"Bringing me to where I am" : jazz autobiography in context
Jazz autobiography is an area largely unexplored in current academic discourse: a scattering of articles and chapters in textbooks on jazz or African-American autobiography is all we have. Yet jazz and the literature of jazz, whether fiction, biography or autobiography, play a crucial role in American twentieth-century culture. Historically, the roots of jazz and of African- American music-making and performance culture are vitally important to American studies. This thesis draws together text and music, jazz autobiography and jazz performance, to suggest the impossibility of reading one without the other. In doing so, it draws on almost four hundred years of musical history in the Americas, and on more than thirty autobiographies by American jazz musicians. The primary focus of the first two chapters is the history of jazz in North America. This is discussed from a socio-cultural perspective. Specific musical traits are considered in terms of the development of a distinctive musical persona, which might or might not then transmute onto the autobiographical self in jazz writing. The next three chapters consider this autobiographical self as found primarily in African-American jazz autobiography, and there is a focus here on African- American cultural and literary criticism. Following on from this, the thesis moves to its concluding chapter, a bringing together of jazz music and jazz text (both autobiographical and fictional) to finalise the place of jazz in American history, literature, music and culture.