Race, Music, and National Identity: Images of Jazz in American Fiction, 1920-1960

Race, Music, and National Identity: Images of Jazz in American Fiction, 1920-1960
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“Race, Music, and National Identity” is the first book-length study to examine closely the portrayal of jazz in American fiction during the most critical and dynamic years of the music’s development. The principal argument suggests that the discourse on jazz was informed largely by a broad range of anxieties endemic to the turbulent decades of the mid-twentieth century. As the United States faced a new crisis in either foreign or domestic policy, writers and intellectuals often used jazz as a forum to change both the public’s understanding of the musical tradition as well as the nation’s understanding of itself. In many ways, the rise of jazz from low to high art was a product of this discourse. The study relies on a close reading of several notable authors including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Langston Hughes, Eudora Welty, Ralph Ellison, and Jack Kerouac but also responds to a broad range of popular writers from the decade whose contribution to the discourse on jazz has been largely forgotten. This book provides an insightful glimpse into how the United States negotiates and ultimately understands its own cultural artifacts. Paul McCann is an English Professor at Del Mar College.

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