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KU English Department


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John Edgar Tidwell

Current Projects

 

"Montage of a Dream: The Art and Life of Langston Hughes": As coeditor of and contributor to this volume, I am participating in the first comprehensive reassessment of Langston Hughes to occur since 1971. My essay, "The Sounds of Silence: Langston Hughes as a 'Down Low' Brother?" contributes to the thorny discussion of Hughes's sexual orientation. Overall, this book avails itself of new critical methodologies and theoretical approaches in rethinking Hughes's importance to African American and American literatures and cultures.

"Writings of Frank Marshall Davis, A Voice of the Black Press": For this project, my third one on Frank Marshall Davis, I culled from his over thirty years career as a journalist columns he wrote on the history of blues and jazz, book reviews, a series titled "Passing Parade" that he wrote during World War II, and "Democracy: Hawaiian Style," a column of the observations he made on Hawaiian life and culture after he left the mainland for the Territory of Hawaii in 1948. It perfectly complements his memoirs Livin' the Blues (1992) and his Black Moods: Collected Poems (2002) by using his journalism as a lens through which to explore his commitment to political and cultural issues.

"A Negro Looks at the South": with Professor Mark Sanders of Emory University, I am editing materials left unfinished by the late Sterling A. Brown in the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center at Howard University. Brown worked conscientiously in the 1940s to research, collect, assemble, and write his views and impressions of Black life in the South. At a time when the nation still lived under de jure and de facto racial segregation, he sought to record the responses of Southern Blacks to these conditions. The result is a poignant, wide-ranging expose of Black people talking, doing, laughing—in other words, living!!

"Oh, Didn't He Ramble: A Life of Sterling A. Brown": This book-length project is the first full study and biographical interpretation of the renowned African American literary and cultural figure Sterling A. Brown (1901–1989). Armed with a Phi Beta Kappa key from Williams College (1918–1922) and an MA in English from Harvard University (1922–1923), Brown embarked upon a distinguished career as teacher, poet, literary historian, anthologist, folklorist, and raconteur. Despite impressive accomplishments in these areas, Brown maintained that his legacy was his teaching. In a more than forty years tenure at Howard University, he left a lasting impression on students as diverse as the Black literary and radical political activist Amiri Baraka (nee LeRoi Jones) and the conservative economist Thomas Sowell. Before he retired in 1969, Brown would solidly establish himself as a superb poet, anthologist, and pioneering critic of African American representation issues in American literature—a reputation well-known within a small but attentive circle of literary and cultural historians. In seven chapters, I examine the contours of Brown's life and art in order to bring increased visibility to this important cultural worker. Using W.E.B. DuBois's concept of "double consciousness," I frame a number of oppositions found in Brown's life into the first intensive analysis, via biography, of what his life means to us today.