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The Worlds of Langston HughesModernism and Translation in the Americas$
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Vera M. Kutzinski

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780801451157

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801451157.001.0001

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Back in the USSA

Back in the USSA

Joe McCarthy’s Mistranslations

(p.184) Chapter Five Back in the USSA
The Worlds of Langston Hughes

Vera M. Kutzinski

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines how Langston Hughes' “red” poetry caught the attention of the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Government Operations, chaired by Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin. After providing an overview of McCarthyism, the chapter analyzes Hughes's testimony and the poems that the McCarthy Committee took as evidence of his “subversive” ways. It then considers the figure of the compliant witness before taking a closer look at what certain committee members, particularly Senator Everett McKinley Dirksen of Illinois and committee counsel Roy Cohn, did to make Hughes so cooperative. It argues that translation is at issue in the Senate hearings because committee members tried very hard to translate Hughes the poet into Hughes the former, and repentant, Communist. Although Hughes had claimed during the hearings that he had officially ended his support for Communism, he would continue to attack the governmental practices [of political censorship] that caused him so much trouble.

Keywords:   poetry, Langston Hughes, U.S. Senate, Joseph McCarthy, McCarthyism, testimony, McCarthy Committee, translation, Senate hearings, Communism

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