'You are white - yet a part of me': D. H. Lawrence and the Harlem Renaissance

  • Laura Ryan

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis explores connections between D. H. Lawrence and four key writers of the Harlem Renaissance: Claude McKay, Langston Hughes, Jean Toomer and Zora Neale Hurston. It investigates both the responses of these writers to Lawrence's work and the ways in which New Negro writers were frequently engaging in their work with the same themes, problems and ontological and philosophical questions as the English author. In demonstrating these unlikely instances both of influence and what I here call 'confluence' connecting these seemingly disparate artists and traditions, this study argues that these writers, though all historically figured as marginal (at best) to a now outmoded definition of modernism, emerge as central to new modernist thinking. By placing these authors in conversation, I position them as co-creators of modernism. The Harlem Renaissance is no longer considered to be the isolated, geographically-specific phenomenon that its name suggests. In dialogue with Lawrence, these writers emerge as modernist thinkers often reacting to the conditions of modernity in the same ways, experiencing the same things, even using the same forms and methods to convey their experiences. This project not only sheds new light on these particular writers; it pushes toward new ways of figuring literary connectedness across barriers of race and nation. As Paul Gilroy's concept of the 'black Atlantic' rejected this conception of African, American, British and Caribbean cultural traditions as confined within national boundaries a quarter-century ago and more recent scholarship in transnational, global and even 'planetary' modernisms has further emphasized what Gilroy calls 'the inescapable hybridity and intermixture of ideas', this project further complicates and confounds the traditional ethnic and national divisions which persist in our understanding of modernism.
Date of Award1 Aug 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorHoward Booth (Supervisor) & Douglas Field (Supervisor)


  • Black Atlantic
  • Harlem Renaissance
  • D. H. Lawrence
  • Modernism

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