Langston Hughes's literary and ideological turn in the early 1930s : poetry as a means to understanding and conceptualizing the poet's identity and self-development

Title: Langston Hughes's literary and ideological turn in the early 1930s : poetry as a means to understanding and conceptualizing the poet's identity and self-development
Source document: Theory and Practice in English Studies. 2019, vol. 8, iss. 2, pp. [61]-77
  • ISSN
Type: Article

Notice: These citations are automatically created and might not follow citation rules properly.

The connection between narratives, or other means of discourse production, such as poetry, and the capacity of self-development bring to light the extent to which the stories we tell become part of ourselves. Stories can indeed be instrumental in the stability and change of the self if we consider that the construction of narratives constitutes an engine for self-development and a tool for creating a sense of identity (Mclean, Pasupathi and Pals 2006). The poetic onset of the commonly named leading voice of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes (1902–1967), was based on a strong sense of race pride chiefly focused on depicting the everyday lives of blacks living under the shadow of racism, oppression and injustice. Frustration, subjugation and despondency together with feelings of resilience are featured as the centerpiece of his work during these years. However, towards the end of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s, Hughes "redirected his approach towards a more internationalist view" (Rampersad 2002, 266). His open sympathy to Communist ideology and his condemnation of imperialism were the inspirational bases of his revolutionary red poetry. This study aims to illustrate in terms of social, political, and ideological grounds how this author exemplified this new perspective through the development of a new revolutionary poetry. The deep understanding of his unprecedented literary turn will shed some light on the whys and wherefores of his refinement as a poet and will give clear proof of the way in which his poetry helped to develop a sense of self-identity and encompassed an engine for self-development.
[1] Alberti, Rafael and Langston Hughes. 2014. "A Little Dialogue Between the Poet and the Revolution." The Massachusetts Review 55, no. 2: 189–332.

[2] Baldwin, Kate. 2016. "Variegated Hughes: Rereading Langston Hughes's Soviet Sojourn." The Russian Review 75: 386–401. | DOI 10.1111/russ.12082

[3] Bruner, Jerome. 1990. Acts of Meaning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

[4] Clay, Eugene. 1932. "The Negro Writer and the Congress." New Masses 14, no. 12: 22.

[5] Culp, Mary Beth. 1960. "Religion in the Poetry of Langston Hughes." Phylon 48, no. 3: 240–245. | DOI 10.2307/274384

[6] Dawahare, Anthony. 1998. "Langston Hughes's Radical Poetry and the 'End of Race.'" Melus 23, no. 3: 21–41. | DOI 10.2307/467676

[7] "Eduardo Galeano: Estamos Hechos de Historias." 2017. YouTube video, 1:35. "Club de escritura," September 29, 2017.

[8] Freeman, Mark. 1997. "Why Narrative? Hermeneutics, Historical Understanding, and the Significance of Stories." Journal of Narrative and Life History 7, no. 1–4: 169–176. | DOI 10.1075/jnlh.7.20why

[9] Gold, Michael 1929. "Drunk with Sunlight." New Masses 5, no. 2: 17.

[10] Hammack, Phillip. 2008. "Narrative and the Cultural Psychology of Identity." Personality and Social Psychology Review 12, no. 3: 222–247. | DOI 10.1177/1088868308316892

[11] Hughes, Langston. 2015. The Best of Simple. New York: Hill and Wang.

[12] Hughes, Langston. 1940. The Big Sea: An Autobiography. New York: Knopf.

[13] Hughes, Langston. 1985. "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain." The Langston Hughes Review 4, no. 1: 1–4.

[14] Hughes, Langston. 1988. I Wonder As I Wander: An Autobiographical Journey. New York: Thunder's Mouth.

[15] Hughes, Langston, and Faith Berry. 1973. Good Morning Revolution: Uncollected Social Protest Writings. Westport: Lawrence Hill & Company.

[16] Hughes, Langston, and Arnold Rampersad. 1995. The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. New York: Knopf.

[17] Jemie, Onwuchekwa. 1976. Langston Hughes: An Introduction to the Poetry. New York: Columbia University Press.

[18] Josselson, Ruthellen. 1996. Revising Herself: The Story of Women's Identity from College to Midlife. New York: Oxford University Press.

[19] Labov, William, and Joshua Waletzky. 1967. "Narrative Analysis. Essays on the Verbal and Visual Arts." In Proceedings of the 1966 Spring Meeting of the American Ethnological Society. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

[20] McAdams, Dan. 1996. "Personality, Modernity, and the Storied Self: A Contemporary Framework for Studying Persons." Psychological Inquiry 7, no. 4: 295–321. | DOI 10.1207/s15327965pli0704_1

[21] McAdams, Dan. 2006. The Redemptive Self: Stories Americans Live By. New York: Oxford University Press.

[22] Mclean, Kate, Monisha Pasupathi and Jennifer Pals. 2007. "Selves Creating Stories Creating Selves: A Process Model of Self-Development." Personality and Social Psychology Review 11, no. 3: 262–278. | DOI 10.1177/1088868307301034

[23] McHale, Brian. 2009. "Beginning to Think about Narrative in Poetry." Narrative 17, no. 1: 11–30. | DOI 10.1353/nar.0.0014

[24] Moffitt, Kathie, and Jefferson Singer. 1994. "Continuity in the Life Story: Selfdefining Memories, Affect, and Approach/Avoidance Personal Strivings." Journal of Personality 62: 21–43. | DOI 10.1111/j.1467-6494.1994.tb00793.x

[25] Naison, Mark. 1983. Communists in Harlem During the Depression. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.

[26] Nelson, Cary. 2003. Revolutionary Memory: Recovering the poetry of the American Left. New York, NY: Routledge.

[27] North, James. 1932. "The Communist Nominate." New Masses 8, no. 1: 3–7.

[28] Record, William. 1951. The Negro and the Communist Party. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina.

[29] Rukeyser, Muriel. 1978. The Collected Poems. New York: McGraw-Hill.

[30] Scott, Fred. 1904. "The Most Fundamental Differentia of Poetry and Prose." PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association of America 19, no. 2: 250–269. | DOI 10.2307/456394

[31] Smethurst, James Edward. 1999. The New Red Negro: The Literary Left and African American Poetry, 1930–1946. New York: Oxford University Press.

[32] Solomon, Mark. 1998. The Cry Was Unity: Communists and African-Americans, 1917–36. Jackson: Univ. Press of Mississippi.

[33] Wagner, Jean. 1973. Black Poets of the United States: From Paul Laurence Dunbar to Langston Hughes. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

[34] Wang, Qi. and Jens Brockmeier. (2002). "Autobiographical Remembering as Cultural Practice: Understanding the Interplay Between Memory, Self and Culture." Culture & Psychology 8: 45–64. | DOI 10.1177/1354067X02008001618

[35] Wang, Qi and Conway, Martin. 2004. "The Stories We Keep: Autobiographical Memory in American and Chinese Middle-Aged Adults." Journal of Personality 72: 911–938. | DOI 10.1111/j.0022-3506.2004.00285.x

[36] Zeigarnik, Bluma. (1935). "On Finished and Unfinished Tasks." In A Dynamic Theory of Personality, edited by Kurt Lewin, 300–314. Columbus: McGraw-Hill.