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We Wear The Mask
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An anthology of the best scholarship on the celebrated African American writer

A prolific nineteenth-century author, Paul Laurence Dunbar was the first African American poet to gain national recognition. Praised by Booker T. Washington, W. E. B. DuBois, and Frederick Douglass, who called him “the most promising colored man in America,” Dunbar intrigued readers and literary critics with his depictions of African Americans’ struggle to overcome a legacy of slavery and prejudice. His remarkably large body of work—he wrote eleven volumes of poetry, four short story collections, five novels, three librettos, and a play before his death at thirty-three—draws on the oral storytelling traditions of his ex-slave mother as well as his unconventional education at an all-white public school to explore the evolving identity of the black community and its place in post–Civil War America.

Willie Harrell has assembled a collection of essays on Dunbar’s work that builds on the research published over the last two decades. Employing an array of approaches to Dunbar’s poetic creations, these essays closely examine the self-motivated and dynamic effect of his use of dialect, language, rhetorical strategies, and narrative theory to promote racial uplift. They situate Dunbar’s work in relation to the issues of advancement popular during the Reconstruction era and against the racial stereotypes proliferating in the early twentieth century while demonstrating its relevance to contemporary literary studies.

We Wear the Mask will appeal to scholars and students of African American literature and poetry, as well as those interested in one of the most celebrated and widely taught African American authors.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
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  1. Frontmatter
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  1. Contents
  2. pp. v-vii
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  1. Introduction: Dunbar and the Ethics of Black Identity
  2. pp. ix-xviii
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  1. Part I Poetry
  2. pp. 1-1
  1. 1. The Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar and the Influence of African Aesthetics Dunbar’s Poems and the Tradition of Masking
  2. pp. 3-16
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  1. 2. National Memory and the Arts in Paul Laurence Dunbar’s War Poetry
  2. pp. 17-31
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  1. 3. “Sing a Song Heroic”: Paul Laurence Dunbar’s Mythic and Poetic Tribute to Black Soldiers
  2. pp. 32-48
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  1. 4. Minstrelsy and the Dialect Poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar
  2. pp. 49-58
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  1. 5. Dunbar, Dialect, and Narrative Theory Subverted Statements in Lyrics of Lowly Life
  2. pp. 59-70
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  1. Part II: Race, Rhetoric, and Social Structure
  2. pp. 70-70
  1. 6. Rhetorical Accountability: Paul Laurence Dunbar’s Search for “Representative” Men
  2. pp. 73-81
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  1. 7. “Jump Back, Honey, Jump Back” Reading Paul Laurence Dunbar in the Context of the Century Magazine
  2. pp. 82-97
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  1. 8. The Glamour of Paul Laurence Dunbar Racial Uplift, Masculinity, and Bohemia in the Nadir
  2. pp. 98-115
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  1. 9. Kemble’s Figures and Dunbar’s Folks
  2. pp. 116-137
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  1. 10. “We Know de Time Is Ouahs” The Power of Christmas in the Literature of Paul Laurence Dunbar
  2. pp. 138-153
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  1. 11. Creating a Representative Community Identity in Paul Laurence Dunbar’s In Old Plantation Days
  2. pp. 154-169
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  1. Part III Novels, Identity, and Representation
  2. pp. 170-170
  1. 12. Memory and Repression in Paul Laurence Dunbar’s The Sport of the Gods
  2. pp. 173-190
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  1. 13. A Little Something More Than Something Else: Dunbar’s Colorist Ambivalence in The Sport of the Gods
  2. pp. 191-209
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  1. 14. Mobile Blacks and Ubiquitous Blues Urbanizing the African American Discourses in Paul Laurence Dunbar's The Sport of Gods
  2. pp. 210-229
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  1. 15. “With Myriad Subtleties”: Constructions of Social Identity in The Sport of the Gods
  2. pp. 230-241
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  1. Contributors
  2. pp. 255-258
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 259-266
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