This essay argues that “New Negro” and “Young American” writings from the early twentieth century reward rereading in concert with Antonio Gramsci’s concept of a “national-popular” and as instances of theoretical production in themselves. Focusing on the work of Randolph Bourne (1886–1918) and Alain Locke (1889–1954), the essay returns to “New Negro” and “Young American” writings not only to identify the interplay among them but also to recast key terms from those corpora, especially the “trans-national” (Bourne) and the “American temperament” (Locke), as literary-theoretic vehicles for reckoning with patterns of racist social formation. Considered alongside Gramsci’s theorization of a “national-popular,” Bourne and Locke emerge as critics whose practices pivoted on the reading of existing national tendencies and the engendering of alternative conceptualizations of “Americanism.”

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