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.

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