Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 November 2022
This chapter argues that Langston Hughes’s 1930s red poetry posits a proletarian-internationalist notion of authenticity, one that attempts to close the cognitive gap between lived reality, on the one hand, and the latter’s spatial, temporal, and structural determinations, on the other. The chapter maintains that two dominant poetics articulate this authenticity, namely, the Communist Sublime and the Antifascist Grotesque. Although each poetics corresponds to a specific set of concerns of the contemporaneous Communist-led Left, both endeavor to unite a fragmented global proletariat using various thematic and formal strategies. Viewed as heuristics allowing us to link Hughes’s radical poetry to the context of Great Depression–era Communism, the Communist Sublime and the Antifascist Grotesque refute the misconception that authenticity was an exclusive feature of the poet’s Black-vernacular work. They also unveil the hopes and fears that defined Hughes’s literary imagination as the possibility of proletarian revolution gave way to war and Fascism.
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