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Rudolph Fisher: Renaissance Man and Harlem's Interpreter

Research output: Contribution in Book/Report/Proceedings - With ISBN/ISSNChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

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Abstract

Rudolph Fisher was unique among Harlem Renaissance authors in making Harlem itself the exclusive focus of his writing. Across a rich body of work (of short stories and novels), he demonstrated keen powers of social observation in revealing how class, regional, phenotypical, and generational distinctions defined Harlem and shaped an appropriate literary aesthetic. Fisher’s satirical yet loving eye is matched by a musical ear in stories about African Americans becoming modern in the black metropolis. Southern greenhorns are vulnerable to being fleeced by urbane northern hustlers. Grandmothers bearing the memory of the South fear and admire in equal measure the way Harlem shapes their grandchildren. Blues and jazz underscore vernacular speech, as street talk engages rural accents and bourgeois tongues. And such sensitivity to the city’s quotidian features informs Fisher’s ultimate understanding of Harlem as the space of encounter between logic and faith, science and superstition for African Americans.