Friday, November 17th, 2017...5:52 pmrubinb

Emily Bernard’s Views On Modernism

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Emily Bernard’s Views on the intersection of modernism and the Harlem Renaissance are interesting when compared to the definition of modernism that we read about for class. In “Introduction: In Conversation: The Harlem Renaissance and the New Modernist Studies” by McKible and Churchill, differences and similarities between the Harlem Renaissance and the movement of modernism are discussed. In this article, McKible and Churchill write that a fundamental aspect of both the Harlem Renaissance and modernism was the centrality of print culture for both movements. Modernism is a movement that valued modern writing mediums and technologies. Printing technologies led to magazine distribution, which was a new way for modernist writers to get their writings out in the world. The Harlem Renaissance also utilized new printing technologies, and many prolific Harlem Renaissance writers were featured in magazines such as The Crisis. 

In Emily Bernard’s  Modernism and Modernity Questionnaire Response, she says that it is important to understand the Harlem Renaissance as modernist writers in order to better understand both movements. I think this is an important contribution because, while some scholars believe the two movements should be thought of separately, many scholars like Emily Bernard believe that the two movements can be understood together. Emily said both Modernist writers and Harlem Renaissance writers used poetry as a form of political resistance and used new writing mediums like magazines to be politically engaged.

My question for Emily Bernard would be: Can thinking about Harlem Renaissance writers along with Modernist writers actually take away the importance of the racial equality goals of the Harlem Renaissance?


  • I think your question is very interesting. Do you think that by labeling the Harlem Renaissance as “modernist writing,” critics take the focus of racial equality out of the picture? In other words, do you think that scholars focus too much on whether a text is “modern” rather than the message the text conveys?

  •   Professor Seiler
    November 21st, 2017 at 3:11 am

    Bailey (and Michaela): good ideas and questions here. I would counter (encouragingly!) that the challenge EB and others set is to make thinking about race and social justice central to thinking about modernism, rather than to use modernism to elide race.

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