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Jazz InternationalismLiterary Afro-Modernism and the Cultural Politics of Black Music$
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John Lowney

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780252041334

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252041334.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM ILLINOIS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.illinois.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Illinois University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ISO for personal use.date: 23 September 2021

“Cultural Exchange”

“Cultural Exchange”

Cold War Jazz and the Political Aesthetics of Langston Hughes’s Long Poems

(p.111) 4 “Cultural Exchange”
Jazz Internationalism

John Lowney

University of Illinois Press

This chapter explains the political aesthetics of Langston Hughes’s adaptation of bebop and post-bop jazz in his long poems, particularly his most experimental blend of jazz and poetry, Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz (1961). Ask Your Mama dramatizes the interaction of African diasporic cultures in the Americas and in Africa, with its evocation of Afro-Caribbean as well as African American music and its movement between different sites of black revolutionary struggle. In this context, jazz plays an explicitly political role in expressing the revolutionary desire for black liberation in the U.S., Africa, and the Caribbean.Ask Your Mama is also Hughes’s most experimental blend of jazz and poetry. Through its formal and specifically sonic patterns of defamiliarization, Ask Your Mama unsettles conceptualizations of “culture”—and cultural production—that assume hierarchical oppositions of white and black, European and African, American and African American, modernist and popular, and written and vernacular.

Keywords:   Hughes, Langston, jazz poetry, Ask Your Mama, bebop, African diaspora, Africa, Caribbean, black liberation

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