, Dawahare believes that is why scholarly attention has been diverted from Hughes’s ‘red’ poetry.

Hughes’s change of style, voice and/or language was built to fit into the change of political view. The article brings up the question of whether Hughes sacrificed artistry for his political views. Dawahare says that he would not have thought so, that the change of form and language is art. I would have to agree with him. The ability to change forms the way Langston Hughes did in his ‘red’ poetry would be constituted as an art form. The change of form and language makes Hughes a more interesting poet than some of the others we have read in the past. Form and Language change is an essential part in becoming a successful artist of poetry or literature, at least that is my opinion.

Biographical Citation:

Dawahare, Anthony. “Langston Hughes’s Radical Poetry and the “End of Race”.” MELUS. 23.3 (1998): 21-38. Web. 16 Feb. 2013


Just a little recitation of “I, Too” which is claimed to have too much race pride according to my article.


Bridge to the Blog

Friday, February 15th, 2013

So, i’ve been sitting here with my dinner trying to decide what to post as my “bridge to the blog” for an unacceptably long amount of time. Mostly because i feel as though we did a pretty great job at discussing several of today’s topics to exhaustion.

to begin with, i have to ask: anyone else notice that the last few lines of Easy Boogie are an AWESOME penis joke? just sayin’.


Laocoön and the Speaking Voice of the Sequence

Thursday, February 14th, 2013


In the article on poetic sequences we read for today’s class, Rosenthal describes the speaker of the sequence as being “locked in a Laocoön-like struggle with a moribund yet murderous civilization.” I wasn’t sure what “Laocoön-like” meant so I looked it up and found that Laocoön is a figure in Greek and Roman mythology who was known for his futile attempts to warn the trojans about accepting the Trojan horse from the Greeks. Rosenthal seems to be essentially linking the speaker of the sequence with this voice of warning directed toward society, but perhaps maybe their warnings are to no avail.

In addition, above is the image I found when I searched Laocoön. The sculpture, which is now housed in the Vatican museums,depicts the death of Laocoön and his two sons. Although his sons are looking to him for help and aid, Laocoön is tangled up in his own troubles. Perhaps this is the struggle for the speaker of the sequence–that society is looking to them to help tell their stories and save them from the evils of the world, yet the speaker still struggles to overcome the deadening forces in his/ her own life.

What are your thoughts on thinking about the speaker of the sequence in terms of this image?

Bridge to The Blog (Langston Hughes)

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

In terms of current Afro-American popular music and the sources from which it progressed— jazz, ragtime, swing, blues, boogie-woogie, and be-bop—were prominent in this poem on contemporary Harlem. An example of how the music was a great influence is be-bop, which is marked by conflicting changes, sharp and sassy interjections, and broken rhythms therefore linking to the structure of the poem. His use of rhythm is clearly marked in his first poem, “Dream Boogie” with the steady beat in the first four lines,
“Good morning, daddy!
Ain’t you heard
The boogie-woogie rumble
Of a dream deferred?”
The use of rhythm is continued throughout the whole entire work, “Montage of a Dream Deferred.”
The main theme of the poem is the “dream deferred.” The dream as discussed in class tries to represent the disagreement between Harlem of the 1950s (post World War One) and the rest of the world in that time period. Other motifs include boogie-woogie and discrimination against the idea of the African-Americans. The poem is characterized by its use of the montage, a cinematic technique of quickly cutting from one scene to another in order to juxtapose unrelated images, and its use of contemporary jazz modes like boogie-woogie, bop and bebop, both as subjects in the individual short poems and as a method of structuring the poem.
The poem is divided into five sections originally although I did some research online and some versions do contain six versions instead.
The six are:
1. Boogie Segue To Bop
2. Dig and be Dug
3. Early Bright
4. Vice Versa to Bach
5. Dream Deferred
6.Lenox Avenue Mural.
When referring the poem as five parts it is just the first five listed.
Its themes include the suppression of the black community, African-American racial consciousness and history, and the need for social change to resolve the prejudices faced by the residents of the Harlem community. We talked about how Langston Hughes uses his voice in poetry along with many others to represent the unified spirit of those repressed from Africa, he collective spirit of the pan-Afrieanis or “negro soul.” We concluded that in his poem he wants the reader to see a community and not just himself. Each poem is believed to be a thought of as an individual story or voice, sometimes in the manner of a jam session, sometimes the popular song, punctuated by the melodies, runs, and the breaks of the music. He makes each individual poem a source of memory or a story. He tries to include all of the main factors of the Harlem Resonance to properly represent the meaning of the time. In the poem, “Guage” it talks about the use of marijuana (which I was told for the first time in class today) and the he even refers to roach (or commonly known as pot) therefore relating the time to a more freeing period of freedom for the community. I think this is one of the easier poems we have read so far but I also believe that this poem holds the most culture and history.
This poem is very relatable to some whom have been repressed or ostracized throughout the years. Langston does an incredible job in helping portray the time period in a more musical sense!

