047. Riffing and Sampling: Blues, Jazz, and Hip Hop and American Literature

E. Rutter (English)
Full Course -- 4 Credits
Fall Semester FYSP 047-01  MWF 11:00-11:50

What can a study of blues, jazz, and hip hop and their representations in literature tell us about divisions between “traditional” and “experimental” artistic expression; “mainstream” and “marginal” cultures; and “art” versus “commerce”? How do writers formally render musical tropes on the printed page, and what are the thematic and/or sociopolitical implications of these cross-disciplinary renderings? Moreover, how are musical performances and music-inspired texts reflective and generative of evolving discourses of race, gender, and class over the last century? In order to answer these questions, we will listen to early jazz and blues recordings alongside poems produced by Anglo American modernists and New Negro Renaissance writers. Moving forward, we will turn to the bebop and free jazz era and examine the literature of the Beats and the John Coltrane-inspired poems penned by Black Arts Movement proponents. As we enter the hip-hop era, we will explore the staccato rhythms in contemporary poetry as well as representations of hip-hop culture in what has been termed “urban fiction.” Throughout the semester, we will take advantage of Oberlin’s vast musical resources, such as the recordings within the James R. and Susan Neumann Jazz Collection