Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


Lynn Weiss


This dissertation explores the representation of black masculinities in Claude McKay's novels, Home to Harlem (1928), Banjo (1929) and Banana Bottom (1933). I use the trope of marronage to theorize McKay's representations of black male subjectivities across a range of African diasporan spaces in the Caribbean, the USA and Europe, arguing that McKay's male characters negotiate these diasporan spaces with the complex consciousness and proclivities of maroons. I then examine the ways in which careful attention to the migration and settlement in various diasporan spaces of McKay's black male characters exposes some critical manifestations that profoundly alter how we think about the formation of black male subjectivities. McKay's representations predate by more than sixty years the present currency of difference, hybridity and multiplicity in postmodernist and postcolonial discourse, yet almost throughout the entire 20th century his work was not recognized in this context either in the USA or the Caribbean, both places where he has some degree of iconic stature. In fact, the maroon consciousness of McKay's men produces new insights on the issues of cosmopolitanism, race, nation, and migration in terms of how these affect black male subjectivity but more so how black male subjectivities work upon these concepts to expand their definitions and produce particular kinds of diasporan masculinity. Through the trope of marronage, the project will demonstrate how McKay's male characters use their maroon conditions to map, explore and define a black diasporan experience --- one, moreover, that is shaped by "creolizations"--- the various pushes and pulls of multiple forms of psychological and cultural crossover.;The Introduction places marronage in its historical and cultural contexts and defines who the Maroons were and what particular characteristics managed their existence. The trope of marronage, as an organizing frame for McKay's texts, is intricately tied to the understanding of how "creolization," a term that is integrally associated with the Caribbean experience of hybridity, as both an experience and a concept, structures McKay's sensibility and representations. Marronage and creolization are integral in understanding the range of black male subjectivities that performed under the umbrella of class, race, nation and gender, even as those same performances were producing, underground as it were, "other" narratives about black identity and migration during the 1920s-30s, the period in which McKay wrote. Furthermore, the term "subjectivities" rather than "identity" or the singular form, "subjectivity" merges so as to give texture and form to the ambiguities that abound in McKay's representation of the individual and collective experience of the characters in his novels.;Chapter One offers an interpretation of Home to Harlem as a narrative in which black masculinity is as much a subjectivity driven by the search for home as it is itinerancy. Chapter Two seeks to analyze McKay's Banjo or a Story without a Plot, through an examination of the protagonist Banjo, to see how his migrant or vagabond characters live as cosmopolites in Marseilles' metissage inclined port city. Finally, Chapter Three proposes to examine how Banana Bottom's Bita Plant represents a "masked" McKay, or McKay in drag, looking critically at a colonial Jamaica that restricted her/him with certain conservative ideas but which still appeals to McKay artistically because of its rich pastoral sensibilities.



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