Published online by Cambridge University Press: 10 November 2022
Although critics have tended to regard Hughes’s 1930s short fiction as less politically engaged than his poetry and drama of the same period, Hughes’s Great Depression–period short stories in fact engage in a form of literary radical activism. The stories expose racism as a form of nationalism that articulates interwar US imperialism and domestic fascism. With their understated and ironic tone, Hughes’s short stories are as stylistically effective as any of the most admired Harlem Renaissance–period short stories and as compelling as Black short fiction after the renaissance. Hughes’s short fiction is aesthetically forceful if one accepts the notion that Black fiction of the Great Depression through the civil rights period does not have to emulate modernist, canonical, universalist fiction, art that is allegedly free of ideological content. This chapter examines such stories as “Cora Unashamed” and “The Blues I’m Playing” for both their aesthetic and political distinction.
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