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Jazz: Style and History, Jazz Is a Woman

ENGL 080.401
fulfills requirements:
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

Women have been involved with jazz since its inception, but all too often their contribution to jazz history is less canonized or trumpeted as those of their male counterparts.  Casting jazz women as integral to the experimental and democratic ethos of jazz culture, this course explores the terrain opened up by listening and critically reading about gender in jazz and looking at jazz women as singers, instrumentalists, and composers, as well as icons and protagonists within African American literature and film.  Through lectures, selected readings, listening projects, guest presentations, and examinations, the student will understand jazz as a dynamic musical genre that has captivated the literary and cultural imagination of non-musical artists for more than a century. We will consider musicians as wide-ranging as Sarah Vaughn, Nina Simone, Esperanza Spalding, and the all-woman jazz bands of the 1940s to artistic interpretations of the jazz singer in Ann Petry?s novel ?The Street? (1947) and Amiri Baraka?s Billie Holiday poems, and the films, ?Stormy Weather? (1943) and ?Cadillac Blues? (2008).  By blending literary analysis with the history of jazz studies, our course will emphasize how women uniquely shaped the production, reception, and criticism of jazz culture.