Term of Award

Fall 2022

Degree Name

Master of Arts in English (M.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


Department of Literature

Committee Chair

Kendra R. Parker

Committee Member 1

Julia Griffin

Committee Member 2

Hapsatou Wane


This study responds to the need for understanding and terminology regarding Black poets’ engagement with the sonnet form. Referring to sampling strategies in Hip-Hop to analyze Black sonnets, this study disputes limiting ideas about sonnets as ineffective mediums to portray Black narratives and honors strategies maintained in Hip-Hop culture that define Black narrative expression, resistance to assimilation, and social reflection. Black sonnets are an ever-evolving vehicle of resistance to elitist ideas about traditional forms, Black aesthetics, and the ways that poetic strategies can be defined. This study names past and present Black sonneteers’ adherence to, remixing in, and rejection of the sonnet as “sonnet-sampling,” to show where the Black sonnet has been, where it is, and where it is going as it comes to depict Black aesthetics. Using sonnet-sampling to discuss formally innovative sonnets between twentieth and twenty-first-century poets Claude McKay, Gwendolyn Brooks, Audre Lorde, and Jericho Brown, this study proposes sonnet-sampling as a framework that disengages with previously held beliefs about the sonnet and Black aesthetics, connecting past, present, and future literary innovations to challenge conversations on what African American poetry is, can, and should be.

Research Data and Supplementary Material