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Uprooting the Folk

Uprooting the Folk

Paul Laurence Dunbar’s Critique of the Folk Ideal

(p.101) 4 Uprooting the Folk
Black Folklore and the Politics of Racial Representation
Shirley Moody-Turner
University Press of Mississippi

Chapter four argues that Paul Laurence Dunbar, like the Hampton folklorists, had to negotiate the politics of being objectified as a representative embodiment of the African American folklore and/or folk communities he chose to represent. In his literary works, masking and dissimilation become his vehicles for exposing the many intertwined literary and cultural conventions that determined the range of black racial representation. In his 1902 novel, The Sport of the Gods, he critiques the idealized notions of folklore through the text’s depiction of tensions within the Southern folk community. He further challenges the construction of folklore as a Southern, rural phenomenon by introducing a new geographic terrain--the urban North--in which to imagine black folklore, thereby introducing into African American literature alternative geographies for locating African American folklore.

Keywords:   Paul Laurence Dunbar, Sport of the Gods, Masking, African American folklore, Racial Representation

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