Gene Jarrett and his book cover, "保罗·劳伦斯·邓巴:一只笼中鸟的生活和时代"

Gene Jarrett takes us back to the Gilded Age in his new biography of Paul Laurence Dunbar

10月. 28, 2022, 9:45 a.m.

澳博体育app学院院长吉恩·贾勒特(Gene Jarrett)和威廉. 托德,英语教授, has taught students about Paul Laurence Dunbar for two decades and published book articles and chapters on the popular and accomplished writer. But it wasn’t until 2008 that Jarrett decided to tackle a biography of Dunbar, 谁在镀金时代崭露头角.

传记”,保罗·劳伦斯·邓巴:一只笼中鸟的生活和时代,该书于6月由澳博体育app出版社出版 最近被选为 《澳博体育app下载》评选的2022年最佳书籍. Other Princeton 教师 with books on the list include Yiyun Li for "The Book of Goose,芬坦·奥图尔的《澳博体育app下载不了解自己,伊马尼·佩里(Imani Perry)的《南方到美国》,Keith Wailoo凭借《澳博体育app下载》获奖." Jarrett将出现在11月11日星期四. 3、在迷宫书店 在澳博体育app和西蒙·吉坎迪的谈话中 Robert Schirmer澳博体育app英语教授.

Jarrett, a 1997 Princeton graduate who returned to the University last summer, said that the genre of biography allowed him to tell a new story of the complexities of Dunbar’s journey as a writer. 传记, 这是“植根于讲故事和学术的?,他在本书的致谢中写道, allowed him to illuminate “those interior forces that guided [Dunbar’s] literary pen.”

在重建时期出生,父母曾是奴隶, Dunbar (1872–1906) excelled against all odds to become an accomplished and versatile artist and has 被称为“他的种族桂冠诗人”.” But while audiences across the United States and Europe flocked to enjoy his literary readings, Dunbar privately bemoaned shouldering the burden of 比赛 and catering to minstrel stereotypes to earn fame and money. 他在33岁时去世.

下面, Jarrett reveals the backstory of several moments in the book and reflects on how his Princeton professor Toni Morrison helped shape his own story as a writer.

This story is being published on the 150th anniversary of Dunbar’s birth. For all of Dunbar’s renown as a pivotal figure in American literary history, 当代读者可能对他并不熟悉. What moment from the book do you think Dunbar himself would choose on his birthday to illuminate the impact of his life as a writer?

当然, 很难推测邓巴会选择什么, 因为他是个复杂的人! 然而, I am inclined to say that he appreciated his own recurring literary success and wide impact on people who read his literature or those who listened to him perform it.

我想起的一个时刻是他在背诵一首诗, “歌颂有色人种的美国人,在1893年芝加哥的世界哥伦比亚博览会上. 他的导师, 伟大的非裔美国演说家和政治家弗雷德里克·道格拉斯, 刚刚发表了一篇激情洋溢的演讲, 题为“美国的种族问题”,” in which he rails against the stereotypical im年龄s of African Americans at the exposition. Not only did Dunbar witness the greatness of Douglass’ ability to move a crowd with oratorical suasion; he recited his poem right afterward in commemoration of African Americans, 包括他的父亲约书亚·邓巴, who fought decades earlier on behalf of the Union Army in the Civil War. 邓巴的表演引起了热烈的掌声, signaling the pleasure of the audience with his verse 但 also its genuine recognition of his walking in Douglass’ footsteps — both literally and figuratively — on the public st年龄.

One of the lines from Dunbar’s 1899 poem “Sympathy” — “I know why the c年龄d bird sings” — was made famous again in 1969 when Maya Angelou paid hom年龄 to it as the title of her first memoir. 你的书的副标题把邓巴自己称为“一只被关在笼子里的鸟”,” and in it you write about “the perennial relevance of Dunbar’s original song.” How does this poem strike you as a sounding bell of its own time that continues to resonate into the present moment?

The arc of historical meaning that connects Dunbar to Maya Angelou’s uses of the “c年龄d bird” symbol is the individual’s struggle against societal prejudices: the degree to which a person, 谁有独特的自我意识和一套未来的雄心, 是受到, 或受制于, 世界强加的先入之见.

Dunbar and Angelou ultimately employed this trope for different purposes: in one case, Dunbar’s poem presumably (if autobiographically) attests to the strife of a young Black man at the turn of the 20th century; and in the other case, Angelou’s work is an actual autobiography which conveys this circumstance in the life of a maturing Black woman in the modern era. 我认为, 超越种族和性别, this notion of a c年龄d bird can have great universal meaning for individuals hailing from a variety of social backgrounds and identities.

镀金时代, 邓巴通过公开朗读他的作品而出名, 但 he came to regard the popularity of his poems in dialect as a curse as well as a blessing. 虽然他知道白人观众喜欢这样的台词快去,别吵了,露茜小姐——/把那本音乐书收起来...,” he was conflicted about being limited to this stereotyped genre when he knew his artistic gifts were deeper than that. What is an experience from Dunbar’s life that you pay special attention to in the book to show how this conflict played out in his writing?

