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The Vernacular Sonnet and the Afro-Modernist Project

The Vernacular Sonnet and the Afro-Modernist Project

Chapter:
(p.75) Chapter 4 The Vernacular Sonnet and the Afro-Modernist Project
Source:
The African American Sonnet
Author(s):
Timo Müller
Publisher:
University Press of Mississippi
DOI:10.14325/mississippi/9781496817839.003.0005

This chapter examines Langston Hughes’s previously ignored blues sonnets from the early 1940s, which open up a new perspective on the trajectories of African American modernist writing. In these little-known sonnets, Hughes revived the formal experimentation of the twenties by bringing together high-modernist and vernacular elements. The chapter traces the transformations of this “synthetic vernacular” (Matthew Hart) in the work of the outstanding poets of the post-war period, Gwendolyn Brooks and Robert Hayden. It shows how these poets made the sonnet a crucial—if overlooked—laboratory for the Afro-modernist project that shaped African American literature from the 1940s into the 1960s.

Keywords:   Afro-modernism, vernacular, blues, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks

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