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Jean ToomerRace, Repression, and Revolution$
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Barbara Foley

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780252038440

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252038440.001.0001

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The Experiment in America

The Experiment in America

Sectional Art and Literary Nationalism

(p.84) Chapter 3 The Experiment in America
Jean Toomer

Barbara Foley

University of Illinois Press

This chapter analyzes Toomer's relationship with the early 1920s modernists dubbing themselves “Young America”—particularly with novelist Waldo Frank, whose influential Our America (1919) advocated a pluralistic and experimental program for national cultural renewal. In this program, the notion of sectional art figured as a highly contradictory ideologeme, at once promising a strategy for including the nation's marginalized peoples and papering over the reasons for their exclusion. While it is proposed that Toomer retreated from Young America because of his distress at Frank's allusions to Toomer's African American ancestry in his foreword to Cane, the chapter argues that Toomer's growing skepticism about the possibility that cultural pluralism could produce social change is what caused his eventual break with Frank's project.

Keywords:   Jean Toomer, Young America, Waldo Frank, Our America, national cultural renewal, marginalized peoples, cultural pluralism, social change

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