In reading Cane, one thing I always noticed was how the structure of the novel often felt disjointed.  This characteristic of the novel coincides with many themes of modernist literature and art, in general.  I often thought of his style of writing as the literary counterpart to modernist visual art such as cubism, with all of its strange intersections and multiple points of view.  However, the structure of the novel is actually a full circle.  In what ways, if any, do you think this circular form can be linked to modernism?



7 thoughts on “

  1. Even though it comes round full circle, could the novel not still be seen as a counterpart to cubism? The unique factor of cubism is the attempt to show all angles at once; by circling through and back, Toomer could be seen as demonstrating all the angles.


  2. I’m not sure if I would agree that he is demonstrating all angles, simply because he seems to go back to the same ideas over and over in each section. I do like how it is broken up into different sections of poetry and then short stories, but at the same time, I’m not sure what the purpose of the poetry is. Maybe Toomer was trying to do the same thing Hemingway was doing, having the poems all link together, and yet still connect to the stories.

    Savanna Beach

    • I think the poems were illustrative, and in many cases I was under the impression that they were actual spirituals and songs sung in the southern fields, although I may be mistaken. They were illustrative in the way that poetry often is – prose relies upon a ‘telling’ but poetry relies upon ‘feeling’.

  3. Though the disjointed factor does seem to appear equivalent to cubism I’m not sure that this is the technique he is making use of. His views on the essence of the African American and the black middle class are all from one, rather stereotypical, point of view. He seems to say the same thing over and over in different ways, using different words and forms, but in the end always comes back to the same point.

    ~Christina Wilson

  4. There definitely is a substantial argument in the similarities between Toomer’s writing and Cubism! I believe that the poetry throughout the novel demonstrates this in the most effective way. I may simply be ignorant on the subject, but I didn’t see any pattern or significance in any of the poems; thus, I would suggest they are all just pieces of the puzzle inserted into the prose to create a wildly distorted yet complete perspective.


  5. Or similarities between his writing and Jazz, too. I was just using cubism as an example. It could probably be compared to a lot of other art forms in high modernism.

    Also, I don’t think he necessarily sees the issues of each story from multiple perspectives. I just meant many of the stories explored different dimensions of race and/or class.


  6. Cubism and Jazz both share that desire to disrupt notions of consciousness, time, history, experience as “coherent,” “unified” things. Here there seems to be a racialized dimension, invoking Du Boisian “double consciousness,” to figure the “disjoined” experience of racial otherness in America.

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