Variations on a theme : the role of music in Toni Morrison´s Jazz
African American music and contemporary African American literature are connected both thematically and structurally. This thesis examines the various ways in which Toni Morrison draws on the cultural traditions of her ancestors, especially blues and jazz music, in creating her sixth novel, Jazz. My analysis includes the important contexts of the history and culture of black Americans from slavery and to the present. Slaves brought with them their traditions and music, out of which musical forms including blues and jazz has have emerged. Also, black folklore is embedded in the slave narratives and it survives and is transformed in contemporary African American fiction, such as Toni Morrison’s. Jazz overflows with black history, culture, and traditions. This is especially apparent in her use of African American music, which is at the core of characterization, dialogue, structure, imagery and the themes of the novel. The first two chapters address theoretical issues. The thesis examines for example what a number of critics have written about repetition and improvisation in an African American cultural context, as well as the African American women’s struggle for voice and recognition, and how cultural tradition has played an important part in this process. The second chapter focuses on how African Americans have transformed culture to meet their changing needs throughout history, and how both culture and people have survived as a result. My particular focus is on black women and their artistic expression. Chapter three analyses the characters, narrator and intended reader, and their conscious or unconscious relationship to music in Jazz. The fourth chapter explores ways in which Morrison uses musical principles of jazz to structure the novel.
ForlagUniversitetet i Tromsø
University of Tromsø
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