Eng 2: Music and Literature
English 2 has two goals: first, to introduce students to the pleasures, issues, and formal strategies of literature and, second, to continue the work begun in English 1 on strengthening students' ability to use language both expressively and analytically. Reading will be drawn from a range of genres, periods, and traditions.
Literature and Music will explore the multiple ways that writing from many areas of study and experience use to encounter and interpret popular music. We'll be focused in our reading, and listening, primarily on the rich array of African American traditions (jazz, blues, gospel, rhythm & blues, soul, funk, hiphop, etc.) that in the past century permeated popular music in the U.S. and across the world. Readings will range widely: novels and short stories (James Baldwin's classic story on the powers of music, "Sonny's Blues"; Michael Ondaatje's novel Coming Through Slaughter, on the legendary Buddy Bolden and the "birth of jazz" in New Orleans); poetry, that encounters the music with its own improvisations (e.g., Frank O'Hara's "The Day Lady Died"), alongside works of historical interpretation (e.g., Angela Davis's Blues Legacies and Black Feminism, exploring Billie Holiday and others as Black women artists and figures of resistance); readings of U.S. history via sacred music (Bernice Johnson Reagon's compact If You Don't Go, Don't Hinder Me) or via the late 20th and 21st century interventions of hip hop culture (local music writer Jeff Chang; or "blues geographer" Clyde Woods); readings of mythic figures and encounters (Aretha Franklin at the 2008 Obama inauguration, via gospel historian Anthony Heilbut; or poet Tony Tost reading the myth of Johnny Cash via his American Recordings); and autobiography as U.S. history (Gil Scott-Heron's The Last Holiday). Regular student writing will be based in our reading, listening, and the conversation that takes place between us and our sources.