Humanities & Communication
This essay reads the rural Midwest as a modern space in which the sounds and material apparatus of early-twentieth-century jazz music compose the cultural field of Langston Hughes’s 1930 novel Not Without Laughter. It argues that Not Without Laughter does not attempt to supplant the more conventional urban modernities of Harlem and Chicago. Rather, the novel constructs a rural alternative that forms ambivalence through accumulation, both filling and exceeding the novel’s spaces and the experiences of its characters. Approaching Hughes’s novel through the sonic ambivalences of modern rurality evidences how some authors transgressed the supposed boundaries of the Harlem Renaissance by locating their texts outside conventional narratives. It also demonstrates how modernist turns to the rural space do not stop at exploring folk narratives and forms but can be seen to propose rural and regional modernities that accumulate materials, stories, and sounds.
Johns Hopkins University Press
Required Publisher’s Statement
Copyright © 2014 Andy Oler. This article first appeared in College Literature 41: 4 (2014), 94-110. Reprinted with permission by Johns Hopkins University Press.
Scholarly Commons Citation
Oler, A. (2014). “Their Song Filled the Whole Night”: Not Without Laughter, Hinterlands Jazz, and Rural Modernity. College Literature, 41(4). Retrieved from https://commons.erau.edu/publication/1044