Black Atlantic expression in the poetry of Langston Hughes and Nicolás Guillén
Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
As Paul Gilroy has argued, the Black Atlantic is a cultural and literary network that has emerged in the aftermath of the Atlantic slave trade. The concerns of the Black Atlantic are made visible in the poetry of African American Langston Hughes and Cuban Nicolás Guillén. Gilroy’s theorization of the Black Atlantic draws on W.E.B. Du Bois’s idea of ‘double consciousness’ which describes the “doubleness” that blacks can experience when belonging to two groups at the same time which have been constructed as oppositional and exclusive in a society. One of Du Bois’s main concerns is to highlight the troublesome situation of the African Americans in the time after the emancipation, and to advocate for the inclusion of black people’s culture and identity into the U.S. national identity. Gilroy develops the idea of double consciousness to question national identities, notions of ethnicity, and the assumption that cultures always flow into congruent patterns with national borders; he further suggests that the Atlantic should be taken as a single, complex formation of black cultural expression. The analysis in this essay of the poems by Hughes and Guillén show that even though the poetry of these writers emerges in different contexts their poetry share essential similarities in their expressions of the Black Atlantic: the expression of a collective subject’s experience of slavery and displacement, the experience of double consciousness, and the aspiration for a whole identity, which can either, or simultaneously, be a desire of belonging to a national identity or to a cosmopolitan identity. Furthermore the analysis displays that the poems express a belonging to a certain kind of ‘rootless cosmopolitanism’ in which the subject’s experience of not belonging and the unification in the dispersion is fundamental; this rootless world identity is in itself a manifestation of the Black Atlantic culture which Gilroy describes.
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Langston Hughes, Nicolás Guillén, double consciousness, the Black Atlantic, national, cosmopolitan, identity, rootless
IdentifiersURN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-86911OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-86911DiVA: diva2:596175