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Paul Laurence Dunbar: Criticism and Reviews

Modern American Poetry has some of Dunbar's poems online and links to critical essays.

Ohioana Quarterly for this issue has an extensive article on Dunbar and his work.

"Caressed By the Word: The Lives and Love of Paul Laurence Dunbar and Alice Dunbar-Nelson." Black Issues Book Review, March-April, 2002, by Pamela Johnson.

The work of Paul Laurence Dunbar is reviewed by Elaine Hedges and Richard Yarborough.

Additional criticism and review of Paul Laurence Dunbar's works can be found at your local public library.

The following reviews can be accessed online only by an individual who has a current library card through this address.

Critic: Alan R. Shucard.
Reference Guide to American Literature, 3rd ed., edited by Jim Kamp, St. James Press, 1994.

"There were, in truth, two Paul Laurence Dunbars. One was the writer supported by the interest of white Americans because some of his work was sufficiently faithful to black stereotypical images designed and demanded by white Americans. The other, in a sense the more 'real' Dunbar, was…"

To Make a Poet Black.
Critic: J. Saunders Redding.
To Make a Poet Black, University of North Carolina Press, 1939.

"How tenacious, demanding, and circumscribing the dialect tradition and its concomitants had become before the turn of the century is illustrated in the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar…."

Majors and Minors.
Critic: W. D. Howells.
Harper's Weekly, June 20, 1896, p. 630.

Howells "reviews Majors and Minors, praising Dunbar's dialect verse. This review proved to be a milestone in the poet's career. A year later, however, Dunbar sadly remarked…"

"Lowly Poets."
Poet Lore, Vol. IX, No. 2, Spring, 1897, pp. 298-301.

…"For the other poems, they have a freshness quite befitting a first poet of his race. It is much as if the spirit of the poet looked out upon nature for the first time and saw…"

"Negro Poetry."
Critic: Joseph G. Bryant.
The Colored American Magazine, Vol. VIII, No. 5, May, 1905, pp. 254-57. Reprinted in Twentieth-Century Literature Criticism, Vol. 12.

"(The) sparkling wit, the quaint and delightful humor, the individuality and charm of Dunbar's poetry are not excelled by any lines from the pen of a Negro. No person can read his verse without being…"

"Dunbar's Poetry in Literary English."
Critic: Charles Eaton Burch.
The Southern Workman, Vol. L, No. 10, October, 1921, pp. 469-73. Reprinted in Twentieth-Century Literature Criticism, Vol. 12.

In this essay, "Burch maintains that Dunbar's poetic forte is humorous dialect poetry, but he also finds a few of Dunbar's poems written in standard English to be worthy of attention."

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