Thursday, November 16th, 2017...8:46 pmMegan

Modernism/Modernity: Houston A Baker

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Summary of Questionnaire Responses: Houston A. Baker

For Houston A. Baker, the notion that the Harlem Renaissance ceased to exist towards the end of the 1900s or failed to achieve its ambitions is a myth that must be remedied. Rooting the start of this falsehood in the 1960s when black nationalists and artists “castigated the Harlem Renaissance as a bourgeois, individualistic, narcissistic movement” that was working “under the commands of white patronage,” Baker makes it clear that the Black Arts have their own debts to mainstream, white patronage that seems to invalidate much of this “generational angst” that began in the 60s.

Moving forward, Baker goes on to note that the increase in reading and research technologies over the last century has enabled one to understand and view the Harlem Renaissance from a multitude of perspectives, ultimately enabling our modern day critique of the Harlem Renaissance to have “segued into a global project.” For Baker, the Harlem Renaissance is a movement that possesses many intersections and influences, such as gender, geopolitical politics, diaspora, sexuality, psychology, and sociology.  In this way, Baker concludes with the notion that we must plan to “commence with a newly conceptualized Harlem Renaissance” that encompasses a wide range of studies and acknowledges the movement’s ability to transcend time and place. Because one can view the Harlem Renaissance through a seemingly limitless number of lenses, this movement stands to last the test of time.


Question To McKible and Churchill:

While your Introduction focuses heavily on the difficulty of locating the Harlem Renaissance within a specific time or space and discusses the ways in which the term “Harlem Renaissance” might be too narrow to encompass the movement which it represents, I found your comment on “the centrality of magazines to modernism” to be quite interesting. In his interview, Houston A. Baker noted the importance of present technology in giving people a greater understanding of the Harlem Renaissance and the ways in which tools, such as the internet, can allow one to view the renaissance and its notable figures through a variety of lenses. For this reason, do you think that the notion that magazines are central to modernism is a statement that is more apt for the earlier years of the Harlem Renaissance or one that stills applies today? In what ways do you think technology has or has not shaped modernism and people’s engagement with this topic?


  •   Charlotte Hayden
    November 17th, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    I really like your question, especially because it has two parts that are intertwined: how do magazines advance our understanding of the conversations occurring in the Harlem Renaissance, AND how do we understand that exchange of written opinions both in its original format, printed and potentially limited by purchasing the magazine or having a subscription to it, and also in the age of internet, where we have access to periodicals that Harlem Renaissance contemporaries may not have had? Are those pre- and post-internet perspectives necessarily separate?

  •   Professor Seiler
    November 21st, 2017 at 2:57 am

    Megan–I’m with Charlotte in appreciating your attention to Baker’s thinking about magazine culture and circulation. I wonder if your final anthology might take up Baker’s call for interdisciplinary approaches to HR/modernism?

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