Book

The Shadow and the Act

Walton M. Muyumba

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780226554235
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226554259 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226554259.001.0001
The Shadow and the Act

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Though often thought of as rivals, Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, and Amiri Baraka shared a range of interests, especially a passion for music. Jazz, in particular, was a decisive influence on their thinking, and, as this book reveals, they drew on their insights into the creative process of improvisation to analyze race and politics in the civil rights era. In this inspired study, the author situates them as a jazz trio, demonstrating how Ellison, Baraka, and Baldwin's individual works form a series of calls and responses with each other. He connects their writings on jazz to the philosophical tradition of pragmatism, particularly its support for more freedom for individuals and more democratic societies. He also examines the way they responded to and elaborated on that lineage, showing how they significantly broadened it by addressing the African American experience, especially its aesthetics. Ultimately, the author contends, the trio enacted pragmatist principles by effectively communicating the social and political benefits of African Americans fully entering society, thereby compelling America to move closer to its democratic ideals.

Keywords: Ralph Ellison; James Baldwin; Amiri Baraka; jazz; improvisation; race; politics; civil rights; pragmatism; African Americans

Book.  228 pages. 

Subjects: Ethnomusicology

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Table of Contents

Black Is, Black Ain't in The Shadow and the Act

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Cutting Session in The Shadow and the Act

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