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Jean Toomer's "Kabnis" and the Language of Dreams

Jean Toomer's "Kabnis" and the Language of Dreams Jean Toomer’s “Kabnis” and the Language of Dreams by Ignacio Ortiz-Monasterio “Whoever you are, my warm glowing sweetheart,” Kabnis says in Jean Toomer’s Cane, “do not think that the face that rests beside you is the real Kabnis. Ralph Kabnis is a dream” (83). This passage raises sev- eral questions. To whom, obviously, is he speaking? But also, is he say- ing, paradoxically, that the real Kabnis is a dream? Or is he presenting himself as a dream, on the assumption that there is another, real Kab- nis? With this passage, the doors to ambiguity have been opened. Strik- ing and enigmatic as they are, those words can be easily overlooked. They are, in fact, almost hidden in the midst of an overall abstruse para- graph, which is embedded within the complex piece. These lines could be regarded simply as part of the text’s obscurity, or as an element add- ing to its puzzling character. Those words, in short, would not strike us as crucial if dreaming were not at the core of the entire piece. “Kabnis,” the most complex and intriguing of Toomer’s works, brings into literary form the elusive qualities of human dreams. In “Kabnis,” dreaming is http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Southern Literary Journal University of North Carolina Press

Jean Toomer's "Kabnis" and the Language of Dreams

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2006 the Southern Literary Journal and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Department of English.
ISSN
1534-1461

Abstract

Jean Toomer’s “Kabnis” and the Language of Dreams by Ignacio Ortiz-Monasterio “Whoever you are, my warm glowing sweetheart,” Kabnis says in Jean Toomer’s Cane, “do not think that the face that rests beside you is the real Kabnis. Ralph Kabnis is a dream” (83). This passage raises sev- eral questions. To whom, obviously, is he speaking? But also, is he say- ing, paradoxically, that the real Kabnis is a dream? Or is he presenting himself as a dream, on the assumption that there is another, real Kab- nis? With this passage, the doors to ambiguity have been opened. Strik- ing and enigmatic as they are, those words can be easily overlooked. They are, in fact, almost hidden in the midst of an overall abstruse para- graph, which is embedded within the complex piece. These lines could be regarded simply as part of the text’s obscurity, or as an element add- ing to its puzzling character. Those words, in short, would not strike us as crucial if dreaming were not at the core of the entire piece. “Kabnis,” the most complex and intriguing of Toomer’s works, brings into literary form the elusive qualities of human dreams. In “Kabnis,” dreaming is

Journal

The Southern Literary JournalUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: May 31, 2006

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