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Literary Primitivism$
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Ben Etherington

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781503602366

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9781503602366.001.0001

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Claude McKay’s Primitivist Narration

Claude McKay’s Primitivist Narration

(p.135) Chapter 7 Claude McKay’s Primitivist Narration
Literary Primitivism

Ben Etherington

Stanford University Press

This chapter considers Claude McKay’s novels Home to Harlem and Banjo as attempts to undertake literary primitivism’s project of immediacy by means of a musical aesthetics. Exploring his relationship both to the negritude poets and to Lawrence, especially the latter’s Aaron’s Rod, it argues that of all the writers discussed in this book, McKay’s work most strenuously attempts to enter the immediate mode. In McKay’s novels the hope for a reconciliation of reflexivity and immediacy, the primitive and the civilized is enacted simultaneously at the level of prose style and narrative structure. This allows us to identify a number of fissures and contradictions that beset the aesthetics of primitivism, especially the pitfalls of a utopian racialism.

Keywords:   Claude McKay, Home to Harlem, Banjo, negritude, D. H. Lawrence, Aaron’s Rod, primitivist narration, music, immediate style

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