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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 Tight Cocoon

The Tight Cocoon

Class, Culture, and the New Negro

(p.51) Chapter 2 The Tight Cocoon
Jean Toomer

Barbara Foley

University of Illinois Press

This chapter looks at how Toomer was more intimately involved with the New Negro Movement than he was able to acknowledge in his early 1920s correspondence with white modernists. Toomer was particularly influenced by a circle of African American women he had known from his youth, and whose writings—which were significantly influenced by postwar leftist debates—would shape Toomer's representations of womanhood and motherhood in Cane. Moreover, although attracted from 1920 onward by the notion of an “American race” transcending racial binaries, during the entire Cane period Toomer had no qualms about identifying himself as a Negro under conditions of his own choosing. As with Toomer's views on class politics, it is imperative to read forward through his early writings in order to determine the racial ideas that shaped the composition of Cane.

Keywords:   Jean Toomer, New Negro Movement, white modernists, African American women, leftists, racial binaries, Negro

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