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Martin Kevorkian, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Spring 2006

E 395M • Gendering Jazz, Performing Poetics in 20th Century African-American Literature

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
34035 MW
5:00 PM-6:30 PM
GRG 424

Course Description

This graduate seminar coheres around twentieth century African American fiction, nonfiction prose and poetry. We will explore black expressive cultural practices of poetics in literature, particularly through the lens of jazz as visual and verbal performance, as instrumental and vocal music, as symbol and structure, and as organizing trope. We will examine the ways in which the intersections of gender, race, class and sexuality impact the jazz inflected writings of African-American authors in the second half of the century. This will include a consideration of the following queries: How does the persistent portrayal of black male instrumentalists as the authentic bearers of the jazz canon and its history motivate particular modes of expression in jazz literature? What role does the canary, the gendered trope of the caged bird play as a predominate theme in African-American letters and lyrics? How do what some have called the "modalities" of jazz-influenced performance enable readers and listeners to consider racial, gender and sexual identity both within and as performance in contemporary literature? Our seminar will also consider how various authors push the boundaries of the term, performance, in myriad theoretical and practical ways. These include a sense of performance and performativity in a theatrical connotation and a more everyday sense of intentional rehearsal. Thus, our course will explore how performance, as a multidimensional process, is a political and aesthetic issue in varied African-American author's work and will propose alternative methodologies for "close listening," "close reading" and "close viewing."

Grading Policy

Course requirements include critical reading/performance review essays, poem imitation and annotation, annotated bibliography, abstract, conference paper, and a seminar presentation.


Authors and works will likely include, but are not limited to Elizabeth Alexander, The Black Interior, Venus Hottentot, Amiri Baraka, Blues People, Jayne Cortez, Coagulations, Taking The Blues Back Home, Cecil Giscombe, Giscome Road, Farah Jasmine Griffin, If You Can't Be Free, Be A Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday , Michael Harper, Dear John, Dear Coltrane, Duriel Harris, Drag, Stephen Henderson, Understanding The New Black Poetry, Erica Hunt/Alison Saar, Arcade, Piece Logic, A Van Jordan, Rise, Nathaniel Mackey, Whatsaid Serif, Strick, Toni Morrison, Jazz, Harryette Mullen, Muse & Drudge, Albert Murray, Seven League Boots, and additional selected essays, recordings and films.


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