The benefit of my biography is its insight to Dunbar’s private life through his letters of correspondence to family, 朋友和熟人. 在此设置, 澳博体育app下载遇到, 如果你愿意, 更真实的, more authentic sense of his unvarnished views on the personal and professional challenges of writing literature when the commercial vogue for dialect, 比如你摘录的那些台词, 碰巧很强壮.

在1897年3月给一个熟人的信中, 邓巴这样评价William Howells, the so-called Dean of American Letters who could either make or break a literary career 但 also who happened to praise Dunbar’s 1895 book “Majors and Minors” in a book review: “我现在看得很清楚. Howells has done me irrevocable harm in the dictum he laid down regarding my dialect verse.邓巴从Howells的评论中得到了很多启发, he was haunted by its framing of his public persona as a dialect poet. 邓巴会在诗歌中抓住这个难题, ”诗人,” which he published in his 1903 collection “Lyrics of Love and Laughter”: “He sang of love when earth was young,/和爱, 本身, 在他的歌声中./但是,啊,世界,它变成了赞美/破碎的舌头发出的叮当声.”

Dunbar had some famous friends, including Orville Wright, Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, Theodore Roosevelt and the British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, among others. Would you share a detail about one of these friendships that you focus on to show readers a transformative moment in Dunbar’s journey as a writer?

Dunbar and Orville Wright were entrepreneurial partners in a short-lived newspaper which circulated in Dayton, 俄亥俄州, 叫《代顿闲话报, 在1890年末. They were classmates in Dayton’s Central High School and respected each other as collaborators: Dunbar edited the newspaper to cater to Dayton’s African American community; and Orville, 还有他的弟弟威尔伯, 他在西代顿经营一家印刷报纸的商店.

邓巴(左上)和他的中心高中同学, 奥维尔·赖特(后排中邓巴的第三位), 大约在1890年.

不想给你留下太多悬念, 但 you can read my biography to learn about how a Black boy and a white boy, 邓巴和奥维尔, improbably came together despite the specter of racial segregation in America, and how this relationship was a key backdrop to Dunbar’s transformation into a professional writer (and, 所以发生了, 奥维尔自己成长为一名标志性的飞行员).

在这本书的介绍中, 你叫邓巴, 谁33岁就去世了, a “prodigious and prolific” writer who produced “a body of work that showcased his mastery of literary genres.给澳博体育app下载讲讲邓巴的一首诗, 论文, 小说, short stories or Broadway libretto or lyrics that has particular meaning for you.

邓巴以诗人的身份而闻名是可以理解的, 但, 正如你提到的, 他也是其他体裁的作家. 他的第一部小说, “未交,” was published in 1898 — right after his poems launched him onto the international st年龄 — and it turned out to be a rather fine piece of literature.

小说不仅好奇地回避了 the traditional cast and vernacular of African Americans commercially expected of an African American author; it also tells the story of a young man whose 比赛 is not explicitly signified 但 whose life similarly, 以自传的方式, reflected the issues Dunbar faced in his own life: the turbulence of living in a household with his parents, 他与乡土生活的纠结关系, and his spiritual anxieties about the perceived indignity of his past and how the latter can predetermine his future.

The novel contains the formal and thematic traits that one would encounter in the American naturalistic 小说 of the turn of the 20th century, 比如西奥多·德莱塞和斯蒂芬·克兰, in which there is a presupposition of the environment compromising the strength of your 年龄ncy to determine your own future. I have enjoyed studying and talking about Dunbar’s first novel in this way.

播放视频: 吉恩·贾勒特,关于保罗·劳伦斯·邓巴


Toni Morrison won the Pulitzer Prize in fall semester of your first year at Princeton, 但你直到大三才认识她, 你上了她的"美国非洲主义"课,” which examined African American characters in American literature. Was there a moment while you were writing Dunbar’s biography when you felt Morrison on your shoulder or whispering in your ear?

有趣的问题! 好吧, there are different ways of interpreting what it means for a legendary figure to be peering over your shoulder as you seek to craft sentences. I will say that she had very high standards for her students and for fellow writers and scholars. 我很荣幸能成为她在澳博体育app的学生, to read her edits to my sentences and her marginalia beside my paragraphs, seeking to plumb the essence of my concepts and to hone the contours of my arguments.

随着我年龄的增长和作为一个人和一个作家的成熟, I am inclined to say that I endeavored in writing my biography to make her proud that one of her former students could excel in a genre that seeks, in a way different from her fiction 但 still in the same mode of thinking and expression, 描绘一个人完整的生活和时代. I could well imagine that she would have despaired over how some of my sentences ultimately sprawled onto the p年龄. 另一方面, I am hopeful that she also might have appreciated the other sentences as promising examples of the inevitable pain and pleasure that result from any serious literary attempt to pen the right word at the right time.

这篇文章最早出现在 澳博体育 on June 27 and has been updated with details of The New Yorker recognition and upcoming author appearance.