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Cultural Entanglements

Langston Hughes and the Rise of African and Caribbean Literature
Shane Graham

BUY Cloth · 320 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813944098 · $75.00 · May 2020
BUY Paper · 320 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813944111 · $37.50 · May 2020
BUY Ebook · 320 pp. · ISBN 9780813944104 · $37.50 · May 2020

In addition to being a poet, fiction writer, playwright, and essayist, Langston Hughes was also a globe-trotting cosmopolitan, travel writer, translator, avid international networker, and—perhaps above all—pan-Africanist. In Cultural Entanglements, Shane Graham examines Hughes’s associations with a number of black writers from the Caribbean and Africa, exploring the implications of recognizing these multiple facets of the African American literary icon and of taking a truly transnational approach to his life, work, and influence.

Graham isolates and maps Hughes’s cluster of black Atlantic relations and interprets their significance. Moving chronologically through Hughes’s career from the 1920s to the 1960s, he spotlights Jamaican poet and novelist Claude McKay, Haitian novelist and poet Jacques Roumain, French Negritude author Aimé Césaire of Martinique, South African writers Es’kia Mphahlele and Peter Abrahams, and Caribbean American novelist Paule Marshall. Taken collectively, these writers’ intellectual relationships with Hughes and with one another reveal a complex conversation—and sometimes a heated debate—happening globally throughout the twentieth century over what Africa signified and what it meant to be black in the modern world. Graham makes a truly original contribution not only to the study of Langston Hughes and African and Caribbean literatures but also to contemporary debates about cosmopolitanism, the black Atlantic, and transnational cultures.


In this important, original, thoroughly researched work, Shane Graham documents Langston Hughes’s extensive role and influence in the mid-twentieth-century rise of postcolonial Caribbean and African literatures. Drawing on extensive archival research, a clearly articulated theoretical framework, and persuasive close textual analyses, he explains how Hughes’s representations of Africa and blackness changed over time as a result of his interactions with writers from Africa and the Caribbean. The scholarship is solid, and exhibits familiarity with and command of an impressive range of primary sources as well as secondary sources on black Atlantic literatures, translation, and postcolonial theory.

Anita Patterson, Boston University, author of Race, American Literature, and Transnational Modernisms

An exciting study whose innovative scholarship challenges critics to develop new vocabularies for conceiving Hughes’ "entanglement" with other black intellectuals in the Caribbean and South Africa.

Anthony Reed, Vanderbilt University, author of Freedom Time: The Poetics and Politics of Black Experimental Writing

Cultural Entanglements is a primer for where things are currentlydeveloping between Hughes and our understanding of postcolonial literature. It is also a ready-made resource waiting to be plumbed by scholarsnow forming new studies into the ever-prescient Hughes and his vast globalnetwork.

Modern Philology

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