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Poetry Museum

Claude McKay
by

Nader Asgari

on 28 January 2013

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Transcript of Poetry Museum

Poetry Museum 2013 "America"(1922) "The Lynching"(1922) C C Claude McKay Claude McKay Born in Sunny Ville, Clarendon Parish, Jamaica
At age 10 McKay began to write poetry
McKay immigrated to the United States in 1912
McKay enrolled at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama encountering the harsh realities of American racism
Red Summer of 1919, McKay wrote his best known poems Claude McKay
American Poet
(1890-1948) Walter Jekyll
Frank Harris
Max Eastman "The Lynching"
(1922)
Harlem Shadows HIS spirit is smoke ascended to high heaven.
His father, by the cruelest way of pain,
Had bidden him to his bosom once again;
The awful sin remained still unforgiven.
All night a bright and solitary star
(Perchance the one that ever guided him,
Yet gave him up at last to Fate's wild whim)
Hugh pitifully o'er the swinging char.
Day dawned, and soon the mixed crowds came to view
The ghastly body swaying in the sun:
The women thronged to look, but never a one
Showed sorrow in her eyes of steely blue;
And little lads, lynchers that were to be,
Danced round the dreadful thing in fiendish glee. Theme: Tone: Mood: Persona: Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger's tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth!
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate.
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time's unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand. "America"
(1922)
Harlem Shadows Theme: Tone: Mood: Persona: "The Lynching "
(1922) A striking variation on the Italian sonnet
The poetic pace and reflective tone
The final couplet (gg) embedded 3rd quatrain mimics Shakespearean structure The octave follows the traditional Italian form
The sestet breaks form Duality in Sonnet structure enhances the meaning of the Sonnet "The Lynching"
(1922) The Italian form draws out both quatrains "His Spirit in smoke ascended to high heaven.
His father, by the cruelest way of pain,
Had bidden him to his bosom once again" (“The Lynching” 1-3) One of the most prominent literary devices employed through out the sonnet is the usage of biblical allusions.
McKay explains the role of the victim and his heavenly father "The Lynching
(1922) "The awful sin remained still unforgiven."
("The Lynching Line 4 ") Draws the association of lynch victims with the crucified Christ Periods at the end 1,2 quatrain create caesura. "The Lynching"
(1922) "All night a bright and solitary star
(Perchance the one that ever guided him,
Yet gave him up at last to Fate's wild whim)
Hugh pitifully o'er the swinging char."
("The Lynching" Line 5-8) 1st line- Allusion North star
2nd line- "Ever" Universal struggle 2 line space aa, cc adds to hypercaesura Substance "The Lynching"
(1922) Day dawned, and soon the mixed crowds came to view
The ghastly body swaying in the sun: The volta(Traditional shift in Italian sonnet) line 9.
Sestet opens with a juxtaposition of the unnatural/ natural, death/night, and life/day. Line 12 the blue eyes parallel with the color of sky
Between Nature and the Racist
Hyperbole The women thronged to look, but never a one
Showed sorrow in her eyes of steely blue;
"The Lynching" Lines 9-12 Line 10 " Ghastly" loses all Human identification Biblical Allusions Form Although She feeds him malice and hate, he embraces adversity and stands strong against her grasp. Indignant, Passionate Hopeful Claude McKay, a Black Man Racism is natural as the day, engrained in the American culture in which death offers the only hope of escape. McKay- Black man Pity Hopeless Caesura Yellow- Assonance "And little lads, lynchers that were to be,
Danced round the dreadful thing in fiendish glee."
("The Lynching" Lines 13-14) "The Lynching"
(1922) Couplet provides no justification for the lynching "fiendish" Described as Wholly evil Nature and Fate are Evil History Jim Crow South
Race Riots
Plessy vs. Ferguson
Great Migration Music Duke Ellington It don't Mean a Thing East St. Lous Toodle- O In a Sentamental Mood Comparison Between both Poems Personification "America"
(1922) Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger's tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth!
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate.
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time's unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand. "America"
(1922) Metaphor & Simile Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger's tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth!
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate.
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time's unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand. McKay's elaborate syntax in his sonnets must be read as a firm rejection of primitivism. McKay must have been aware of the primitives and exotic tendencies of modernism, as they were available in the United States.
- Wolfgang Karrer "America"
(1922) Inversion & Enjambment Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger's tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth!
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate.
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time's unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.
“McKay’s success in expressing the militant anger of revolutionary black resistance in elevated literary English and the sonnet form distinguished him as one of the foremost literary figures of the Harlem Renaissance.”
-John Lowney Alliteration & Imagery "America"
(1922) Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger's tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth!
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate.
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time's unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand. “Claude McKay’s strongest attribute was the extreme dislike for prevailing standards of racial discrimination; hence he lost no opportunity, when writing, to attack the status quo.”
- Robert Smith "The Lynching" & " America" both tell of the racial inequalities in American Society.
Racism is ingrained and rooted in our culture & natural as the day.
No hope outside afterlife Influences on Poet Biography Well folks that's it for now, until Wednesday night that is... The End
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