Themes in Literature: Music in the American Literary Imagination

English 1160
Music in the American Literary Imagination
Section 3
J. D. Smith

Music has long held a special position in literature, as both subject matter and artistic model, but what has it come to mean to the literary imagination in America, homeland of blues, jazz, rock ‘n roll, hip hop, and other forms that defined popular music culture in the 20th century? How have writers adopted musical techniques and the language to advance or complicate literary ideas? In this course, we will explore a range of musical and literary correspondences in works of poetry, short fiction, the novel, and drama, beginning with the presence of folk music in American literature around the Civil War and building to the recent influence of rap and hip hop on contemporary American writers like Patrick Rosal, Terrance Hayes, Tracy K. Smith, and Kevin Young.