“This collection shows that (Dunbar) was on his way to becoming a great novelist when he died in 1906.”
Dayton Daily News
At long last, critics, scholars, and lovers of fiction can experience the full range and imaginative powers of the collected novels of Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872–1906). In these four novels, readers can explore the characters, landscape, atmosphere, and visionary sensibilities of this preeminent African American writer.
In the prime of his literary career, between 1898 and 1902, Dunbar published The Uncalled, The Love of Landry, The Fanatics, and The Sport of the Gods. Despite widespread critical interest, the novels have been largely subordinated to his short stories and poetry. The Collected Novels of Paul Laurence Dunbar redresses this imbalance by showing that the novels are also reflections of his exceptional literary talent. While correcting and standardizing the texts, the editors describe the major forms and themes of the novels, putting them in the proper contexts of Dunbar’s creativity, his professional career, and his place in American literary history. Each novel explores, in varying degrees, the issues of race, class, politics, region, morality, and spirituality and challenges the assumption that black novelists should cast only blacks as main characters and as messengers of racial-political unity.
The Collected Novels of Paul Laurence Dunbar presents all four novels under one cover for the first time, allowing readers to assess why he was such a seminal influence on the twentieth century African American writers who followed him into the American canon. The Collected Novels of Paul Laurence Dunbar will interest students, teachers, scholars, and general readers for generations to come.
Herbert Woodward Martin, poet in residence at the University of Dayton and Laureate Poet for Dayton, Ohio, is the author of six books of poetry, two opera libretti, and the text for a new Magnificat. He has given readings of Dunbar's poetry around the world for the past twenty years.
Ronald Primeau is a professor of English at Central Michigan University. He is the author of books on Paul Laurence Dunbar, Herbert Woodward Martin, Edgar Lee Masters, and the literature of the American highway.
Gene Andrew Jarrett is an associate professor of English and African American Studies at Boston University. He is the author of Deans and Truants: Race and Realism in African American Literature and editor or coeditor of The New Negro: Readings on Race, Representation, and African American Culture, 1892–1938; African American Literature beyond Race: An Alternative Reader, and The Complete Stories of Paul Laurence Dunbar.
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As the first African-American fiction writer to achieve a national reputation, Ohio native Charles W. Chesnutt (1858—1932) in many ways established the terms of the black literary tradition now exemplified by such writers as Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Charles Johnson.
More than seventy-five works in six genres. Featured are the previously unpublished play Herrick and two one-act plays, largely ignored for a century, that demonstrate Dunbar’s subversion of the minstrel tradition.
The son of former slaves, Paul Laurence Dunbar was one of the most prominent figures in American literature at the turn of the twentieth century. Thirty-three years old at the time of his death in 1906, he had published four novels, four collections of short stories, and fourteen books of poetry, as well as numerous songs, plays, and essays in newspapers and magazines around the world.
The first African American fiction writer to earn a national reputation, Charles W. Chesnutt remains best known for his depictions of Southern life before and after the Civil War. But he also produced a large body of what might best be called his “Northern” writings, and those works, taken together, describe the intriguing ways in which America was reshaping itself at the turn of the last century.