front cover of Ashes of the Mind
Ashes of the Mind
War and Memory in Northern Literature, 1865-1900
Martin Griffin
University of Massachusetts Press, 2009
The memory of the American Civil War took many forms over the decades after the conflict ended: personal, social, religious, and political. It was also remembered and commemorated by poets and fiction writers who understood that the war had bequeathed both historical and symbolic meanings to American culture. Although the defeated Confederacy became best known for producing a literature of nostalgia and an ideological defensiveness intended to protect the South's own version of history, authors loyal to the Union also confronted the question of what the memory of the war signified, and how to shape the literary response to that individual and collective experience.

In Ashes of the Mind, Martin Griffin examines the work of five Northerners—three poets and two fiction writers—who over a period of four decades tried to understand and articulate the landscape of memory in postwar America, and in particular in that part of the nation that could, with most justification, claim the victory of its beliefs and values. The book begins with an examination of the rhetorical grandeur of James Russell Lowell's Harvard Commemoration Ode, ranges across Herman Melville's ironic war poetry, Henry James's novel of North-South reconciliation, The Bostonians, and Ambrose Bierce's short stories, and ends with the bitter meditation on race and nation presented by Paul Laurence Dunbar's elegy "Robert Gould Shaw." Together these texts reveal how a group of representative Northern writers were haunted in different ways by the memory of the
conflict and its fraught legacy.

Griffin traces a concern with individual and community loss, ambivalence toward victory, and a changing politics of commemoration in the writings of Lowell, Melville, James, Bierce, and Dunbar. What links these very different authors is a Northern memory of the war that became more complex and more compromised as the century went on, often replacing a sense of justification and achievement with a perception of irony and failed promise.

front cover of The Complete Stories of Paul Laurence Dunbar
The Complete Stories of Paul Laurence Dunbar
Paul Laurence Dunbar
Ohio University Press, 2005

An ALA “Best of the Best” Book

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.

In the century following his death, Dunbar slipped into relative obscurity, remembered mainly for his dialect poetry or as a footnote to other more canonical figures of the period. The Complete Stories of Paul Laurence Dunbar showcases his gifts as a writer of short fiction and provides key insights into the tensions and themes of Dunbar's literary achievement. The 104 stories written by Dunbar between 1890 and 1905 reveal Dunbar's attempts to maintain his artistic integrity while struggling with America's racist stereotypes. Making them available for the first time in one convenient, comprehensive, and definitive volume, The Complete Stories of Paul Laurence Dunbar illustrates the complexity of his literary life and legacy.


front cover of In His Own Voice
In His Own Voice
The Dramatic and Other Uncollected Works of Paul Laurence Dunbar
Paul Laurence Dunbar
Ohio University Press, 2002

Paul Laurence Dunbar, introduced to the American public by William Dean Howells, was the first native-born African American poet to achieve national and international fame. While there have been many valuable editions of his works over time, gaps have developed when manuscripts were lost or access to uncollected works became difficult.

In His Own Voice brings together previously upublished and uncollected short stories, essays, and poems. This volume also establishes Dunbar's reputation as a dramatist who mastered standard English conventions and used dialect in musical comedy for ironic effects.

In His Own Voice collects 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. This generous expansion of the canon also includes a short story never before published.

Herbert Woodward Martin, renowned for his live portrayal of Dunbar, and Ronald Primeau provide a literary and historical context for this previously untreated material, firmly securing the reputation of an important American voice.


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Knowing Him by Heart
African Americans on Abraham Lincoln
Edited by Frederick Hord and Matthew D. Norman
University of Illinois Press, 2023

An unprecedented collection of African American writings on Lincoln

Though not blind to Abraham Lincoln's imperfections, Black Americans long ago laid a heartfelt claim to his legacy. At the same time, they have consciously reshaped the sixteenth president's image for their own social and political ends. Frederick Hord and Matthew D. Norman's anthology explores the complex nature of views on Lincoln through the writings and thought of Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Mary McLeod Bethune, Thurgood Marshall, Malcolm X, Gwendolyn Brooks, Barbara Jeanne Fields, Barack Obama, and dozens of others. The selections move from speeches to letters to book excerpts, mapping the changing contours of the bond--emotional and intellectual--between Lincoln and Black Americans over the span of one hundred and fifty years.

A comprehensive and valuable reader, Knowing Him by Heart examines Lincoln’s still-evolving place in Black American thought.


front cover of The Selected Literary Letters of Paul Laurence Dunbar
The Selected Literary Letters of Paul Laurence Dunbar
Edited by Cynthia C. Murillo and Jennifer M. Nader
University of Alabama Press, 2021
These 250 transcribed and annotated letters reveal the personal and literary life of one of the most highly regarded African American writers and intellectuals
Paul Laurence Dunbar (1873–1906) was arguably the most famous African American poet, novelist, and dramatist at the turn of the twentieth century and one of the earliest African American writers to receive national recognition and appreciation. Scholars have taken a renewed interest in Dunbar but much is still unknown about this once-famous African American author’s life and literary efforts. Dunbar’s letters to various editors, friends, benefactors, scholars, and family members are crucial to any critical or theoretical understanding of his journey as a writer. His literary correspondence, in particular, records the development of an extraordinary figure whose work reached a broad readership in his lifetime, but not without considerable cost.
The Selected Literary Letters of Paul Laurence Dunbar is a collection of 250 letters, transcribed and annotated, that reveal the personal and literary life of one of the most highly regarded African American writers and intellectuals. Editors Cynthia C. Murillo and Jennifer M. Nader highlight Dunbar not just as a determined author and master of rhetoric, but also as a young, sensitive, thoughtful, keenly intelligent, and talented writer who battled depression, alcoholism, and tuberculosis as well as rejection and racism. Despite Dunbar’s personal struggles, his literary letters disclose that he was full of hopes and dreams coupled with the resolve to flourish as a writer—at almost any cost, even when it caused controversy.
Taken together, Dunbar’s letters depict his concerted effort to succeed as an author within an overtly racist literary culture, among sharp divides within the African American intellectual community, and in opposition to the demands of popular public tastes—often dictated by the demands of publishers. This wide-ranging selection of Dunbar’s most relevant literary letters will serve to correct many matters of conjecture about Dunbar’s life, writing, and choices by supplying factual evidence to counter speculation, assumption, and incomplete information.

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