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The Sonnet and Black Transnationalism in the 1930s

The Sonnet and Black Transnationalism in the 1930s

(p.57) Chapter 3 The Sonnet and Black Transnationalism in the 1930s
The African American Sonnet
Timo Müller
University Press of Mississippi

While the transnational dimensions of the Harlem Renaissance are widely acknowledged, scholarly accounts often suggest that the Great Depression narrowed the scope of African American writing to localized concerns such as social improvement and folk expression. The chapter complicates this assumption by drawing attention to the little-known sonnets Claude McKay and Countee Cullen wrote in the 1930s, some of which remained unpublished until the early twenty-first century. These sonnets show that African American poetry sustained a range of transnational conversations throughout the 1930s. The chapter examines two such conversations: the negotiation of black travel around the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, and the Pan-Africanism incited by the Italo-Ethiopian War of 1935/36. Besides McKay and Cullen, the chapter considers sonnets by the neglected poets J. Harvey L. Baxter, Alpheus Butler, and Marcus Bruce Christian.

Keywords:   transnationalism, travel writing, Black Atlantic, Italo-Ethiopian War, Pan-Africanism

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