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Publication: Jazz vs the Jazz Age

The editor Mark Whalan did herculean work pulling together this all-new volume on the History of American Modernism. It features a truly all-star cast of contributors and I couldn't be more honored to have my chapter on jazz included.


The Jazz Age.” The Cambridge History of American Modernism, edited by Mark Whalan, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2023, pp. 222–236. The Cambridge History of American Literature. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108774437.


Abstract: Jazz is a music that did not merely inspire works of literature; in many cases it aspired toward the literary. Drawing from Ralph Ellison’s impulse to praise the jazz rhythms of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (1922) as containing a “range of allusion [that] was as mixed and varied as that of Louis Armstrong,” this chapter offers an overview of the aesthetic, thematic, and political motivations of jazz and modernist literature from blues and ragtime to the emergence of bebop. In exploring jazz as one of the “forms” of American modernism, I attend to the experimental formal variations in the poetry and prose of a wide range of authors, including Sterling Brown, T. S. Eliot, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Claude McKay, Jean Toomer, William Carlos Williams, and others, but also to the radical form of the blues by Louis Armstrong, W. C. Handy, and Bessie Smith.



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