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Book Details

  • Paperback
  • Bookstore's Wholesale Price: $16.00
  • January 2011
  • ISBN: 978-0-393-93168-6
  • 560 pages
  • Territory Rights: Worldwide

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  • Cane

    New Edition

    “A breakthrough in prose and poetical writing. . . . This book should be on all readers’ and writers’ desks and in their minds.”—Maya Angelou


Norton Critical Editions

Second Edition


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Jean Toomer (Author), Rudolph P. Byrd (Editor, Emory University), Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (Editor, Harvard University)


A masterpiece of the Harlem Renaissance and a canonical work in both the American and the African American literary traditions, Cane is now available in a revised and expanded Norton Critical Edition.

Originally published in 1923, Jean Toomer’s Cane remains an innovative literary work—part drama, party poetry, part fiction. This revised Norton Critical Edition builds upon the First Edition (1988), which was edited by the late Darwin T. Turner, a pioneering scholar in the field of African American studies. The Second Edition begins with the editors’ introduction, a major work of scholarship that places Toomer within the context of American Modernism and the Harlem Renaissance. The introduction provides groundbreaking biographical information on Toomer and examines his complex, contradictory racial position as well as his own pioneering views on race. Illustrative materials include government documents containing contradictory information on Toomer’s race, several photographs of Toomer, and a map of Sparta, Georgia—the inspiration for the first and third parts of Cane. The edition reprints the 1923 foreword to Cane by Toomer’s friend Waldo Frank, which helped introduce Toomer to a small but influential readership. Revised and expanded explanatory annotations are also included.

“Backgrounds and Sources” collects a wealth of autobiographical writing that illuminates important phases in Jean Toomer’s intellectual life, including a central chapter from The Wayward and the Seeking and Toomer’s essay on teaching the philosophy of Russian psychologist and mystic Georges I. Gurdjieff, “Why I Entered the Gurdjieff Work.” The volume also reprints thirty of Toomer’s letters from 1919–30, the height of his literary career, to correspondents including Waldo Frank, Sherwood Anderson, Claude McKay, Horace Liveright, Georgia O’Keeffe, and James Weldon Johnson.

An unusually rich “Criticism” section demonstrates deep and abiding interest in Cane. Five contemporary reviews—including those by Robert Littell and W. E. B. Du Bois and Alain Locke—suggest its initial reception. From the wealth of scholarly commentary on Cane, the editors have chosen twenty-one major interpretations spanning eight decades including those by Langston Hughes, Robert Bone, Darwin T. Turner, Charles T. Davis, Alice Walker, Gayl Jones, Barbara Foley, Mark Whalan, and Nellie Y. McKay.

A Chronology, new to the Second Edition, and an updated Selected Bibliography are also included.



    •  * Rudolph P. Byrd and Henry Louis Gates Jr.: “Song of the Son”: The Emergence and Passing of Jean Toomer
      • Jean Toomer’s Racial Self-Identification: A Note on the Supporting Materials
        • *Draft Registration, June 5, 1917
        • *1930 Census
        • *Detail of 1930 Census
        • *1931 Marriage Certificate
        • *Draft Registration, April 24, 1942

    The Text of Cane

    • Waldo Frank * Foreword to the 1923 Edition of Cane
    • Map of Sparta, Georgia

    Backgrounds and Sources


    Background Texts

    •  Jean Toomer * The Cane Years
      • * Why I Entered the Gurdjieff Work


    • To Alain Locke, November 11, 1919
    • To Georgia Douglas Johnson, December 1919
    • To Georgia Douglas Johnson, January 7, 1920
    • To Georgia Douglas Johnson, February 20, 1920
    • To Alain Locke, December 24, 1920
    • To Alain Locke, January 26, 1921
    • To Alain Locke, November 8, 1921
    • To Alain Locke, November 1921
    • To Waldo Frank, March 24, 1922
    • Waldo Frank to Jean Toomer, April 25, 1922
    • To Waldo Frank, April 26, 1922
    • To Waldo Frank, August 21, 1922
    • To John McClure, July 22, 1922
    • To Claude McKay, July 23, 1922
    • To the Editors of The Liberator, August 19, 1922
    • To Alain Locke, October 1, 1922
    • To Gorham B. Munson, October 31, 1922
    • To Sherwood Anderson, December 18, 1922
    • To Sherwood Anderson, December 29, 1922
    • To Waldo Frank, December 1922
    • To Waldo Frank, December 12, 1922
    • To Alain Locke, January 2, 1923
    • To Waldo Frank, early January 1923
    • To Waldo Frank, early to mid January 1923
    • To Waldo Frank, early January 1923
    • To Horace Liveright, January 11, 1923
    • To Horace Liveright, February 27, 1923
    • To Horace Liveright, March 9, 1923
    • To Horace Liveright, September 5, 1923
    • To Countee Cullen, October 1, 1923
    • To Georgia O’Keeffe, January 13, 1924
    • To James Weldon Johnson, July 11, 1930



    Contemporary Reviews

    • Montgomery Gregory * A Review of Cane
    • Robert Littell * A Review of Cane
    • W. E .B. Du Bois and Alain Locke * The Younger Literary Movement
    • Gorham B. Munson * The Significance of Jean Toomer
    • Paul Rosenfeld * Jean Toomer


    Critical Interpretations 

    • Sterling A. Brown * Jean Toomer
    • Langston Hughes * Gurdjieff in Harlem
    • Robert Bone * [Jean Toomer’s Cane]
    • Darwin T. Turner * The Failure of a Playwright
    • Arna Bontemps * Introduction to the 1969 Edition of Cane
    • John M. Reilly * The Search for Black Redemption: Jean Toomer’s Cane
    • Bernard Bell * A Key to the Poems in Cane
    • Catherine L. Innes * The Unity of Jean Toomer’s Cane
    • Charles T. Davis * Jean Toomer and the South: Region and Race as Elements within a Literary Imagination
    • Alice Walker * The Divided Life of Jean Toomer
    • David Bradley * Looking Behind Cane
    • Charles Scruggs * Textuality and Vision in Jean Toomer’s Cane
    • Gayl Jones * Blues Ballad: Jean Toomer’s “Karintha”
    • George B. Hutchinson * Jean Toomer and the “New Negroes” of Washington
    • Barbara Foley * Jean Toomer’s Washington and the Politics of Class: From “Blue Veins” to Seventh-street Rebels
    • Megan Abbott * “Dorris Dances . . . John Dreams”: Free Indirect Discourse and Female Subjectivity in Cane
    • Werner Sollors * Jean Toomer’s Cane: Modernism and Race in Interwar America
    • Mark Whalan * Jean Toomer and the Avant-Garde
    • Gino Michael Pellegrini * Jean Toomer’s Cane: “Mixed-Blood” Impossibilities
    • Jennifer D. Williams * Jean Toomer’s Cane and the Erotics of Mourning
    • Nellie Y. McKay * Jean Toomer, the Artist—An Unfulfilled American Life: An Afterword


    Jean Toomer: A Chronology

    Selected Bibliography