Cover image for The Harlem renaissance : the one and the many
The Harlem renaissance : the one and the many
Helbling, Mark Irving, 1938-
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
vi, 211 pages ; 25 cm.
"One ever feels his two-ness": W.E.B. Du Bois, Johann Gottfried von Herder, and Franz Boas -- "Feeling universality and thinking particularistically": Alain Locke, Franz Boas, and Melville Herskovits -- "Camels of obviousness and gnats of particularities": Alain Locke, Melville Herskovits, Roger Fry, and Albert C. Barnes -- "Universality of life under the different colors and patterns": Claude McKay -- "Worlds of shadow-planes and solids silently moving": Jean Toomer, Alfred Stieglitz, Georgia O'Keeffe, and Waldo Frank -- "My soul was with the gods and my body in the village": Zora Neale Hurston, Franz Boas, Meville Herskovits, and Ruth Benedict.
Reading Level:
1690 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS153.N5 H38 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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During the Harlem Renaissance, African-American culture flourished. The period gave birth to numerous significant and enduring creative works that were at once American and emblematic of the black experience in particular. It was a time when African-American culture became more distinct from American culture in general, though it also continued to be a part of America's larger cultural heritage. While the writers, artists, and intellectuals who contributed to the Harlem Renaissance recognized that they had much in common, they also sought to distinguish themselves from one another. This book approaches the achievement of the Harlem Renaissance from the perspective of the conflict between individual and group identity.

According to W.E.B. Du Bois, black intellectuals of the period sought to be both Negroes and Americans. At the same time, the relationship of the individual to the group was no less problematic and served to inspire, as well as complicate, the imaginations of the principal figures discussed in this book--W.E.B. Du Bois, Alain Locke, Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, and Zora Neale Hurston. As a consequence, this study focuses on the tension each of these individuals felt as he or she sought to construct a narrative that mirrored this complex experience as well as the problematics of one's own self-identity.

Author Notes

MARK HELBLING is Associate Professor in the Department of American Studies at the University of Hawaii, Manoa. He has also taught in Africa and Germany. His essays have appeared in such journals as Prospects: An Annual of American Cultural Studies , Phylon , Negro American Literature Forum , Polish Review , Research Studies , and Ethnic Forum .

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Helbling's study is built on the theories and conclusions in George Hutchinson's The Harlem Renaissance in Black arid White: it expounds on "three key intellectual concerns that Hutchinson claims link the Harlem Renaissance and American modernism--cultural pluralism, Boasian anthropology, and philosophical pragmatism." Helbling (Univ. of Hawaii, Manoa) draws on three disciplines (anthropology, literature, and philosophy) to describe and circumscribe a rather expansive topic: the tension between the "individual and forms of collective identity" as seen in the work and recorded experiences of five Harlem Renaissance intellectuals/writers. W.E.B. Du Bois, Alain Locke, Jean Toomer, and Zora Neale Hurston are considered in individual chapters, among the colleagues and contemporaries who constituted their intellectual communities. Two chapters on Locke are repetitive, and the chapter on Claude McKay is a departure from the rest of the study in that Helbling's insights into McKay's "tensions" draw almost exclusively on selected examples from McKay's own literary work. The study follows the influence of the Boas/Herskovits/Benedict school of anthropology of the period, and it provides an introductory summary of major theories concerning the Harlem Renaissance, including those of Cruse, Huggins, Lewis, Gates, and Baker. Undergraduates through faculty. C. P. Hill; University of Massachusetts at Amherst

Table of Contents

One Ever Feels His Two-NessW.E.B. Du Bois and Johann Gottfried Von Herder and Franz Boas
Feeling Universality and Thinking ParticularisticallyAlain Locke and Franz Boas and Melville Herskovits
Camels of Obviousness and Gnats of ParticularitiesAlain Locke and Melville Herskovits and Roger Fry and Albert C. Barnes
Universality of Life Under the Different Colors and PatternsClaude McKay
Worlds of Shadow-Planes and Solids Silently MovingJean Toomer and Alfred Stieglitz and Georgia O'Keeffe and Waldo Frank
My Souls Was with the Gods and My Body in the VillageZora Neale Hurston and Franz Boas and Melville Herskovits and Ruth Benedict