African American Literature: Jazz and Poetry

Compare and Contrast poetry from the Jazz Age (1920s Harlem Renaissance) vs. Poetry from Bepop age ( a style of jazz in the early to mid-40s)

Ideas/ Guidance

• You could do this with just the poetry of Langston Hughes, who wrote from the 1920s into the free jazz era. A good question to ask might be: what poets do you choose as representative of those connections?
• Compare and contrast papers have one major issue: it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that you still have to make an argument, and instead focus on comparison alone. But the point is to propose an argument rooted in comparison, if that makes sense. So not just say A is similar/different from B, but rather: Because A and B are similar/different in these ways, I can assert that…
• A few suggestions: if Hughes is the quintessential early jazz (and blues, of course), poet, for poets tied to b bop I would suggest Baraka’s generation: Jones/Baraka, Bob Kaufman, Ted Joans.
• Essential things to consider: demonstrate (for starters) how each poet is connected to each genre/period. Then consider how that shows in their work. An obvious element are their musical references, of course, but the paper should focus on form, experimentation, etc.
• A good study question might be: what differences/similarities do you see between their works? What do they suggest about the way the music influenced them in turn?
• obvious candidates for comparison: Hughes’ “Jazzonia” and Kaufman’s “Jazz Chick,” for example.

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