Monthly Archives: January 2016

Jazz as Narrative Structure

As I mentioned last week, I am enrolled in a graduate level English course. The course is Contemporary American Literature and the topic is Temporal Play. Last week we read How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. I had read the book in the past, but the temporal play–a reverse chronology–had not stuck with me. The novel–its plot, its reverse chronology, its place in the canon of immigration literature–has resonated with me to the point that I want to use it in my curriculum in the future. For the time being, I plan to assign the two excerpts that are in our textbooks to my juniors, but I will teach those as immigration literature, a concept that I have not included in the past.

This week’s novel is Jazz by Toni Morrison. I am a little embarrassed to state that I have never read a novel by Morrison. In fact, last year was the first time that I had read or taught any work by her (it was her only published short story “Recitatif”). I own a copy of Beloved but have not been able to bring myself to read it due to the graphic depiction of rape and/or violence.

I am thrilled to say that I love Jazz. Again, like the Garcia Girls, the temporal play is a delight to participate in as a reader. I found the content of Jazz to be very appropriate for my high school juniors and seniors, but I’m not sure that they would have the wherewithal or the stamina to stick with it until the end. Maybe honors or dual credit. Maybe. However, I have taken great pride in this week’s blog for the class. The title Jazz does not have a direct impact on the plot. I wrote my post about how the musical qualities of jazz are Morrison’s structure for narrative. I probably would not have come to that conclusion so readily if I wasn’t already familiar with “Recitatif” both as a musical term and as a narrative structure for the story.

If you would like to read my blog post, please go to Writing (about) Time: Thoughts Concerning Temporal Play in Contemporary Narratives and look for my post titled “Jazz as Narrative Structure.” While you’re there, feel free to read the posts by my classmates and leave us any comments.

Writing (about) Time: Thoughts Concerning Temporal Play in Contemporary Narratives

I am currently participating in a graduate course ENG5010 Contemporary American Literature at Eastern Illinois University. I earned my MA in English in 2001, but living in a university town has allowed me to make numerous connections, especially within the English education department. I have earned enough credits over the past years to top out on the school district pay scale. I now take courses of personal interest, such as last semester’s book review course, or courses that will benefit my teaching. This current class meets both criteria. I love multiple point of view and/or multiple timeline narratives and some of the novels would be wonderful additions to the curriculum.

Part of classroom participation is to write academic posts to share through our class Blogger site. I have included links to both the homepage and to my post for the week. This week’s novel was How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. As I noted in my introduction, I had read the novel years ago, but I did not remember that it was told in a reverse chronological order with flashbacks sprinkled throughout.

My contention is that readers will miss the important clues about the girls language and identity if the novel is read quickly without attention to detail or if it is simply read once. To understand why and how the girls are the women that they are in 1989, the reader needs to reflect by reordering the chronology.

Please feel free to link to our ENG5010 blog to read my post or any of my classmates’ and feel free to share your thoughts. (Just an FYI, as academic posts, these are longer than many typical informal blog posts.)

Home page:

My post: