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

Fall 2009

E 379S • Black Literature, Black Bodies, and Women in Jazz

Unique Days Time Location Instructor

Jones, M

Course Description

Please refer to the course schedule for course days, time, room location, prerequisites and possible cross-listings:

This senior seminar will consider how African-American authors influenced by jazz--and to a lesser extent, blues--music address race, gender, sexuality and the body in their work. The seminar readings cohere around twentieth century African American poetry, prose fiction, and nonfiction prose written primarily after WWII. We will also necessarily listen to and view music performances and documentary films. The course will pose and respond to the following queries: What roles have women vocalists (singers) and instrumentalists (pianists, trumpeters, drummers) played in the construction of the jazz (literary) tradition? How has the persistent portrayal of black male instrumentalists as the authentic bearers of the jazz canon and its history motivated particular modes of expression in jazz literature? What challenges have writers presented to the conventional conflating of instrumental mastery with masculine authority? How does jazz-influenced performance enable readers and listeners to consider racial, gender and sexual identity both within and as performance in contemporary literature? In investigating how some writers jazz poetry while others poeticize jazz, we will focus major themes and forms in black expressive literature and culture, including, the subgenre of poems written about John Coltrane and/or Billie Holliday, the trope of the canary, or caged bird, in African-American poetry, prose and song lyrics, the gendered and sexualized representation of musical instruments' shape and sound, the contestation over the female body as an instrument of agency and expression within blues and jazz traditions, and the embodiment of jazz more generally. Our close reading of literature and close listening to music will seek to comprehend the different dimensions of jazz as visual and verbal performance, as instrumental and vocal music, as symbol and structure, and as organizing trope. We will also seek to understand theories of race, gender, sexuality and the body that elucidate performance as an issue of identity, process, politics and aesthetics.

Grading Policy

Active Class Participation 20%; Writer's Self-Reflection Essay; Paper research proposal and revision (2-3 page) 20%; Annotated Bibliography (page length varies) 20%?; Final research paper presentation (includes writing) 20%?; Final research paper and revision (10-12 page) 20%


Toni Morrison, Jazz; Ntozake Shange, Sassafrass, Cypress, & Indigo; Natasha Trethewey, Bellocq's Ophelia; Langston Hughes, The Big Sea and Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz; Farah Jasmine Griffin, If You Can’t Be Free, Be A Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday; Michael Harper, Dear John, Dear Coltrane; John Edgwar Wideman, Sent for You Yesterday; and Course Reader.


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