Understanding Paul Laurence Dunbar: A Life and Career in Context

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Title: Understanding Paul Laurence Dunbar: A Life and Career in Context
Author: Gilroy, Joseph William
Advisors: Dr. Anne Baker, Committee Chair
Dr. Sheila Smith-McKoy, Committee Member
Dr. Carmine Prioli, Committee Member
Abstract: Paul Laurence Dunbar was one of the most popular poets of his day. He was highly regarded for his black dialect poetry, which earned him the title, "poet laureate of his race." Dunbar's second book of poetry, Majors and Minors, was even reviewed by the famous critic William Dean Howells. However, despite Dunbar's popularity, he has also been widely criticized for his black dialect poetry. Many scholars and African-Americans have argued that it is an unsympathetic portrait of blackness meant to appease his paying white readership. This thesis discusses the conditions and circumstances that influenced Dunbar to write black dialect poetry. It places the poet's life and career in the social, economic, and critical context of the mid-to-late nineteenth century. My research concludes that Dunbar's intentions for his dialect poetry were misconstrued by William Dean Howells' racially-biased interpretation of Majors and Minors.
Date: 2007-07-29
Degree: MA
Discipline: English
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/1340

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