This essay argues that Langston Hughes’s acclaimed short story “The Blues I’m Playing” (1934) offers provocative feminist and queer insights into “Negrotarian” patronage of the early twentieth century. Against the backdrop of the Harlem Renaissance, the discussion sets out to define an interracial, intergenerational homoerotics of patronage between the white widowed elder, Mrs. Dora Ellsworth, and young Black pianist, Ms. Oceola Jones. The discussion places in stark relief the patron’s erotic competition with her protégée’s working-class African American fiancé. The article also grapples with topics like racialized obsession, the role of community in a black artist’s self-concept, and the best avenues for interracial solidarity across planes of difference. Understanding mature women’s legitimacy as sexual subjects and the persistence of queer loneliness (despite class and race privilege) also come to the fore.
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Research Article| March 01 2022
The Homoerotics of “Negrotarian” Patronage in Langston Hughes’s “The Blues I’m Playing”
Twentieth-Century Literature (2022) 68 (1): 75–100.
Nancy Kang; The Homoerotics of “Negrotarian” Patronage in Langston Hughes’s “The Blues I’m Playing”. Twentieth-Century Literature 1 March 2022; 68 (1): 75–100. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0041462X-9668910
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