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Incomparable EmpiresModernism and the Translation of Spanish and American Literature$
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Gayle Rogers

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780231178563

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231178563.001.0001

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Negro and Negro

Negro and Negro

Translating American Blackness in the Shadows of the Spanish Empire

(p.167) Chapter 5 Negro and Negro
Incomparable Empires

Gayle Rogers

Columbia University Press

Examines the reception of black US writing in Spain in order to contextualize and defamiliarize it as literatura negra norte-americana. By studying the translations, anthologies, and bilingual Spanish-English texts in which works by Hughes and Claude McKay appeared alongside works by leading figures of the Afro-Caribbean negrismo movement (Nicolás Guillén and Emilio Ballagas), this chapter reveals the ways in which black diasporic writing was given a unique new genealogy. Moving away from the Francophone négritude movement and reducing Africa to a source of a remote cultural past, figures like Ballagas collaborated with Spanish critics like Guillermo de Torre to reinterpret contemporary black writing as produced distinctly by the crossings of the US and Spanish empires. US black writing thus illuminated and complicated Spain’s racial past. Hughes, in turn, became for Spaniards and Spanish Americans alike the poet of an uncertain vision of blackness and leftist revolution. This vision was adopted by the Spanish Republicans during the civil war, just as they were paradoxically purging any notion of Moorish “blackness” or Africanism from their own political identity—something that Hughes himself engaged when he translated their poems on “Moorish traitors.”

Keywords:   black literature, New Negro, Hughes, Lorca, Anthologies, diaspora

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