A great starting point for students seeking an introduction to Hughes and the critical discussions surrounding his work.
Poet, playwright, and short story writer Langston Hughes remains perhaps one of the most well known African American writers of the twentieth century. With memorable lines like "Life for me ain't been no crystal stair" and "What happens to a dream deferred?," many of his poems are beloved by readers of all ages for their strong emotions, lucidity, and depth. His often anthologized stories, such as "The Blues I'm Playing" and "Blessed Assurance," continue to delight, and even his plays, many years after their first performances, are proving to be a rich mine for scholars.
Edited and with and introduction by R. Baxter Miller, Professor of English and the Institute for African American Studies at the University of Georgia, this volume in the Critical Insights series presents a variety of new essays on the poet laureate of Harlem. For readers who are encountering Hughes for the first time, a biographical sketch then relates the details of his life and four essays survey the critical reception of Hughes work, explore its cultural and historical contexts, situate Hughes among his contemporaries, and review key themes in his work. Readers seeking a deeper understanding of the writer can then move on to other essays that explore topics like Hughes' relations to the Harlem Renaissance and black aesthetics, blues music, religion, and modernism. Still other essays consider Hughes' portrayals of women and families, his politics, and his depictions of racial violence. Works covered include Hughes's most commonly studied poems, like "Montage of a Dream Deferred"; the Semple stories; classic short stories like "The Blues I'm Playing" and "Blessed Assurance"; Hughes' two autobiographies; and a sampling of his plays. Contributors include John Edgar Tidwell, Christopher C. De Santis, Sharon Lynette Jones, and Donna Akiba Sullivan Harper.
Rounding out the volume are a chronology of Hughes's life and a list of his principal publications as well as a bibliography for readers seeking to study this seminal author in greater depth.
Each essay is 2,500 to 5,000 words in length, and all essays conclude with a list of "Works Cited," along with endnotes. Finally, the volume's appendixes offer a section of useful reference resources:
- Chronology of Langston Hughes's Life
- Works by Hughes's
- About the Editor