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Noah Harris

English 102-21

Dr. Wynne

9 February 2016

Genre Analysis: The Harlem Renaissance

Renown Harlem renaissance poet Langston Hughes poem titled a Harlem in 1951,

and Archibald Motleys painting "Bronzeville at night" in 1949 Are both artistic expressions and

embodiments of the Harlem renaissance that display the feeling and culture of the time. One in a

written genre form and the other in a visual.

Harlem is trying to persuade the audience to change how they look at dreams that

never come true or that never make it past wishful thinking. However, Bronzeville at Night is

trying to raise awareness and display the feel and create a snapshot of the Harlem renaissance.

Langston Hughes iconic poem conveys the deeper meaning than just mere dreams at night but

rather the struggle of the black community to shine and to be treated fairly and equally and the

damage and frustration racial prejudice and boundaries causes to their aspirations. Motleys

painting cannot be viewed for face value as a scene from the Harlem renaissance but rather its

deeper meaning conveying the colorfulness, freedom, and creative genius of the time.

The intended audience of these poems is others who lived during this time who can

relate, other black people needing inspiration, and white people who can view these art works

and appreciate and respect the effort and deeper meaning within these pieces. While their general

purpose is to inform people of a past time or a culture and issues unknown to them, these pieces

still are very entertaining with the rhythm of Hughes poem, and the artistic beauty and eye

catching colorfulness of Motleys painting. The audience happen to be the direct reason for the
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pieces themselves, at the time it was probably to get others to support their artistic and civil

movement, however now they just raise general awareness and respect for the topic. The

audience is already likely to know of the jazz era and the huge African American presence at the

heart of it, however they may want to know who these people are and the motive behind their

work to better understand it. Harlem take about 3 reads and about ten minutes to really

understand the points being made and the angle of the writing. Bronzeville at night Takes

about five to seven minutes to deeply analyze the picture as a whole and the things going on

within it. The Language used in the piece is very formal however it also is very shortly worded

and to the point. In terms of specialized vocabulary, the piece is very descriptive and vivid, for

example when Hughes says crust and sugar over like a syrupy sweet in reference to dreams

that are deferred. The only strong similarity between these two pieces is the topic of the Harlem

renaissance in general, however I feel that side by side and because of their differences they

show the complexity and deepness of the movement itself because it was all about being

different and showing the beauty of differences and combining them together to make new art.

The genres give so much credibility to the information because only people who lived

through these experiences could give us such deep insight and depict them so vividly. Hughes

poem evokes emotion through using dreams something everyone has regardless of race or

religion and describing the outright destruction of them making people think of their own most

hopeful goals and aspirations taking the topic to personal place. Motely uses deep rich colors and

expressive faces in his painting to set the mood and emotion he is trying to convey. Hughes poem

would tend to evoke disappointment, anger, and distress. Motleys painting evokes the mood of a

cool dark night and the feeling of rebellion and freedom with the dancing in the street and his

unorthodox painting style. The emotions they evoke are perfect in their goal of persuasion
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because they are using pathos to the fullest extent to do so. Evidence for these genres can be

found through the literal history of the movement and also through the similarities seen in other

artwork from the time. The only strong similarity between the two genres is this idea of rebellion

or break free, however there are numerous differences including the mood of the pieces, methods

used to convey information, and the overall message, however together they help make a more

understandable and full picture of the time period and what went on in the black community

specifically. The only missing component of these works is solid explanation but this is left out

on purpose because art is all about personal interpretation.

The reason the messages are so different is due to the nature and structure of the genres

themselves. Certain things cant be explained through painting it is more about what the average

eye can see and take from it. Also in writing things must be that much more vivid to create this

mental image that is accurate and that people can relate too and understand. Motleys picture is

very all over the place and disorganized on purpose to show the lack of structure of the

movement but how it was carried and along and still strong because of talent and will. Hughes

poem is not long at all nor does it fit the normal mold of poetry but it is organized perfectly

because it is short so it is easy to pick up on points and comprehend, however in these short lines

the language is put so descriptive and concise people can take a lot away from it. The colors in

Motleys painting represent so much from the cool blue background that gives a smooth jazz tone

to the contrasting vibrant colors of the people that represent new and different ideas and

collaboration which is the nature of jazz itself. The mental images created in Hughes poem are

also significant for example when he says maybe it just sags like a heavy load really embodies

the depression and stress of oppression. These forms of communication are what makes these

genres so unique and effective.


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Although both genres are affective through its descriptive ability, vivid imagery, and

relatable topic Langston Hughes written genre of the Poem Harlem was much more affective

and impressive in conveying its message. In studying the structure and thought process of the

genres an even deeper respect for the author or artist can be found due to the effort, strategy, and

time needed to make such thought provoking and emotional pieces of art.
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Works Cited

Hughes, Langston. "Harlem." Selected Poems of Langston Hughes. N.p.: Random House,
1990. N. pag. Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, 1994. Web. 09 Feb. 2017.

Motley, Archibald, Jr. Bronzevill at Night. 1949. Harlem Renaissance.Web. 09 Feb. 2017.