Thursday, October 26th, 2017...2:26 pmrubinb

Genre of Cane

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Deciding what the genre of Cane by Jean Toomer is somewhat difficult because the work has so many different elements and types of writing within it. Cane is a novel composed of both poetry and prose. There are longer narrative stories mixed with shorter poems, and both of the writing styles discuss a range of different themes and topics such as the southern landscape, gender, racial violence, and so on. I think that Cane could be classified as fiction because the work is made of different vignettes that evoke black life in the deep south, but they do not touch on real historical events or real historical people. However, while one could argue that Cane is a work of fiction, it almost reads like a memoir because the sketches, poems, and stories call on real experiences that black men and women experienced living in the deep south. Toomer also writes about Georgia many times throughout the vignettes, which almost makes the reader feel like he is writing about his own personal experiences, or the real experiences of his friends in the South. This book feels like it can fit into many different genres because of the complex way it is structured and written. Cane is part poetry, drama, and fiction, which all work together to strongly evoke black life in the deep south in a new and innovative way.


  • I liked your point that Cane resembles a memoir-it wasn’t something I considered, but I definitely see how Cane works to create a personal and intimate but also collective experience of the south and America. I also like how you say memoir and fiction are combined, since like poetry and prose they aren’t two things that would normally go together, but make Cane more impactful.

  •   Professor Seiler
    November 7th, 2017 at 1:44 am

    Baylie–I’m with Kaila on resonating with your memoir idea. Just FYI, though: JT is a Washington, D.C. native, and only went to GA as a young adult. This doesn’t undo your idea, of course, but down the road, if you were to follow up with Toomer, some research on his life might help you to complicate / pursue your idea further…

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