A multidisciplinary exploration of the ways that African American “hot” music emerged into the American cultural mainstream in the nineteenth century and ultimately dominated both American music and literature from 1920 to 1929
Exploring the deep and enduring relationship between music and literature, Hot Music, Ragmentation, and the Bluing of American Literature examines the diverse ways in which African American “hot” music influenced American culture—particularly literature—in early twentieth century America. Steven C. Tracy provides a history of the fusion of African and European elements that formed African American “hot” music, and considers how terms like ragtime, jazz, and blues developed their own particular meanings for American music and society. He draws from the fields of literature, literary criticism, cultural anthropology, American studies, and folklore to demonstrate how blues as a musical and poetic form has been a critical influence on American literature.
Hot Music, Ragmentation, and the Bluing of American Literature begins by highlighting instances in which American writers, including Herman Melville, Stephen Crane, and Gertrude Stein, use African American culture and music in their work, and then characterizes the social context of the Jazz Age, discussing how African American music reflected the wild abandon of the time. Tracy focuses on how a variety of schools of early twentieth century writers, from modernists to members of the Harlem Renaissance to dramatists and more, used their connections with “hot” music to give their own work meaning.
Tracy’s extensive and detailed understanding of how African American “hot” music operates has produced a fresh and original perspective on its influence on mainstream American literature and culture. An experienced blues musician himself, Tracy draws on his performance background to offer an added dimension to his analysis. Where another blues scholar might only analyze blues language, Tracy shows how the language is actually performed.
Hot Music, Ragmentation, and the Bluing of American Literature is the first book to offer such a refreshingly broad interdisciplinary vision of the influence of African American “hot” music on American literature. It is an essential addition to the library of serious scholars of American and African American literature and culture and blues aficionados alike.