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Unformatted text preview: However, one author did not associate himself with this time period despite the publication of his best work, Cane . Jean Toomer did not associate himself with the Harlem Renaissance largely because of his views on race. His novel even produced a lot of controversial arguments on its depiction of race and how that reflected Toomer. Race is a large debate among many scholars when they analyze Toomer’s text. Specifically, Charles T. Davis and Barbara Foley present two different analyses to the question of race and what matters when discussing it in Cane. In Davis’s essay “Jean Toomer and the South: Region and Race as Elements within a Literary Imagination”, he discusses the how geographic location ultimately affected the way Cane was written and later interpreted. More precisely, Toomer’s experience in the South had a large influence on the development of Cane and the portrayal of the African American race. Barbara Foley takes quite a different stance in this debate. In her essay “Jean Toomer’s Washington and the Politics of Class: From ‘Blue Veins’ to Seventh-Street Rebels”, she argues that the key point missing from many people’s discussion of the novel is class. She goes into 56 depth describing Toomer’s socioeconomic background through his childhood to the time that Toomer wrote Cane . Foley uses this background to propel her argument that class matters when analyzing the text and its racial implications. Although both of these scholars provide valid arguments, they fail to look at the big picture. They offer arguments that place Toomer and Cane under a racial category when that was really the opposite of what he originally wanted. Toomer intended to keep his racial identity hidden throughout Cane . When Waldo Frank wrote the preface to Cane , Toomer’s impression was that “in so far as the racial thing went, it was evasive”. Which led him to ask himself, “Why should the reader know? Why should any such thing be incorporated…?” (Toomer 132). However, it is difficult to analyze the extent to which Toomer’s intentions hold true and it cannot be assumed that his influences geared him to produce African American literature. The text of Cane hints at a racial identity that is ambiguous and ultimately difficult to judge. The foundation of Davis’s argument comes from Toomer’s experiences in the South. At the beginning of his essay, Davis goes into great detail describing all the regional shifts that Toomer experienced throughout his childhood. As he states, “Toomer was not a Southerner” because he was born in Washington D.C., however his parents were because they were born in Georgia (Davis 248). Despite this, the South had a very significant effect on Toomer and the way he viewed life. Davis points out that “the even that provoked Toomer’s emergence as an artist…was the period of three months in Toomer spent in Georgia” (250). Toomer had a strong connection to the African American race in the South through the beauty of their land, the spirit that they had and...
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- Spring '08
- Winesburg, Ohio, SON-9