Neon <i>Griot</i>

Lorenzo Thomas

in Close Listening

Published in print July 1998 | ISBN: 9780195109924
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199855261 | DOI:
Neon Griot

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  • Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)


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The two most widely known African American poets before the 20th century were Frances Ellen Watkins Harper and Paul Laurence Dunbar. Harper was an accomplished elocutionist and Emerson's “Self-Reliance” and other lyceum circuit lectures are now classic texts of American literature. Dunbar's performances were of a quite different nature. He was opinionated and outspoken on social and political issues and his readings were straightforward recitals of his poems, which were written in dialect and standard traditional stanzaic forms. However, Harper' practice was aimed at the harmonious alignment of head and heart. The invention of a characteristic voice was needed to carry Harper's message and to bridge the cultural distance between Standard English and black dialect.

Keywords: African American poets; Frances Ellen Watkins Harper; Paul Laurence Dunbar; accomplished elocutionist; American literature

Chapter.  11333 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets)

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