The Collage Aesthetic in the Harlem Renaissance

Posted in Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, United States on 2011-03-29 19:20Z by Steven

The Collage Aesthetic in the Harlem Renaissance

Ashgate Publishing
November 2009
232 pages
Includes 5 b&w illustrations
Hardback ISBN: 978-0-7546-6198-6

Rachel Farebrother, Lecturer in American Studies
University of Swansea

Beginning with a subtle and persuasive analysis of the cultural context, Farebrother examines collage in modernist and Harlem Renaissance figurative art and unearths the collage sensibility attendant in Franz Boas’s anthropology. This strategy makes explicit the formal choices of Harlem Renaissance writers by examining them in light of African American vernacular culture and early twentieth-century discourses of anthropology, cultural nationalism and international modernism. At the same time, attention to the politics of form in such texts as Toomer’s Cane, Locke’s The New Negro and selected works by Hurston reveals that the production of analogies, juxtapositions, frictions and distinctions on the page has aesthetic, historical and political implications. Why did these African American writers adopt collage form during the Harlem Renaissance? What did it allow them to articulate? These are among the questions Farebrother poses as she strives for a middle ground between critics who view the Harlem Renaissance as a distinctive, and necessarily subversive, kind of modernism and those who foreground the cooperative nature of interracial creative work during the period. A key feature of her project is her exploration of neglected connections between Euro-American modernism and the Harlem Renaissance, a journey she negotiates while never losing sight of the particularity of African American experience. Ambitious and wide-ranging, Rachel Farebrother’s book offers us a fresh lens through which to view this crucial moment in American culture.


  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • 1. Boasian Anthropology and the Harlem Renaissance
  • 2. ‘[F]lung out in a jagged, uneven but progressive pattern’: ‘Culture-citizenship’ in The New Negro
  • 3. ‘[A]dventuring through the pieces of a still unorganized mosaic’: Jean Toomer’s Collage Aesthetic in Cane
  • 4. ‘Think[ing] in Hieroglyphics’: Zora Neale Hurston’s Cross-Cultural Aesthetic
  • 5. Reading Zora Neale Hurston’s Textual Synthesis in Jonah’s Gourd Vine and Moses, Man of the Mountain
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Read the introduction here.
Read the index here.

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