‘We have tomorrow bright before us like a flame’: pronouns, enactors and cross-writing in Langston Hughes’ The Dream-Keeper and Other Poems

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Abstract

Langston Hughes (1902-67) was a renowned and celebrated twentieth-century African-American poet who contributed significant literary outputs in the cultural movement known as the Harlem Renaissance. He also published poems for children including The Dream Keeper and Other Poems (Hughes 1932, 1994), a collection that is often viewed as an early and prototypical example of ‘cross-writing’ (Knoepflmacher and Myers 1997), calling out to both older and younger audiences and consequently involve a ‘colloquy between past and present selves’ (1997: vii).
In this chapter I explore Hughes’ use of first person pronouns as a way of demonstrating how the potential for ambiguous, dual referents is an important stylistic feature of Hughes’ presentation of childhood and children. I specifically use Text World Theory (Werth 1999) to provide detailed analyses of two of the poems in this collection, ‘I, Too’ and ‘Youth’, showing how a text-worlds approach can draw attention to the various participant roles that are possible both in the light of the ‘cross-writing’ phenomenon and in readings that have been suggested by literary critics (e.g. Capshaw Smith 2011).

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Publication date2018
Publication titlePerspectives on pronouns in literature
EditorsAlison Gibbons, Andrea Macrae
Place of PublicationBasingstoke (UK)
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Pages33-54
Original languageEnglish

    Keywords

  • Text World Theory, Pronouns, Poetry, Langston Hughes, The Dream Keeper, Cross-writing

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