Abstract

This essay derives from a book-length project surveying the surprising range of American writers who broached modernism's not-so-great divide during jazz's limited life as a popular national form, engaging it to sound out anxieties about nation, ethnicity, and the work of the artist in an age of mechanical reproduction. Modernists figured these changing cultural formations in terms of opportunity as well as constraint, and the essay is particularly concerned with the perceived potential of commercial jazz for reimagining the national community and its language. Samson Raphaelson, in "The Day of Atonement" (1921) and The Jazz Singer (1925), made jazz's ethnically accented "new notes" central to his account of an emerging transnational "Americanese." And it was the entertainment industry's make-it-obsolete aesthetic that enabled 1923's smash, "Yes! We Have No Bananas," to counter restrictionist rhetoric (and Waste Land-style pessimism) with an account of vaudeville Greek remaking America, and making this remaking "fun, you bet."

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Additional Information

ISSN
1080-6601
Print ISSN
1071-6068
Pages
pp. 239-268
Launched on MUSE
2003-05-16
Open Access
No
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