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"Can you feel it?" emotional resonance across jazz and literature

Robbins, Jacob (2012) "Can you feel it?" emotional resonance across jazz and literature. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This study explores the interpretive dissonance between two forms of Impressionist artistic expression in the twentieth century. Duke Ellington and Ernest Hemingway offer fruitful comparisons of the High Modernist short story and the short instrumental orchestral Jazz compositional forms respectively. The author offers a qualitative account of the direct threads of comparison between the forms, citing specific examples from each artist. Many questions arise that challenge fundamental aspects of critical convention. How are these conventions applied to an inter-disciplinary topic? What is fundamentally different about the process of appreciating music versus literature? How, when we consider each as performative texts, does the distortion of personal experience versus authorial intent confound authoritative claims about Impressionistic work? These comparisons draw direct parallels between the following examples: Ellington’s compositions, “Take the ‘A’ Train,” “The Star-Crossed Lovers,” and “Daybreak Express,” Hemingway’s short stories, “The Short and Happy Life of Francis Macomber,” “Big Two-Hearted River,” and “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place.” This is a broad, exploratory search for loci of meaning that investigate the critical discourse in different interpretive communities.
The methodology focuses on detailed readings of music and literature with an eye for threads of connection between the two forms. Historical background and philosophical justifications help substantiate claims throughout. The focus, at times, compares component
elements of composition and asks whether they can be held responsible for emotional response. This close reading then contrasts with broader attempts to justify emotional response through general affective reactions.
The conclusions suggest that a closer look at the interplay between forms does impact the reading of each text individually. The experience of reading the texts side-by-side connects thematic trends that would otherwise remain hidden. These two artists are shown to be prime examples of both aesthetic complexity and interpretive flexibility. This project fills a gap in the critical discourse that justly compares two prominent artists of the twentieth century that are rarely discussed in the same sentence.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairJudy, R.A.buchnfar@pitt.eduBUCHNFAR
Committee MemberLandy, Marciamlandy@pitt.eduMLANDY
Committee MemberRoot, Deane L.dlr@pitt.eduDLR
Committee MemberHarrison, Nelson
Date: 30 May 2012
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 9 April 2012
Approval Date: 30 May 2012
Submission Date: 17 April 2012
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 69
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > English
David C. Frederick Honors College
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Ellington, Hemingway, Impressionism, Jazz, Composition, Style, Emotion, Modernism
Date Deposited: 30 May 2012 19:39
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:57


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