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What Makes Jazz Literature

Oct 8, 2019 at Literature Essays

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Summary

The current paper presents a discussion of the jazz literature phenomenon, the role of narrative, and the place of a female representative in the society in the context of the era of American Dream.

The literature of the Jazz Age is a miscellaneous and multidimensional cultural phenomenon that represents the experience of the Afro-Americans in the United States. It highlights the key aspects of struggle, resistance, particular strength, and triumph that have led to gradual formation of the identity of Afro-Americans by means of narrative presentation. The narrative is comprehended as a sequence of events, which provoke strong emotional reaction. The paper aims at discussing a crucial aspect of jazz literature, namely personal narrative and its significance for the overall understanding and perception of the jazz phenomenon both in music and literature.

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There are three levels for analyzing the corresponding issue. The first one deals with the identification of the purpose and actual function of the aspect of narrative in jazz literature. The course of discussion leads to the following conclusion: there is a direct interdependence between life and jazz music displayed in the scope of literature. In other words, the content of jazz narrative as well as its emotional core relies on real events and historical background, and, at the same time, jazz impacts, molds and alters to certain extent the lives of people, which are dedicated to this direction in music. The second level distinguishes the essence of jazz literature narrative that is not about jazz, but is jazz itself. The third level provides in-depth insight into the gender issue in the context of the American Dream, inequality between sexes and discrimination of the females, especially Afro-American ones.

Thus, the phenomenon of jazz literature is a multidimensional cultural development that aims at representing the Afro-American experience and the existing struggle within the U.S. society and particular alignment with it. Moreover, the narrative contributes to the overall understanding of the jazz phenomenon both in music and literature.

What Makes Jazz Literature – Jazz Literature?

Jazz literature is a miscellaneous and multidimensional cultural phenomenon that represents the experience of the Afro-Americans in the United States. The jazz narratives are powerful and vivid embodiments of struggle, resistance, particular strength, and triumph that have led to gradual formation of the identity of Afro-Americans. The narrative is comprehended as a sequence of events which provoke strong emotional reaction. The present paper aims to discuss a crucial aspect of jazz literature, namely personal narrative and its significance for the overall understanding and perception of jazz phenomenon both in music and literature.

Discussion

According to Iyer, “George Lewis furnishes a provocative description of African American improvised music as the encoded exchange of personal narratives” (393). The notion of narrative consists of the account of events and forms a plot of an individual story that is conveyed via jazz literature. It is significant to highlight the fact that the jazz part is always closely connected with the course of storytelling. Actually, it is virtuously interwoven with the plot line and forms a story of life expressed through the prism of the music phenomenon. For example, in the work Treat It Gentle, Bechet aligns not only jazz domain and the storytelling process, but also historical perspective with the memories and reminiscences (Grandt). In such a way, the past and the present, the art and the life are connected, interlinked and unified into one multidimensional picture. Bechet reveals the stories of lives of different people, on the one hand, in order to explain the essence of jazz in general as a popular cultural direction. On the other hand, he aims at illustrating its impact on the life of the modern people as well as their potential alterations and transformations in the context of the music influence. Therefore, it is appropriate to conclude that there has been observed a direct interdependence between life and jazz music displayed in the scope of literature. In other words, the content of jazz narrative as well as its emotional core relies on real events and historical background, and, at the same time, jazz impacts, molds, and alters to certain extent the lives of people, which are dedicated to this direction in music.

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Grandt also underlines the profound perspective of understanding the jazz part in literature. The researcher suggests that it is relevant to investigate and analyze

… not how African American authors write about jazz, but how African American narratives are jazz – in other words, how they attempt to wrest beautiful art from the terrors of American history, to improvise a meaningful narrative of freedom over the dissonant sound clusters of the American experience (Grandt xiii).

Moreover, the aspect of jazz aesthetic is also an essential factor for consideration in the given context of discussion. It challenges the culture and its role in the human life in order to conclude an actual level of jazz significance and constructiveness. The jazz narrative does not embrace the traditional linear form that is created in the process of storytelling, but is conveyed “through a holistic musical personality or attitude” (Iyer 401). The aforementioned attitude is represented by the skillful improvisations and individualistic approach to jazz phenomenon. Nonetheless, the representation is not only traditionally musical, but also extra musical, implying that it may be conveyed by means of particular symbols which tend to indicate certain comportment in the scope of culture, social or physical nature.

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Jazz literature is a phenomenon that should be comprehended in close relation to the gender question. Providing the stance about jazz being regarding the American Dream in a form of dialogue, it is important to identify a woman’s role in jazz literature. The issue of gender has a straight linkage to the identity notion and its actual development concerning jazz literature.

The establishment of self-identity regarding jazz literature is predetermined crucially by the gender notion. The gender is based on sexual objectification of the female representatives by the male ones. Such a tendency positions women as objects of sexual desire and lust demonstrated by the males, which should be perceived as a natural order of things. Moreover, Theriault also highlights the significance of the impact on self-establishment provided by the social insistence and pressure. The society that is contemporary to jazz literature instills the stereotypes of the female behavior, place and role in the social, cultural, economic and other scopes of life. Women are expected to correspond to these stereotypes. For example, one of the most vivid and meaningful examples in the current context is excessive inequality between males and females referring to career development, personality expression, and social realization. Therefore, women could not enjoy prerogatives and perspectives of the American Dream since they were bound to the norms, prejudices, and roles which were imposed by strict social morale and public opinion.

 

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Furthermore, the status of the Afro-American women was even more limited in opportunities and potential for improvement. These women were regarded as a lower cast of the society with no freedoms and decreased amount of rights. Theriault demonstrates a vivid example of the status of black women at that time based on the work by Shange that is revealed in the context of denomination of seven characters of the story. They were referred to as the ladies, without distinguishing their names. Actually, the key criterion for such distinction was the color of their clothes. Such an approach incorporates irony and metaphoric description of the actual status of the Afro-American cast. The course of their self-establishment is painful, restricted by the stereotypes and imposed prejudices, limited by the social norms, gender inequalities and racial discrimination. Actually, Theriault regards the incorporation of reference to the black women as ladies a particular allusion to “... the characters defiance of discernment. This irony plays out in the performance as each woman overcomes her subjugated role as society’s lower class. Ultimately, the use of the word “lady” lends itself to Shange’s artful disposition to resist conformity.” The narrative illustrates not only personal experience of the Afro-American female representatives in the text, but also attitudes of different social strata, obstacles and drawbacks of personal as well as professional realization and development. Moreover, the phenomenon of jazz literature apparently does not only aims at representing the hardness and miscellaneous nature of the Jazz Age and life of the black race, but also to align original culture of the UAS with the culture of Afro-Americans, and provide a background for consideration about the U.S. society as a multicultural one (Theriault). Narratives serve the purpose of the efficient instrument while understanding the concept of jazz literature in the context of American culture, gender inequality, and the notion of American Dream.

Conclusion

Thus, the phenomenon of jazz literature is a multidimensional cultural development that aims at representing the Afro-American experience and struggle within the U.S. society and particular alignment with it. The notion of narrative is a powerful and vivid embodiment of the struggle, resistance, particular strength, and triumph leading to the establishment of the identity of the aforementioned strata. The narrative contributes to the overall understanding of jazz phenomenon both in music and literature.

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