Fall 2023 Undergraduate English Courses

358:378 Black Music and Literature

01   CAC   MTH1   08188   ALONGE   MU-204

This course explores the long historical cross-pollination between the Black musical and literary traditions from the late 19th century through the early 21st century. In our readings and listening, we will attempt to "creak" literary and musical genres, to borrow language from the poet Nathaniel Mackey, as a means to blur and traverse the imposed boundaries we often put on these modes of expression to experience further the "expressive possibilities these" Black artistic practices "afford." We will analyze musical influences on the thematic and formal elements of literature; at the same time, we will examine the use of literary ideas and points of reference as they are incorporated within different black musical forms—whether it be spoken word recitations or musician's poetic liner notes. Exploring the Black sonic continuum from Negro Spirituals, the Blues, Jazz, R&B, techno, hip-hop, and so much more, our course will force us to wrangle with questions, such as "What is a literary soundscape and what specific qualities allow us to identify a soundscape to the Black experience?" with both formal and creative written responses. 

Possible Readings: W.E.B. Dubois's "Of the Sorrow Songs," Leroi Jones's (Amiri Baraka) Blues People & Black Music, Langston Hughes Ask Your Mama, Ntozake Shange for Colored Girls, Gayl Jones's Corregidora, Thulani Davis – nothing but the music and several scanned copies of liner notes from record sleeves; such as Cecil Taylor's Unit Structures, Oliver Lakes's NTU: Point From Which Creation Begins and Jeanne Lee's Nub