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Langston Hughes was one of the most important American writers of his generation, and one of the most versatile, producing poetry, fiction, drama, and autobiography. In this innovative study, R. Baxter Miller explores Hughes's life and art to enlarge our appreciation of his contribution to American letters.

Arguing that readers often miss the complexity of Hughes's work because of its seeming accessibility, Miller begins with a discussion of the writer's auto-biography, an important yet hitherto neglected key to his imagination. Moving on to consider the subtle resonances of his life in the varied genres over which his imagination "wandered," Miller finds a constant symbiotic bond between the historical and the lyrical. The range of Hughes's artistic vision is revealed in his depiction of Black women, his political stance, his lyric and tragi-comic modes.

This is one of the first studies to apply recent methods of literary analysis, including formalist, structuralist, and semiotic criticism, to the work of a Black American writer. Miller not only affirms in Hughes's work the peculiar qualities of Black American culture but provides a unifying conception of his art and identifies the primary metaphors lying at its heart.

Here is a fresh and coherent reading of the work of one of the twentieth century's greatest voices, a reinterpretation that renews our appreciation not only of Black American text and heritage but of the literary imagination itself.

R. Baxter Miller is professor of English and director of the Black Literature Program at the University of Tennessee. His published works include Reference Guide to Langston Hughes and Gwendolyn Brooks and Black American Literature and Humanism.

"The Art and Imagination of Langston Hughes provides an intricate and multifaceted interpretation of the literary imagination of this American artist."—Colin Enriquez, Kritikon Litterarum

"Miller offers a biocritical reading of Hughes's writings that explores the characteristic themes of the writer's art and examines how his imagination was fired by black folk culture and his memories of the women in his life."—Booklist

"Ambitious and innovative. Miller sheds new light on many of the 'neglected masterpieces.' . . . [This book] assumes a vital place in our holdings on Langston Hughes."—American Literature

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Langston Hughes, African American literature


Literature in English, North America

The Art and Imagination of Langston Hughes
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