Friday, October 27th, 2017...2:07 amkailabasile

Defining Cane

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Cane is an epic novel of hybridized contradictions: a mix of magical realism and stripped down prose, a mix of prose and poetry, realistic, impressionistic, and surreal, modern (as in modernist) while using the recognizable forms of poetry and prose/vignettes, a story about being rooted in one place and migration, a story that immortalizes a period of time marked by uncertainty, a story without a plot but that still seems to have a progression from Karintha to Louisa in the Blood Burning Moon, etc.

It’s an incredible book, and is difficult to categorize, and it works together so well despite the fact you could take any vignette/poem out of it and it would still speak for itself (though some of the poems would have a very different meaning out of the context of the vignettes). I felt enticed and welcomed by the imagery of the south and the symbolic feeling the characters have and was shocked by how devastating the violence against women and the explicit violence in Blood Burning Moon was.

All in all, Cane fills so many of the literary characterizations and covers many of the themes commonly seen in literature, all at the same time. It almost stands alone in a genre of its own. If anything, it can be categorized with certainty as a novel of the Great Migration and Harlem Renaissance.


  • I agree with your classification as magical realism. While subtle, as we discussed in class, the pieces of prose have the ability to transform places and take the reader from one location to the other. I also said this book was a combination of vignettes, but agree that it is so much more than a combination of many short stories.

  • Kaila,

    This is a great post! I love the idea of Cane as an epic novel that plays with magical realism – I had not considered it. I also like how your post moves through your process of trying to assign genre to a work that seems to intentionally resist any categorization. I wonder, however, if you think Cane fits the genre of epic novel (as you mention in the first sentence) better than the traditional, thematic novel that you describe in the final sentence. If you HAD to choose, which would you!?

  • I think that your point that this book goes well together despite its many different pieces is accurate. Although it is difficult to categorize, the images and progressions of characters do mesh together in ways that could not be done if the book was written in all prose or all poems. The fact that each piece embodies a different way of looking at one period in time helps to capture this event in every way possible.

  • Your post hinted at the complexity of CANE, do you think Toomer is trying to make at statement through the arrangement of this piece of modernist work?

  •   Professor Seiler
    November 7th, 2017 at 2:22 am

    Kaila–did writing this strong post, which itself is combinatory (e.g., of specific details and broad styles/genres) make you think about what _Cane_ might be arguing by way of its formal daring?

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