Mardi 30 mai 2023 à 18h, Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, site Saint-Charles, salle 126.
Séminaire organisé dans le cadre de l’axe « Faire commun » d’EMMA. Intervention de Claudine Raynaud.
Claude McKay is best-known for his often-anthologized Shakespearean sonnet “If We Must Die,” published after the “red summer” of 1919, that Churchill is said to have quoted during WWII. The Jamaican born poet has been heralded as a major figure of the Harlem Renaissance whose novel Home to Harlem (1928) caused WEB Du Bois such nausea that the revered intellectual felt “distinctly like taking a bath.” In the wake of Gilroy’s Black Atlantic (1993) the critical appraisal of McKay’s work, and his place at the heart of the Harlem Renaissance, has shifted towards assessing his transnationalism since the self-professed “troubadour wanderer” travelled to the US (1912-1919), then to England, France, Germany, Russia, Spain, and Morocco from 1919 to 1934 when he returned to New York.
His politics (Trotskyist Communism), his sexuality (scholars concur on stressing his bisexuality), and his religion (a late conversion to a brand of left-leaning Catholicism) have even more recently led to recasting him as a Black Queer Marxist (Gary Holcomb’s Code Name Sasha) and revisiting his communist years (Winston James’s The Making of a Black Bolshevik). In France, the Marseilles publisher Héliotropismes has seized upon the recent publication of Romance in Marseille (2021) to probe McKay’s sojourn in the Phocaean city, the location of his 1929 novel Banjo, and to reissue his 1937 autobiography A Long Way from Home. A documentary focusing on the link between jazz music, McKay’s major fictional text, and the city in the 20s brings to life the docks, the “Panier,” and “La Fosse” before its destruction by the Germans in 1943, Claude McKay: de Harlem à Marseille by Matthieu Verdeil.
In view of the current editorial frenzy around McKay’s oeuvre, I wish in this talk to test a few directions for research, notably by focusing on two of the black women who were at one point close to him: Selma Burke and Anita Thompson. On top of Romance, another unpublished novel, Amiable with Big Teeth (2017) (translated as Les Brebis noires de Dieu) has been released, as well as a new translation of Home to Harlem, Retour à Harlem (translated in 1932 by Louis Guilloux as Quartier noir). The edition of an unpublished short text, translated by Jean-Max Guieu, “Dinner in Douarnenez,” is in preparation from Héliotropismes with a preface by Jarrett Brown. In short, Claude McKay is in vogue.
Présentation de l’intervenante: Claudine Raynaud est Professeure émérite en études africaines-américaines à l’Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3, EMMA.