Monday, September 20, 2010

Mumbo Jumbo Indeed....

In reading Mumbo Jumbo by Ishmael Reed, I found, thankfully, more visual structure than our previous reading, yet the text eluded me in a sense.

Thankfully, I have taken an African American literature class, though it was a very cursory study, so some of the great figures mentioned were familiar. These being W.E.B. Dubois (a personal favorite), Zora Neale Hurston, James Weldon Johnson and so on.

I suppose I understand the general notion of this work, but in true structured student of literary discourse style, because I cannot understand it in its entirety, I have a sense of anxiety or the great sense that I am missing...something....

However, I will venture into this textual mumbo jumbo for the sake of discourse, and because I feel there is much to be gained from this text. Unless, of course, its purpose is to feign significance like the great Federman work. Anyway...

The setting is New York during the 1920s, I believe. If so, this is a time of great revival. One of my favorites in American History, because this is the birth era of the Harlem Renaissance. Reed interestingly uses the growing fad of the "Jes Grew", and new slang as a growing disease of deep medical concern. As exaggerated as that sounds, he is not far off the mark concerning the general resistance of this new music, new movement in America.

Beyond American culture, Reed introduces many African influences into the movement. He speaks often of influences from Nigeria, and contributions from Haitian culture. That is to say this movement is deeply rooted in ancestry and heritage, not magic without influence.

This being said...if one can view this text satircally, what does it say about society? How does making this newly expressed black culture analogous to a "disease" reflect the thinking? Also, there are many references to black people; yet, within that lies differentiation between skin gradation. For example, the term "high-yellow". What does that say about the society within society, i.e. the black community?

1 comment:

  1. While beginning this text, I found myself surprised by the bold comparison of Wes Grew to a spreading disease. Throughout my brief study of the “Roaring 20’s,” the jazz movement was always presented in a rather glorified manner. Jazz allowed a new perspective for “Americans,” if you can legitimately call citizens of the US that (which I don’t think you can), one in which they are able to taste a cultural infused with even more cultural inheritance. For the Wallflower Order to describe Wes Grew as a festering disease was shocking to me and forced me to consider the era through the focal lens of white supremacists or at least more conservative citizens.