By: Kristina Tkac 🙂

p.s. sorry it is so late (it is still before midnight) but I was at work til ten thirty!

Intro and Table of Contents with labeled sections

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013







Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

A couple things: I am really excited to focus more on the poem and what’s on the page in in our reading of Hughes as opposed to the genre theory and macro analysis of the Long Poem. I know the cloud analysis is important, but I really like looking at what the landscape is doing to so I’m super ready for that 🙂

Secondly, I wanted to say a bit about why I read Dream Boogie the way I did. I already explained the optimistic spin on it, but this is about why I read it at a quicker pace. It has to do with the voices that I said I heard in this poette (poette? a smaller poem that is part of a bigger poem? I just made it up… but I think I like it. So yes, poette). — Something I learned doing the musical last semester, is that people fight for the right to talk. Even if you are having a conversation with your closest friend and you aren’t clamoring to interrupt each other, you still have a response to what your friend is saying and are waiting to say it. As soon as your friend is done talking, don’t you jump right in and speak your piece? (Unless, of course, you generally take longer to think about what you’re going to say, but I think you understand where I’m going with this.) That’s how Professor Stull would tell us to talk to one another on stage – there are no lulls, there is action. People want to be heard.

I believe this can be tied into the way I see the “titles” of the poettes, too. Motivic in function, but sequential(?) in an inner-ear understanding of things… at least to me. Different topics, ideas, or thoughts, all trying to follow as soon as possible the topic, idea, or thought that came before it.

I also want to post later about titles I like, and to shed some light on the meaning of certain things that I don’t believe are common knowledge – jargon and this and that – to see if I can help, even if it’s just a surface definition of things. BUT, for now that’s all I have time for… I’m very excited to spend time on this poem! 🙂

On the Significance of Tiresias in The Waste Land

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

I want to take this opportunity to shed some more light on what I was talking about in class.

Tiresias is a blind man with the gift of foresight who can decipher the songs of birds and is a world-renown female prostitute.
If a sightless, all-knowing, bird-song-interpreter isn’t the key to deciphering Eliot’s intention, metaphor, and authority I don’t know what is.

I urge everyone to read The Waste Land over again and see if any one of those traits doesn’t help answer your questions about God, sexuality, allegory, or understanding in The Waste Land.

To this end I think Tiresias is the key to The Waste Land.  In my opinion Tiresias serves as the God of The Waste Land and interpretation of the text through his “eyes” has proven to me to be much more successful than the traditional biblical “knowledge is harmful” lens.

When Eliot intends to contradict Tiresias is there to underpin it.

“T.S Eliot’s Misreading of Some Literary Sources in The Waste Land” by Liem Sayta Limanta.

Friday, February 8th, 2013

Within the article, Limanta discusses some of the responses from critics about The Waste Land and applies Harold Bloom’s concept of poetic influence to T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, so Eliot can strengthen the death motif within the poem.

Limanta starts off the article by showing various responses from critics, which were positive and negative. One critic that was focused on was Louis Untermeyer, “a pompous parade of erudition” (Limanta 102). Untermeyer bases his critique on the poem’s various quotations from different sources and Limanta explains that Untermeyer’s critique is not without basis (102) because of the various topics Eliot quotes from. Limanta goes on to explain that Eliot’s vast reading could be the cause of critics suggesting the poem is fractured. However, the article’s main focus is the interpretations of precursor poets that influenced Eliot.

