Langston Hughes's literary and ideological turn in the early 1930s : poetry as a means to understanding and conceptualizing the poet's identity and self-development

Source document: Theory and Practice in English Studies. 2019, vol. 8, iss. 2, pp. [61]-77
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The connection between narratives, or other means of discourse production, such as poetry, and the capacity of self-development bring to light the extent to which the stories we tell become part of ourselves. Stories can indeed be instrumental in the stability and change of the self if we consider that the construction of narratives constitutes an engine for self-development and a tool for creating a sense of identity (Mclean, Pasupathi and Pals 2006). The poetic onset of the commonly named leading voice of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes (1902–1967), was based on a strong sense of race pride chiefly focused on depicting the everyday lives of blacks living under the shadow of racism, oppression and injustice. Frustration, subjugation and despondency together with feelings of resilience are featured as the centerpiece of his work during these years. However, towards the end of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s, Hughes "redirected his approach towards a more internationalist view" (Rampersad 2002, 266). His open sympathy to Communist ideology and his condemnation of imperialism were the inspirational bases of his revolutionary red poetry. This study aims to illustrate in terms of social, political, and ideological grounds how this author exemplified this new perspective through the development of a new revolutionary poetry. The deep understanding of his unprecedented literary turn will shed some light on the whys and wherefores of his refinement as a poet and will give clear proof of the way in which his poetry helped to develop a sense of self-identity and encompassed an engine for self-development.
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