Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance

*the golden age of American literature*
*radically different from traditional life
-World War I
-Roaring Twenties/ Jazz Age
-Great Depression
-World War II

characteristics of Modernism
*Period of questioning traditional values (role of religion questioned)
*Period of disillusionment
*Period of Fragmentation
* Period of experimentation
-subject and technique in visual & literal art
-experiments with point of view

Imagism Movement
-short lived
founder: Ezra Pound

20th Century
*the 20th century doesn’t really start until The Great War(WWI) in 1914
-technology is booming
-Y2K was suppose to happen in 2000
-Mayan Calendar says the world is going to end in 2012
–gravitational pull
–eclipses/planets will line up

Despair (effects…)
-literature (very dark and ominous)
-theology(people’s belief in eternal things )

*read something and see a picture to go with it
House = building, structure
–doesn’t evoke a lot of emotion
*denotative word
Home= family, love, safe place, where the heart is, warmth,
*connotative word- suggest other things, what people think/feel

Ezra Pound
*one of the most influential poets if this century
*founder of Imagism
* “image” is something that presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time
-The Cantos

T.S. Eliot
*one of the most respected poets of his day
*modernist, seemingly illogical, abstract iconoclastic poetry had revolutionary impact
*formulation= “objective correlative”
“The Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, “The Hollow Men”. “The Waste land”

“The Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

“The Hollow Men”

“The Waste land”

Gertrude Stain
*developed an analogue to modern art

*dazzling style, seductive glamour
The Great Gatsby ,”Winter Dreams”

“Winter Dreams”
The Dark Side of the American Dream
Reality versus Idealism

Harlem Renaissance
renaissance = new birth
1920’s – 1930’s (1922-1931)
Concentration of artists, writers, musicians, visual artists in the Harlem community (black community writers)
*jazz and blues influences
– visions
-economic and social inequality

factors that led to the Harlem Renaissance
1. *the great northern migration
-post civil war
-newly emancipated slaves had few options (share cropping )
– moved to the north with their families for better opportunities
— industrial revolution – creates jobs

2. by 1900 there is an awakening that takes place that causes new-found pride in the black race
– “The New Negro Movement”

3. Harlem was a desirable community that was exclusively white. The community begins to transform with the immigration and becomes and exclusively black community
Black artists, philosophers are drawn to Harlem
creative energy

HR poetry themes
*Most of the poems have one of three focal points
*Concentrate on racial issues
1. past -celebrate black heritage and the endurance in the face of hardship
2. present – lament racial discrimination
3. future – look forward to equality
*jazz is huge in Harlem
*the city that never sleeps (very true during the 1920’s)

Langston Hughes
from Joplin, MO (frequently uses Harlem as a source of material)
-many of his poems mimic the jazz rhythms and sounds

Mother to Son
Me and the Mule
Juke Box Love Song
The Negro Speaks of Rivers
Song for a Dark Girl
I, Too, Sing America
Dream Variations

Jean Toomer
from Georgia


Arna Bontemps
born in LA, raised in CA


Southern Mansion
The Daybreakers
A Black Man Talks of Reaping

Claude McKay
born and raised in Jamaica

If We Must Die

Countee Cullen
from New York
-sheltered life
-classic poet in terms of form and
subject matter

Yet Do I Marvel
From the Dark Tower
For A Lady I Know