The article continues into the topic of misreading. Limanta cites V.B. Leitch’s Deconstructive Criticism where Paul De Man is mentioned.

“ De Man says that all interpretation involves misreading (Leitch, 1983) Leitch has condensed de Man’s complicated theory of misreading and concludes as follows: ‘In other words, if it ruled out or refused all misreading whatsoever, a text would not be literary. A text is literary to the degree that is permits and encourages misreading” (Limanta 102).

Limanta connects the misreading theory of De Man to Harold Bloom, The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry. In the article, Bloom is discussed for using the topic of misreading done by poets to make a new tradition. Limanta describes Bloom’s ‘revisionary ratios’ in which “a poet struggles with his precursor” (103). These ‘revisionary ratios’, all six of them, are explained in detail, but Limanta only shows Eliot to have used the first two, clinamen and tessera, in The Waste Land.

Limanta develops clinamen and tessera with two examples each from The Waste Land. But first, the definition of each is given to the reader. Clinamen is explained to be when a poet takes the precursor poet’s idea and turning it into something else, hence misreading it. Tessera is where a poet completes the precursor poet’s thesis and becomes its antithesis, “He does so by so reading the parent-poem as to retain its term but to mean them in another sense, as though the precursor had failed to go far enough” (104). Limanta then goes on to show the two ‘revisionary ratios within The Waste Land.

In the Burial of the Dead, Limanta shows an example of the antithesis that is Tessera. The very first lines of The Waste Land are where Limanta makes her first point about Eliot’s use of tessera to expand the death motif. The thesis that Eliot is supposed to oppose is Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. Limanta says that the beginning of The Canterbury Tales shows that spring is sweet and life is coming forth bring winter’s death to an end. Whereas Eliot claims that spring is not sweet because the flowers have to struggle out of the death and decay. Limanta claims that the antithesis strengthens the death and hopelessness motif. Later on in the Burial of the Dead, Limanta explains the use of Webster’s The White Devil as a clinamen.  The person to inform readers, as Limanta says, was Cleanth Brooks’ The Waste Land: Critique of the Myth. Limanta explains the clinamen through and the explanation of Webster’s ‘wolf’ is changed into ‘dog’ and ‘foe’ into ‘friend’ (108).  J.S Brooker and J. Bentley’s Reading the Waste Land: Modernism and the Limits of Interpretation. Brooker and Bentley explain that “The dog ‘that’s friend to men’ suggests a modern god substitute which seemed to be a friend but which has become in numerous senses a destroyer” (108).

Limanta continues to give the reader more examples of clinamen and tessera in the Fire Sermon. The first allusion in the Fire Sermon that Limanta wanted the readers to notice was from “Prothalamion”. Limanta claims that Eliot took the ‘Sweet Thames’ lines from the wedding refrain in the Prothalamion, “‘Sweet Themmes! Runne softly, till I end my Song/’ (cited by Hands)” (110). Limanta explains that the refrain is depicted as a glorious and beautiful wedding, but Eliot shows a sad river and laments at the absence of beauty. This interpretation shows Eliot as the Prothalamion antithesis or tessera. Limanta goes further to show a definite example of clinamen by referring to explains that Eliot supports the image of death by twisting the meaning of Oliver Goldsmith’s The Vicar of Wakefield. Eliot misreads the poem’s man and woman’s relationship as lifeless and mechanic, whereas Goldsmith shows the relationship as sad or the woman lamenting.

Limanta concludes that the miss-readings by T.S Eliot strengthen the motif of death throughout the poem. Limanta goes on to explain that misreading was a tool that Eliot used to make a new tradition out of the old or precursor poets. Limanta’s article helps a student or reader understand that new traditions can come out of people misreading previous authors. I believe that the article also shows the unity of the poem through the fragmentation of the allusions, the motif of death and hopelessness. Even though our class has struggled to find any unity within the Waste Land, reading this article helps me to understand some other point of view on the unity of the poem. This article also helps the class expand on the different aspects of creating a new tradition when we talked about Whitman. The new from the old.

Katherine Henion

Why We Should Believe Peace at the End of the Waste Land

Thursday, February 7th, 2013



This is essentially visual/audio representation of the complacency of fishing before an arid plain, in the final stanza.  I hope this gives sense to what I was trying to convey in class today.