the Text and Community Program conducts a semester-long project
at George Mason University that seeks to foster exchanges across
disciplines and interpretations of a text from multiple perspectives.
Langston Hughess autobiography, THE BIG SEA, published
in 1940, just shortly after the end of the Harlem Renaissance,
has been selected as the text for Text and Community for 2002.
Some of this years events are being co-sponsored by the
African American Studies interdisciplinary minor, and by the
College of Visual and Performing Arts.
has been taught in undergraduate courses on autobiography, and
many Mason students are familiar with Hughess poetry and
other writing from both literature and history courses.
the year 2002 is the year of the national centennial celebration
of Langston Hughess birth on February 1, 1902, by choosing
his autobiography as this years text, George Masons
Text and Community program has become part of this celebration.
A major part of this celebration is "Let America Be America
Again," an international symposium on the art, life, and
legacy of Langston Hughes to be held at the University of Kansas,
February 7-10, 2002.
an American classic, The Big Sea enables us to remember
and celebrate Langston Hughess life and work. The book
tells of his travels around the world to places like Mexico,
Africa, and Paris, of his memories of Harlem and its famous
writers, artists, dancers, and musicians, and how his travels
shaped his writing life before, during, and after the Harlem
Renaissance. It is a kind of coming of age story that chronicles
his confrontation with issues such as his relationship with
his father, his racial identity, his understanding of himself
as an American at home and overseas, and his own participation
in the Harlem Renaissance. No reader can read his Hughess
life story without discerning his love of language, music and
ordinary folk, especially in Americas urban centers, such
as Cleveland, Harlem, and Washington, D.C. At the same time,
we learn whom he read, whom he met, and his appreciation for
a rich diversity of experiences, not only as a writer, but also
as a college student, as a worker, and as a global citizen.
His book contains numerous reference to such famous people as
Zora Neale Hurston, James Weldon Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Duke
Ellington, and Jean Toomer, to name a few.
Hughes was known as a blues poet, a jazz poet, and the Poet
Laureate of his people and his autobiography helps us understand
each of these identities. Indeed, this years Text and
Community program gives us a window into one of the nations
most fascinating historical and cultural eras through one of
its most prolific and gifted writers.