The Spirit and Voice of Langston Hughes within the College Composition Classroom: Incorporating Humor and Code-Meshing into Student Writing

Jaclyn S. Sullivan


Through a close examination of Langston Hughes’ rhetoric of humor within his works of fiction and non-fiction, I seek to question the pedagogical implications Hughes’ work might have within Composition courses, specifically with beginning writers.  Looking at the texts of Hughes might help students break away from their preconceived notions of writing as one of those “dread courses.”  Writing and reading can be transformative, and as an instructor, I need to begin forming new pathways for my students of looking at reading and writing differently, and I think this can be achieved through the humor of Hughes’ texts.  This paper illustrates an endeavor to reinvent my beginning writing classroom to reflect the needs of the students who sit before me, dreading the writing they will have to do throughout the semester. As a result, I look at Hughes’ humor texts in two specific ways.  On the one hand, I examine Hughes as a social humorist, who, through his poetry, prose, and newsprint, ultimately endeavors to expose and moderate the complex fears and anxieties about racial difference.  In addition, I will look closely at African American Vernacular English (AAVE) and code meshing through the lens of Hughes’ humor texts in an attempt to foster alternative ways beginning writers can start to think about language and writing.  By incorporating Hughes’ modular texts, AAVE, and code meshing into the beginning writers’ classroom, it is my primary goal to assist students in creating writing that is alive, meaningful, and challenges the current concept of what acceptable writing is within higher education.  


Langston Hughes, Composition Pedagogy, Humor Pedagogy, AAVE, code-meshing

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