Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow
The Tragic Courtship and Marriage of Paul Laurence Dunbar and Alice Ruth Moore
Published by: NYU Press
241 pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- ISBN: 9780814706961
- Published: September 2001
A New York Times Notable Book of 2002!
Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow traces the tempestuous romance of America's most noted African-American literary couple. Drawing on a variety of love letters, diaries, journals, and autobiographies, Eleanor Alexander vividly recounts Dunbar's and Moore's tumultuous affair, from a courtship conducted almost entirely through letters and an elopement brought on by Dunbar's brutal, drunken rape of Moore, through their passionate marriage and its eventual violent dissolution in 1902. Moore, once having left Dunbar, rejected his every entreaty to return to him, responding to his many letters only once, with a blunt, one-word telegram ("No").
This is a remarkable story of tragic romance among African-American elites struggling to define themselves and their relationships within the context of post-slavery America. As such, it provides a timely examination of the ways in which cultural ideology and politics shape and complicate conceptions of romantic love.
”Sexism, racism, self-hatred, and romantic love: all figure in prominently in this scholarly-but nicely hard-boiled-discussion of the bond between the famous Paul Laurence Dunbar and his wife Alice. Eleanor Alexander's analysis of turn-of-the-twentieth-century black marriage is required reading for every student of American, especially African-American, heterosexual relationships."-Nell Painter,Edwards Professor of American History, Princeton University, author of Sojourner Truth, A Life, A Symbol
"Tells a fascinating tale of two compelling figures whose lives were intriguing, at times harrowing, and in many ways tragic. At the same time, Alexander investigates a broader topic. . .A riveting narrative."-Martha Hodes
"Rich in documentation and generous in analysis, Lyrics of Sunshine and Shadow advances our understanding of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century African American social and cultural history in compelling and unexpected ways. By exposing the devastating consequences of unequal power dynamics and gender relations in the union of the celebrated writers, Paul Laurence Dunbar and Alice Ruth Moore, and by examining the hidden underside of the Dunbars' storybook romance where alcohol, sex, and violence prove fatal, Eleanor Alexander produces a provocative, nuanced interpretation of late Victorian courtship and marriage, of post-emancipation racial respectability and class mobility, of pre-modern sexual rituals and color conventions in an emergent elite black society."-Thadious M. Davis,Vanderbilt University
"Alexander's significant, welcome book gives us so much to think about in the moving story of two people, trying to find their way into the world and each other's lives."-The New York Times Book Review
"In examining what she calls the ‘tragic' courtship and marriage of poets Paul Laurence Dunbar and Alice Ruth Moore, Alexander visits the private history of this public couple as a vehicle for writing an intimate social history. . . . a masterful analysis of middle-class African Americans."-Rosalyn Terborg-Penn,Morgan State University