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O Cant: Singing the Race Music of Jean Toomer's Cane

Graham, Thomas Austin

This essay considers Jean Toomer's Cane from a musicological perspective and discusses the text's musical poetics with an ear toward 1920s discussions of African American folk culture, preservationism, and the mediation of song. At the time of Cane's publication, Toomer's poems -- modeled on African American spirituals -- could be appreciated and sung by readers of various ethnic backgrounds. This essay argues that their musicality and performability were ultimately intended to promote interracial empathy and to elide racial difference.

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Published In
American Literature
Publisher DOI
https://doi.org/10.1215/00029831-2010-043
Volume
82
Issue
4
Pages
725 - 752
Publisher
Duke University Press
Academic Units
English and Comparative Literature
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