For citation:

Panova O.Yu. The First Encounter: “Negro American Literature” in the Soviet Literary Criticism of the 1920s. Studia Litterarum, 2019, vol. 4, no 4, pp. 98–125. (In Russ.)

DOI: 10.22455/2500-4247-2019-4-4-98-125

Author: Olga Yu. Panova
Information about the author:

Olga Yu. Panova, DSc in Philology, Professor, M.V. Lomonosov Moscow State University, 1st Humanities building, Leninskie gory, 119991 Moscow, Russia; Leading Senior Researcher, A.M. Gorky Institute of World Literature of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Povarskaya 25 a, 121069 Moscow, Russia.

E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Received: April 16, 2019
Published: December 25, 2019
Issue: 2019 Vol. 4, №4
Department: World Literature
Pages: 98-125

UDK: 821.111(73)
BBK: 83.3(7Сое)6
Keywords: American literary history, African American literature, Soviet-American literary connections, Soviet literary criticism, W.E.B. Dubois, Claude McKay, Walter White, Jessie R. Fauset, Carl Van Vechten, politics of literature, translation, publishing strategies, Soviet periodicals, archived materials


Soviet leaders and Comintern stressed the importance of the “Negro problem” in the struggle against American imperialism; African American literature was considered a part of the “battlefield” as well, so an ideologically bound image of “American Negro literature” was on the agenda. First translations of African American literature appear in the early 1920s together with its first reviews and essays (some of them by reputed critics like Ivan Kashkin, Segrei Dinamov, Nikolay Efros). The key figures of the decade were W.E.B. DuBois, Walter White, Jessie R. Fauset, and Claude McKay. McKay’s reputation in the USSR underwent a considerable change during the 1920s: introduced as a revolutionary writer and a “friend of the Soviet Union”, in the late 1902s he was stigmatized as a “petty bourgeois Black nationalist”. Soviet critics analyzed the phenomenon of “Harlem school”, and “the whites writing up the Black” (Carl Van Vechten, Howard W. Odum, Michael Gold, Albert Halper, etc.). The paper traces changes in the vision of African American literature, that lead to new demands set forth in the 1930s and is based on publications of American and Soviet press of the 1920s and archived documents.


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