Honors College Theses

Publication Date



English (B.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Joe Pellegrino


By tracing the motifs of domestic space, classical and popular music, and ballroom dancing within Rita Dove’s Thomas and Beulah, Grace Notes, Sonata Mulattica, and American Smooth, I assert that she both challenges and expands Black poetic culture by exploring topics previously considered outside of the purview of Black poets. This analysis allows me to demonstrate her ability as a poet to move beyond simplistic, derivative, and ultimately constraining cultural expectations. Dove uses these motifs to expand the critically and culturally-imposed constrictions of Black poetry.