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Withdrawn Module: Race, Class and Jazz (HI929)

Please note that this module was available
until 2013, but has since been
withdrawn and is no longer available.

Context of Module

This module may be taken by students on the MA in History, the MA in Modern History, the MA in the History of Race in the Americas, or any taught Master's student outside the History Department.


Module Aims

This is a one term module, offering the opportunity to explore the historical significance of what has sometimes been described as 'America's classical music.' Students will study the development and diversity of Jazz music, and its relationship to the wider patterns of social and culture change in C20th America. Particular attention will be paid to the debate over racial 'ownership' of music, white appropriation and interaction within the Jazz subculture, and the wider consideration of minority artists operating within a white-dominated capitalist industry. The module will conclude with an analysis of the different representations of Jazz in contemporary America, and their connection with concepts of 'authenticity', 'nostalgia', and racial stereotyping. This analysis will involve the use and evaluation of a range of sources, including the music itself, alongside primary materials (memoirs, oral history, contemporary accounts, letters), and secondary works, as well as literary sources, and film.


Intended Learning Outcomes
  • An appreciation of the significance of music, and musical subcultures, as a legitimate, and important area of historical research.
  • A capacity to handle cultural evidence, including listening to music, and relate this to more conventional historical sources.
  • The opportunity, through the independent preparation and writing of 5,000 word essays, to choose and frame a topic worthy of analysis in the light of the advanced literature in the relevant area of study; to construct your own bibliographies from books, articles and websites; to gather evidence and use it to shape a cogent and coherent extended analytical discussion; and where appropriate to deploy evidence from primary sources.
  • An understanding why 'it don't mean a thing (if it aint got that swing)'
Outline Syllabus

Seminar 1: From slave songs to the Blues

Seminar 2: From New Orleans to Swing

Seminar 3: Modern Jazz and beyond

Seminar 4: The working life of a Jazz musician

Seminar 5: Jazz as Black music

Seminar 6: White musicians and Jazz

Seminar 7: Gender and Jazz

Seminar 8: Representations of Jazz


Illustrative Bibliography

James Lincoln Collier, Jazz: The American Theme Song (1993)

Miles Davis, Miles: The Autobiography (1989)

Krin Gabbard (ed.), Representing Jazz (1995)

Ted Gioia, West Coast Jazz: Modern Jazz In California, 1945-60 (1992)

Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka), Blues People (1963)

William H. Kenney, Chicago Jazz: A Cultural History (1993)

Frank Kofsky, Black Nationalism and the Revolution in Music (1970)

Frank Kofsky, Black Music, White Business: Illuminating the Political Economy of Jazz (1998)

Gene Lees, Cats of any Color (1994)

Lawrence Levine, Black Culture and Black Consciousness (1977)

Francis Newton (Eric Hobsbawm), The Jazz Scene (1959)

Art and Laurie Pepper, Straight Life ! The Story of Art Pepper (1979)

David H. Rosenthal, Hard Bop: Jazz and Black music, 1955-65 (1992)

Ben Sidran, Black Talk (1981)

Marshall W. Stearns, The Story of Jazz (1956)



1 assessed essay of 5,000 words: the course is taught in weekly 2-hour seminars