Thursday, October 26th, 2017...4:17 pmwinslowo

Cane as a Lyric Essay

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It is hard to peg Cane, by Jean Toomer, as one single genre because so often we divide literature into two separate categories: poetry and prose.  Toomer diversifies the structure of Cane by writing every third chapter (for the most part), as prose while the chapters in between are poetry.  Because the form and structure bounces around so frequently, it seems more like an eclectic portfolio rather than a single piece of literature.  The longer pieces of prose tend to lack any specific uniformity as well, as Toomer plays with different points of view, narrative structures, and form.  For instance, several pieces have poetry embedded within them such as in “Carma” and “Blood-Burning Moon”. In “Esther,” Toomer moves through time by splitting up the prose into sections that correspond to Esther’s age as in a timeline.  These creative devices and choices make the flash-fiction prose sections appear more as lyric essays rather than short stories.  She uses different forms and structures as vessels to cary the messages of female and racial oppression as well as the decay of the black south.  The poetry that comes between each lyric essay works to enhance the lyricism of the piece in full.  In a way, the book is like an extended lyric essay in which the distinction between poetry and prose is blurred and the plot is less focussed on linearity but instead on the mode of delivery.

1 Comment

  •   Professor Seiler
    November 7th, 2017 at 2:07 am

    Owen–“lyric essay” is a compelling way to think about _Cane_, especially if you take “essay” back to its roots (hint). On the question of focus and unfocused, which somehow proves so illuminating in _Cane_, as you suggest, I encourage you and Janel to read each other’s posts!

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