Literary Analysis Research Paper



Hena Sura

Olivia Husley

English 2201-021

27 October 2019

Topic Proposal

During the 1920’s, works about the struggles of African Americans were an infamous topic regarding the Harlem Renaissance. A writer that mainly focused on this topic in his works of literature was Claude McKay. Two of his most famous poems that specifically focus on this topic are Harlem Shadows and The White House. These two poems showed what these people were going through during this historical movement through his works of literature. Although these poems contrast in ways, they share the same message the author is trying to convey, imagery, and themes.

In my literary analysis paper, I will be focusing on the similar theme in these two poems. As I mentioned before, these poems both talk about the struggles that African Americans went through during the Harlem Renaissance. The White House by McKay talks about how opportunity gets taken away from African Americans and the discomfort they get from the treatment from not only society, but the government as well. Harlem Shadows focuses more deeply on the situation of African American women who have had so much taken away from them and there are no more opportunities to further their lives, so they have turned to a very sad and low lifestyle, prostitution. Again, these poems both use imagery to further express their stories and to better connect it with the readers. I will also be going into detail and contrasting the characters in the poems. For example, in Harlem Shadows it is African American women where in The White House it is all African Americans, disregarding gender. I am pursuing this specific topic because what happened to these minorities during the Harlem Renaissance holds a close place to my heart and I believe it is never too late to let people learn about this movement. This topic is still relevant in our generation today, because African Americans, along with other minorities, still to not get treated as well as they should.

Annotated Bibliography

Griffin, Barbara L. J., et al. “A Candid Conversation with Carl Cowl: Claude McKay’s Last Literary Agent.” CLA Journal, vol. 56, no. 3, 2013, pp. 209–223. JSTOR,

In this journal, A Candid Conversation with Carl Cowl: Claude McKay’s Last Literary Agent, by Barbara L. J. Griffin, Carl Cowl, and Wayne Cooper, they give us not only the background information about McKay, but his thought process while writing poems. They talk about how complex McKay was and how it showed in his work. The journal gave me insight about how McKay was not a black nationalist but just wanted what is fair and best for African Americans. They also go in about his thoughts on society in that time. This will help me while writing my paper because it gives me a better understanding of his poems.

Muther, Elizabeth. “‘Great, Unappeasable Ghost’: Claude McKay and the Theatre Guild Incident.” Modern Language Studies, vol. 30, no. 2, 2000, pp. 133–157. JSTOR,

In this source, you get a good grasp on how McKay used his real-life experiences in his poems. Not just experiences that have happened to him, but what he saw around him as well. I also received a lot of new knowledge on the historical background of McKay. McKay talks a lot of whites being superior in his poems and this source gives his thoughts on white supremacy. This will benefit me while writing my paper because in the poems I have chosen, he mentions whites being superior to blacks.

McKible, Adam. “‘Life Is Real and Life Is Earnest’: Mike Gold, Claude McKay, and the Baroness Elsa Von Freytag-Loringhoven.” American Periodicals, vol. 15, no. 1, 2005, pp. 56–73. JSTOR,

This source was a little tricky to keep up with, but the information I gained was worth it. In this source, the author focuses on three writers during the Harlem Renaissance, one of them being Claude McKay. The author makes points about racism, privilege, and how these affected McKay’s poets. I agree with how the author says that basically even though half of society was racist towards McKay, he was always a peaceful man. This helps me because I noticed myself in his poems how he never downs the whites. McKay was not a racist and he expressed that through his work.

Chauhan, P. S. “REREADING CLAUDE MCKAY.” CLA Journal, vol. 34, no. 1, 1990, pp. 68–80. JSTOR,

This source will be most beneficial to me because it goes in depth about the progression of McKay’s works of literature. The author explains and gives examples of how others say his poems as paradoxical. The author does not agree with that and neither do I. The only way one would see his work that way is if they were reading it out of context. The author also talks about his cultural inclusion in his poems.

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