Year of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Campus Access Only

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

English (Literature)

Department or School/College

Department of English

Committee Chair

Eric Reimer

Commitee Members

Ashby Kinch, James Randall


African diaspora, afro-cuban jazz, bebop, black atlantic, coming through slaughter, cubop, dizzy gillespie, global jazz, hybridity, invisible man, jackie kay, jazz, jazz literature, jazz novel, paul gilroy, ralph ellison, sonny's blues, transcluturation


University of Montana


In this study, I examine the "jazz novel" from a global perspective, following recent trends in musicology which attempt to restore the international gaps in the canonical "American" jazz historical narrative. I introduce the essays by providing some contextual, historical, and theoretical framework for breaking the "sound barrier" – comparing visual literature with aural music – as well as establishing the value of music in maintaining a transnational community within the African diaspora. In the first chapter, I argue that Ralph Ellison incorporates the transnational fusion of Afro-Cuban jazz both thematically and structurally in his landmark novel Invisible Man. By integrating the Cuban rhythms of the rumba beneath the jazz aesthetic in the text, Ellison formally mirrors Afro-Cuban jazz, precipitating later transnational and international jazz novels. In the second chapter, I examine the transculturation of Scottish folk music and "American" jazz in Jackie Kay‘s novel Trumpet. I claim that Kay finds a model for her protagonist, Joss Moody, in African American jazz trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie and an aesthetic corollary for a "more fluid" conception of identity in the subgenre he helped establish – bebop. In the reciprocal of my reading of Invisible Man, I argue that Kay combines "American" bebop rhythms beneath a uniquely Scottish voice, moving the setting and characters beyond the United States and more fully demonstrating the global influence and significance of jazz. In addition to the transnational dimension of my argument, I maintain that both novels join other jazz texts in subverting the boundary between author/narrator and reader, proposing a more egalitarian antiphonic relationship between composer, performer, and audience while placing the ultimate agency on the response of the latter. Building on these examples, I conclude that jazz serves as both an ethical and aesthetic model for a less rigid perception of identity and more flexible interaction in an increasingly interconnected, pluralistic global community.

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