Playing the changes : from Afro-modernism to the jazz impulse /

In Playing the Changes, Craig Hansen Werner presents a polyrhythmic approach to the continuities and discontinuities of the American literary tradition. He focuses on the relationship between two superficially distinct traditions: European (post)modernism and African American culture in both literar...

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Main Author: Werner, Craig Hansen, 1952-
Format: Book
Language:English
Published:Urbana : University of Illinois Press, ©1994.
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Review by Choice Review

This loosely structured volume of essays is itself a series of jazz improvisations. As the title indicates, Werner (Univ. of Wisconsin--Madison) is interested in articulating the spaces between--between musical movements, styles of expression, cultural practices. He attempts to play many of the changes that have occurred over the past century in an evolving relationship between European American and African American cultures. He does so by focusing on an eclectic mix of literary and musical texts, but his primary interest lies in how jazz, blues, and gospel music have comprised not so much musical forms as cultural practice. An organizing feature of this cultural practice is the call-and-response process that according to Werner describes most of African American artistic production. Some of the calls and responses he elucidates are those between black authors--e.g., Charles W. Chesnutt, Zora Neale Hurston, August Wilson, W.E.B. Dubois, Toni Morrison, Gwendolyn Brooks, and James Baldwin--but he also looks at black authors' responses to white authors such as William Faulkner and T.S. Eliot. Werner applies European American literary theory, notably that of Jacques Derrida, Roland Barthes, and Robert Stepto, even though he claims a certain hostility to the theoretical enterprise. The writing is often unnecessarily dense, but the effort is certainly worthy and the insights are fresh. Graduate students; faculty; researchers. J. Tharp; University of Wisconsin--Marshfield-Wood County

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

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