This article argues that the sculptor May Howard Jackson, a figure overlooked to this point in Toomer studies, played a formative role in Toomer’s development as a thinker and writer. Scrutiny of their relationship sheds new light on the development of Toomer’s modernist sensibilities and aesthetic, despite the paucity of extant materials from his pre-Cane period. Analyzing Jackson’s portrait bust of Jean Toomer, his essay “Art in Washington,” and the unpublished play Natalie Mann demonstrates that Toomer’s racial theorizing owes a considerable debt to Jackson, and that she served as the impetus for many of his experiments with form.
May Howard Jackson and the Development of Jean Toomer’s Multiracial Modernism
Laura Lorhan has a doctorate in English from the University of California, Los Angeles. Her dissertation, “Puzzling Modernity,” argues that puzzles served as aesthetic models and convenient points of entrée into sociocultural debates about intellectual capacity, alterity, order, and deviance for Djuna Barnes, Jean Toomer, T. S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound. Her research interests include modernism, visual culture, the New Negro movement, and gender studies.
Laura Lorhan; May Howard Jackson and the Development of Jean Toomer’s Multiracial Modernism. Twentieth-Century Literature 1 June 2023; 69 (2): 177–202. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/0041462X-10580810
Download citation file: