Date Approved


Graduate Degree Type


Degree Name

English (M.A.)

Degree Program



This thesis locates Jean Toomer’s Cane as Modernist text operating within the context of the Great Migration, pointing out ways in which the text reflects the great sense of anxiety, upheaval, and transformation generated as many members of the African American community left the rural South and moved to urban centers in the North. I analyze various discourses and the shifting balance of power present in the text as the narrative voice awards the most value to the ideologies of the rural and spiritual through contrast with he ideologies of the urban and material. This relationship repeatedly problematizes the text’s ability to produce one clear, stable message. Instead, the text remains unsettled, and the reader finds himself questioning the conventional definitions and boundaries of various concepts, but most importantly those of identity and race.


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