First Advisor

Alastair Hunt

Date of Award

Spring 2015

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in English and University Honors




Jean Toomer (1894-1967). Cane -- Criticism and interpretation, Voice in literature




Critics have long debated the complexities of spoken language in Jean Toomer’s Cane. By examining Cane through the philosophical lens of Hannah Arendt, this thesis argues for the importance of the differences between individual and communal language as they appear in the text. The concept of communal language is shown both through Arendt’s conception of speech, and through the idea of "folk-speech" as it appears in Cane. These forms of speech are then contrasted with individualistic language, language created by and for the speaker, and shows the differences between the two in regards to social power. Cane privileges the idea of a communal voice over that of an individual voice, and claims that the individual voice is unproductive, while the communal voice carries the potential for social change.


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