A Choice 2012 Outstanding Academic Title
Hemingway and the Black Renaissance
Edited by Gary Edward Holcomb and Charles Scruggs
“[T]his collection of essays offers groundbreaking studies about the relationship between Ernest Hemingway and ‘the Black Renaissance.’ Along with the editors’ extensive and quite lucid introduction, the collection contains nine essays varying in length, tone, and agenda. . . . Hemingway and the Black Renaissance is a welcome addition to this re-examination, one that should resound promisingly in the coming years.” —Hemingway Review
“Holcomb’s and Scruggs’ efforts to develop a text that sparks conversation will not disappoint. The organization, content, and writing found within Hemingway and the Black Renaissance establishes an exciting new avenue to pursue Hemingway studies or Black Renaissance studies or both. . . . [R]eaders will find that Hemingway and the Black Renaissance stands as an important collection of essays that is well worth reading from cover to cover.” —Safundi: The Journal of South African and American Studies
“Abundantly sourced and written in accessible language, these essays reveal a powerful interchange of ideas, styles, and aesthetics between Hemingway and some of the most important authors of the 20th century. The authors’ shared themes of violence, disillusionment, and social alienation provide a rich context for this valuable collection.” —Choice
“These essays are sure to open up new exchanges about the ways in which African American writers have claimed modernism for their own artistic purposes, as well as about how Hemingway and other Anglo American writers attempted to engage in intertexual conversations with black voices, black writing, and black humanity. An important collection for all Americanists.” —Amritjit Singh, Langston Hughes Professor of English, Ohio University
“Hemingway and the Black Renaissance reveals complex, sometimes fraught, and often surprising literary connections between Hemingway and Black writers of the twentieth century. This important book will put to the test and, one hopes, finally put to rest any assumptions that Hemingway’s life and work did not significantly resonate with Black writers of his time and later.” —Debra A. Moddelmog, author of Reading Desire: In Pursuit of Ernest Hemingway
“No other book has focused on Hemingway’s high profile in the black literary imagination, nor has any placed his prose in dialogue with the New Negro cohort of the Lost Generation. Hemingway and the Black Renaissance will enhance our understanding of ‘mulatto modernism” in general as well as the full impact of the most influential American modernist stylist in particular.” —William J. Maxwell, associate professor of English and African American studies at Washington University in St. Louis, author of New Negro, Old Left and editor of Claude McKay’s Complete Poems
“Hemingway and the Black Renaissance is long overdue in Hemingway studies. We critics will greatly benefit from having it as a resource at last.” —Linda Wagner-Martin, Hanes Professor of English and comparative literature, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill
Hemingway and the Black Renaissance, edited by Gary Edward Holcomb and Charles Scruggs, explores a conspicuously overlooked topic: Hemingway’s wide-ranging influence on writers from the Harlem Renaissance to the present day. An observable who’s who of black writers—Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Wallace Thurman, Chester Himes, Alex la Guma, Derek Walcott, Gayl Jones, and more—cite Hemingway as a vital influence. This inspiration extends from style, Hemingway’s minimalist art, to themes of isolation and loneliness, the dilemma of the expatriate, and the terrifying experience of living in a time of war. The relationship, nevertheless, was not unilateral, as in the case of Jean Toomer’s 1923 hybrid, short-story cycle Cane, which influenced Hemingway’s collage-like 1925 In Our Time.
Just as important as Hemingway’s influence, indeed, is the complex intertextuality, the multilateral conversation, between Hemingway and key black writers. The diverse praises by black writers for Hemingway in fact signify that the white author’s prose rises out of the same intensely American concerns that their own writings are formed on: the integrity of the human subject faced with social alienation, psychological violence, and psychic disillusionment. An understanding of this literary kinship ultimately initiates not only an appreciation of Hemingway’s stimulus but also a perception of an insistent black presence at the core of Hemingway’s writing.
Gary Edward Holcomb is associate professor of African American literature in the Americas at Ohio University in Athens,
Ohio. Charles Scruggs is professor of literature at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
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