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eng 283 final paper - ENG 283 A 15 December 2010 Final...

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ENG 283 A 15 December 2010 Final Paper Black American Influence in Modernism: Claude McKay’s Commentary on Racial Segregation and Black Empowerment during the Harlem Renaissance The Industrial Revolution was not only significant for the emergence of new technologies in society, but altered the existing social, political, and economic realm of the 19 th century. In response to these changes, Modernism was founded on these upheavals of traditional systems and philosophies; furthermore, modernist theories rejected these traditional values and called for society to renovate their outdated institutions. Poets of the modernism period used their works to promote their cause as well as identify flawed, rigid systems. Surrealist, Futurist, and Dadaist movements morphed modernist ideas into adaptations of their own. As the effects of the Industrial Revolution struck the United States an influx of a migrated Black population to the North brought on different racial structures, which triggered the literary revolution of the Harlem Renaissance. An advocate of Black culture empowerment, Jamaican native Claude McKay wrote many different poems, commenting on systematic flaws in Harlem and the future of Black identity. To convey these themes distinguished in his works, I will show how McKay’s “Harlem Shadows” and “The Lynching” harnesses his Black audience through restricting white accessibility, resulting form the use of unconventional subjects in traditional sonnet, and harsh imagery unfamiliar to white perspectives. In McKay’s poems “Harlem Shadows” and “The Lynching”, I will show how McKay not only creates situations particular to Black culture and exclusive to racist whites, but more importantly calls for a change in white people’s behavior to successfully incorporate Black values into society. Furthermore, Langston Hughes’ description of Black culture in
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“Dream Boogie” and Gwendolyn Brooks’ depiction of her struggle as a Black woman in her “My Dreams, My Works, must Wait Till after Hell” differ from McKay; however, these differences, I will argue, contribute to the greater message of literature of the Harlem Renaissance. Claude McKay writes unconventional subjects in traditional sonnet form to challenge the dimensions of poetry, expose the diversity within Black culture, and limit white access, as is in “Harlem Shadows”. “Harlem Shadows” begins by “in Negro Harlem when the night lets fall Its veil” and immediately unlocks a commonplace world to Black Harlem (Harlem Shadows, line 2). Leaving all other non-proper words lowercased, McKay capitalizes “Negro” in emphasis that this poem describes the Negro prospective of Harlem. Emerging from “Harlem Shadows” the very first lines, McKay embraces his Negro counterparts, isolating the subject of his Harlem from white Harlem.
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