Claude McKay and the Transnational Novel
I read this post this morning and felt an enormous surge of relief! The author expresses sentiments which I frequently experience, and the self-doubt she writes of is something I battle with everyday. This is a reassuring article and one I am so glad I read today.
I was recently offered the exciting challenge of teaching a second year french class about the french dimension of my thesis. My second chapter focuses on McKay’s novel Banjo, set in Marseilles in the mid to late 1920s.
To engage with the students in one hour on this topic was initially something I was extremely worried about; my biggest fear was failing to make it relevant to their course generally, which focuses on colonial and post colonial francophone culture.
Having reflected on the aspects I felt would fit most suitably into the overall theme of their course, I decided to look at how McKay’s life and travels challenge nationalist ideals in the republican french locus, how he pre-empts contemporary theories of the black Atlantic, and then compare the port community depicted in Marseilles by McKay, with the plight of Afghani immigrants in Calais currently. My goal was to emphasise the disparate experiences of the vagabonds of McKay’s creation in France in the 1920s, with the trauma being experienced by the Afghani immigrants, as I felt this would appeal to the class in terms of their contemporary conceptions of French nationalist ideologies.
Hopefully, the class proved to be stimulating and cahllenging for the students. I was absolutely thrilled by their levels of participation, of engagement and their general willingness to express extremely intelligent critical opinions on the topic.
A nerve racking and highly beneficial experience, and hopefully, one enjoyed by the class as much as it was by me.
My name is Bairbre, and I live in Cork City, Ireland. I am currently researching and writing my PhD thesis on the Jamaican author and poet, Claude McKay, with an emphasis on his three published novels. Although I focus on McKay, I have a broad interest in African American and African Caribbean literature in the era of the Harlem Renaissance and the Negritude movement in a transnational context.
Following the pages and links created, one can gain a primary understanding of McKay’s complex literary and personal journey in the 1920s and 1930s. On this page, along with details of papers I have presented at conferences, are links to archival resources which support an initial study of McKay. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem and the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in Yale, New Haven, both have searchable online catalogues which demonstrate the wealth of archival material pertaining to McKay which is available. There are links also to informative sites which introduce the literary peers of McKay, and a link to McKay’s poems, which are perhaps his best known medium of creativity.
My research in University College Cork is supported by the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences, and I am a Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholar.