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ARLT - Final Paper - Tracing Culture through Lyricism

ARLT - Final Paper - Tracing Culture through Lyricism -...

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Keya Agarwal ARLT 100 – 35327- Paris Noir Tracing culture through Lyricism: A critical analysis of Leopold Senghor’s New York and Jean Toomer’s Song of the Sun In time, although the sun in setting on/ A song-lit race of slaves, it has not set;/ Though late, O soil, it is not too late yet…” Jean Toomer’s literary work Song of the Son , is a picturesque depiction of black cultural expression through music. The poet explores the concept of black spirituality through the representation of ancestral souls as the manifestation of his true identity, and how he returns to preserve the remnants of their disappearing culture. He draws this sense of belonging from nature, which he portrays as a medium for communication between his ancestral slaves and himself, mostly through song, as the title itself implies. Toomer inherently exemplifies the element of song through the usage of lyricism, which we can interpret as the rhythmic and imaginary quality of his writing, making it more emotionally expressive and attributing it with a musical trait. Such characteristics in writing can also be seen in Senghor’s poem, New York . The francophone poet aims to portray the dehumanizing experience of witnessing a city, which is profoundly different from his own. He discusses aspects of his New York through a culturally biased perspective, as he uses African imagery, especially from what appears to be his childhood, to examine his surroundings; and although he marvels at the physical beauty of New York he stresses on the internal void of life. Senghor wrote the poem in a
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jazz style for the trumpet. All of his poems in his book “Ethiopiques” are written for different instruments, and hence “the uniqueness of each musical style gestures to the diversity of modes of expression in the Black Diaspora, 1 ” as expressed by Jen Bouchard, a writer and examiner of French and Francophone studies. Furthermore, throughout the poem Senghor refers to music and instruments, as they add to the essence of the black experience and cultural practices in Harlem. Both poets use lyricism as an additive flair to their musically linked works, to highlight deeper meanings. The abundance of repetition and rhyme make their writing seem very tuneful, and in addition, the overload of abstract images, metaphors and symbols enhance the lyrical property of it as well. However, how can we analyze the impact of lyricism on literary techniques in the Francophone poet, Senghor’s work, and the Anglophone poet, Toomer’s work? How do lyricism and its affect of literary techniques enhance the importance of musical expression to the poets, particularly in respect to its cultural significance and transformation? This thesis will explore how in Jean Toomer’s Song of the Son and Leopold Senghor’s New York , the poets employ lyricism as the tool to shape the roles of certain literary techniques, and in doing so, denote the importance of music in cultural practices and black poetic expression.
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