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The Geopoetics of Modernism$
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Rebecca Walsh

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780813060514

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813060514.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM FLORIDA SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.florida.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University Press of Florida, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in FLASO for personal use.date: 17 September 2021

African Diasporic Re-Placing

African Diasporic Re-Placing

Race and Environment in the Poetry of Helene Johnson and Langston Hughes

(p.76) 3 African Diasporic Re-Placing
The Geopoetics of Modernism

Rebecca Walsh

University Press of Florida

This chapter focuses on twentieth-century African American writers who contended with the rise of environmental determinism and its implicit authorizing of colonialism and racism. This paradigm exacerbated historical traumas impacting African American relationships with the physical environment. This chapter examines African American lyrics from the 1920s by Anne Spencer, Helene Johnson, and Langston Hughes that revise and critique environmental determinism, deforming the mastery of that body of disciplinary knowledge to use Houston Baker’s phrase. Hughes’s influential poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” receives special attention for its reclaiming of the disciplinary authority of academic as well as popular geography (Hughes was a life-long reader of the National Geographic Magazine) for black diasporic ends. The chapter argues that the poem uses experimental poetic form to replace American exceptionalism with an African diasporic geography.

Keywords:   Langston Hughes, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”, Helene Johnson, “Magula”, race, colonialism, parataxis, Harlem Renaissance, National Geographic Magazine, environmental determinism, American exceptionalism

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