Black Murphy': Claude Mckay and Ireland.
Irish University Review: a journal of Irish Studies 2003, Autumn, 33, 2
Irish University Review: a journal of Irish Studies
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Claude McKay is almost invariably and often exclusively categorized by his North American critics as a participant in the Harlem Renaissance, the extraordinary burgeoning of African-American cultural expression of the 1920s and early 1930s. Harlem Shadows, McKay's 1922 collection of poems, and Home to Harlem, his novel of 1928, appear to situate him in the vanguard and then in the centre of Harlem literary life, yet he spent the greater part of the twenties away from Harlem and the United States, his prolonged stays abroad--in England, Soviet Russia, France, and North Africa--earning him the moniker of 'Playboy of the Harlem Renaissance'. (1) Born a British colonial subject in Jamaica in 1889, McKay was not a native Harlemite, nor even an African-American. Represented as he is in numerous anthologies of African-American literature, however, McKay's Jamaican identity and the poetry he wrote in Jamaica have been occluded by the 'Americanness' which is only one component of his multivalent and intranational literary identity. The intention of this essay is to explore a neglected dimension of that identity: the links between McKay and Ireland. McKay's first two books of poetry, Songs of Jamaica and Constab Ballads, both published in 1912 and written in Jamaican dialect, would routinely be ignored by his American critics until the mid-1990s. (2) These early dialect books deserve re-examination on two related counts: as the founding texts of the Caribbean vernacular or 'nation language' tradition, and therefore as precursors to the work of contemporary poets from the region; and as early examples of a demotic and provincial poetics of modernism also practiced by Hugh MacDiarmid in Scotland and John Millington Synge in Ireland.
- Category: Reference
- Published: Sep 22, 2003
- Publisher: Irish University Review
- Seller: The Gale Group, Inc.
- Print Length: 21 Pages
- Language: English