Article Title

Langston Hughes and Performing Transnational Presence: Scottsboro Limited and Harvest


Ramona Tougas


This article reads Hughes’s plays Scottsboro Limited and Harvest as theatrical representations of prisoners, and workers specific to American contexts which mirror Soviet-dominated internationalist film, journalistic theater, and pageants. Hughes’s 1930s participation in a transnational aesthetic community of theatrical innovation devoted to developing proletarian theater remains under-researched. I read his plays as embodied representations of collaboration and emotional commitment across national lines. This paper also examines asymmetries between Scottsboro Limited and its 1932 Russian translation. Langston Hughes wrote the one-act verse play Scottsboro Limited (1931) just before visiting the Soviet Union. Hughes co-authored the play Harvest with Ella Winter and Ann Hawkins shortly after returning to the U.S.A. but left the play unfinished in 1934. Analysis of these plays participates in debates on the status of the transnational in modernism at large, while clarifying a crucial element of Hughes’s exchange with Soviet culture. Langston Hughes has received renewed critical attention in recent years with valuable research on the transnational characteristics of his life, poetry, autobiography, and short stories. Theater, however, has received little attention in this critical revival, despite its centrality to Hughes’s cultural and literary work. These two plays revise Soviet forms in an act of international exchange, echoing Soviet calls for revolution, while challenging the Comintern’s Black Belt Nation Thesis and its implications for Hughes’s poetics.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.