Response Paper

This Writing Assignment is to be at least one page and no more than three pages, with a thesis, multiple paragraph development and conclusion. A five-paragraph essay structure works well. Reference or citations should be made to textual evidence from the assigned readings or any outside sources used to support your position.

#1. According to the introduction, the period known as Harlem Renaissance “laid the foundations for the representation of their people in the modern world, with a complexity and a self-knowledge that have proven durable even as the African American condition changed considerably with the unfolding of the twentieth century.” In your opinion, what contemporary cultural phenomenon evidences this movement? For example, the emerging cultural divisions within the African American community between a bourgeois high culture, vernacular folk culture and vernacular urban street culture; continued conflict between advancement theories like agitation which focused on education and politics or accommodation which stressed moral education and economic stability; and an increased interest among white mainstream Americans in African American culture.

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#2. As is noted in the introduction, the increased volume, popular dissemination and critical recognition of African-American cultural production during the Harlem Renaissance revealed some tensions amongst African-American artists themselves as theories of Negro literature emerged. How do you understand the nature of these conflicts? In what ways do you see these divisions in artistic style & philosophy as inevitable, or repeated throughout the African-American experience? For example, some authors of the period vernacular genres and folk aesthetic (jazz, blues, dance, fashion, etc.) was central to articulating the African American experience, while others cultivated written literature and a bourgeois aesthetic; some authors focused on crafting art that spoke to an increasingly proud, informed and connected African American community while authors sought to create art that encouraged patronage, critical acclaim and public recognition among white audiences; and regarded themselves part of the modernist movements while others saw themselves outside of the broader modern literary movements taking place in the US and Europe. There were members of the older generation who still saw negro literature as a serious endevour primarily used for counter hegemonic social and political messaging; however, there were many of the younger generation who did not feel the need to limit the function of literature to messaging; for them literature could have value for its own sake, for fun, and for personal expression.

#3: The Harlem Renaissance can been seen in many ways as a return on investment for all of the educational, artistic and political cultivation of the previous generation. The result was the increased ascendance and slow academic and critical acknowledgement of African American artists whose works reflected a broader diversity of black voices and experiences. Jean Toomer sought to escape the confines of blackness as he merged with the Modernist expat communities of Europe; Langston Hughes used poetry, critical essays & short fiction to celebrate the folk traditions and street culture of the black working class every man; Dorothy West & Nella Larsen explored the rarefied world of the black elites and bourgeoisie; and Zora Neale Hurston deflected those concerns to deftly give voice to the black female. Of each of these approach to writing, which was most valuable? Which would you adopt? Why?

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