The Great American Songbooks: Musical Texts, Modernism, and the Value of Popular Culture

Hardcover | January 25, 2013

byT. Austin Graham

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The Great American Songbooks shows how popular music shapes and permeates a host of modernism's hallmark texts. Austin Graham begins his study of 20th-century texts with a discussion of American popular music and literature in the 19th century. He posits Walt Whitman as a proto-modernist whodrew on his love of opera to create the epic free-verse poetry that would heavily influence his bardic successors. One can witness this in T. S. Eliot, whose poem The Waste Land relies on Whitman's verse style to emphasize how 19th-century structures of feeling regarding music persist into the 20thcentury. From opera and standards of the Victorian musical hall, Graham moves to the blues to reveal the multifaceted ways it shaped works in the Harlem Renaissance, most notably in the verse of Langston Hughes and Jean Toomer's stream-of-consciousness masterpiece, Cane. The second half of Songbooks advances an argument for a musical eclecticism that arose alongside rapid industrialization. Writers like Scott Fitzgerald and John Dos Passos, Graham argues, developed a notion of musical eclecticism to help them process - or cope - with the unprecedented invasivenessof popular music, particularly in major cities. This eclecticism runs counter to critics like Adorno who equate popular music with mass produced mechanisms such as the phonograph and radio, and thus with degraded, cultural forms. In conclusion, Graham suggests how modernist writers experienced, andsometimes theorized, a more nuanced, sophisticated, and fluid mode of interaction with popular music.

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The Great American Songbooks shows how popular music shapes and permeates a host of modernism's hallmark texts. Austin Graham begins his study of 20th-century texts with a discussion of American popular music and literature in the 19th century. He posits Walt Whitman as a proto-modernist whodrew on his love of opera to create the epic ...

T. Austin Graham is Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:304 pages, 9.25 × 6.12 × 0.98 inPublished:January 25, 2013Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199862117

ISBN - 13:9780199862115

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgementsA Note on AudioSeries Editor's Foreword1. Musical Literature, Its Theory and PracticeWriting About MusicListening to BooksValuing Popular Culture2. Songs Not In Thy Songs: Musical Forms and American Free VerseLeaves of GrassEliot's Early Poetry and The Waste LandLinking Transcendentalism and Modernism3. The Literary Soundtrack: F. Scott Fitzgerald's Heard and Unheard MelodiesThe Side of ParadiseThe Beautiful and DamnedThe Great Gatsby4. Make Them Black and Bid Them Sing: Musical Poetics, Racial Transformation, and the Harlem RenaissanceCaneThe Weary Blues and Fine Clothes to the JewThe Legacy of the Harlem Renaissance5. "Got Over": The Chorus Girl Novel and the Musical StageSister CarrieManhattan TransferU.S.A. and Beyond6. The Bridge: Motifs in Contemporary Musical FictionBibliographyAudio GuideIndex