‘The whole thing was a sort of song’: Blues and Jazz in the Works of Gayl Jones
This project will explore jazz and the blues in the work of Gayl Jones, seeking to discern precisely how Jones translates or transcribes musical techniques into literary ones and renders her written texts distinctly oral. My central research enquiry is to decipher the aesthetic and political purposes Jones’ musical techniques serve. In answering this, I will explore the way in which they can facilitate psychological recovery from trauma, assert individual, national, and racial identity, and absorb and confront the enduring legacy of slavery in modern America. This study seeks to redress an imbalance by attending to the work of a much-neglected author and taking account of her entire oeuvre, including her later novels and poetry collections that have received startlingly little attention. In considering Jones’ musical techniques, this project will acknowledge and investigate Jones’ innovative and experimental formal skill that has been subsumed by critical attention, often hostile, to her work’s thematic content. Timely with the recent republication of some of Jones’ novels, the project hopes to amplify a significantly aural, but often over-looked voice.