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Literature of Jazz

ENGL 569.401
instructor(s):
T 12-3

For reasons that have historical, cultural, and artistic significance, jazz music in the United States is a site of perpetual contestation and negotiation. The jazz musician in particular has come to serve a unique purpose in the American cultural lexicon as shaman, inventor, diplomat, scientist, trickster, and seer. In this seminar, we will examine the literature of jazz, ranging from works that construct jazz, first as the sign of cultural collapse and later as the site of authenticated American cultural identity. We will move into autobiography, poetry, and prose fiction and thus work toward an understanding of how representations of jazz music and the jazz musician are always foregrounded by the discursive practices that arise from the intersection of race, gender, and class. Authors to be studied in the course will include Michael S. Harper, Nathaniel Mackey, Gayl Jones, Charlie Mingus, Ralph Ellison, and Albert Murray. We will also do a fair amount of listening to jazz, hence the course will utilize the music of figures like Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, and Thelonius Monk.