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Reviewed by:
  • Jazz in German-Language Literature ed. by Kirsten Krick-Aigner and Marc-Oliver Schuster
  • Susan Hohl
Kirsten Krick-Aigner and Marc-Oliver Schuster, eds., Jazz in German-Language Literature. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2013. 358 pp.

This critical compilation, the first of its kind, attempts both to trace and to contextualize the influence of North American jazz on German, Austrian, and Swiss literature from the mid- 1920s to the present day. As its editors point out, despite active European scholarship in this area, bibliographies that deal with European literature across national and linguisitic boundaries still tend to neglect literature in German. Critical interest with respect to jazz and German-language literature dates from the 1990s, and both the amount and quality of available primary material is substantial. Jazz in German-Language [End Page 129] Literature wisely eschews any attempt to represent jazz-related scholarship exhaustively; its purpose instead is to draw attention to this growing field and to promote further interest and research.

The editors’ introduction gives the reader an immediate sense of the topography through a survey of primary and secondary literature, ending with a summary of the collection’s sixteen well-researched articles. These are arranged chronologically, beginning with the literature and jazz of the Weimar period, and grouped thematically and by genre in a way that underscores the dialogue between and among essays while highlighting many of the individual insights within the volume. The contributors to Jazz in German-Language Literature represent diverse national, cultural, disciplinary, and professional backgrounds. The compilation is intended chiefly for scholars of literature, but those working across disciplines, as well as students and more general scholars, will also benefit from the breadth of material set forth and will be further aided by the inclusion of English translations for all German quotations referenced in the text.

The collection opens with a necessary musical-historical overview by Ralf Dombrowski, followed by four essays concerning jazz in the Weimar period. Eileen Simonow and Jürgen E. Grandt’s articles form a dialogue about the role of jazz in literary portrayals of modernity, with its attendant shifts in perception concerning race, class, and gender, especially in Hans Janowitz’s Jazz and René Schickele’s Symphonie für Jazz. Cornelius Partsch joins the discussion by tracing these themes further in the novels of Claire Goll, Vicki Baum, and Bruno Frank. Jazz’s ambivalent association with drug addiction in the Weimar Republic is analyzed by Pascale Cohen-Avenel. Heinz Steinert (who sadly died when this volume was in its final stages) and Markus Kreuzwieser each consider a central cultural figure’s problematic relationship to jazz, Theodor W. Adorno and Hermann Hesse respectively. Jazz criticism in the 1950s is the lens through which Frank Getzuhn and Harald Justin explore the theme of authenticity. Jazz’s influence on German poetry from the 1950s onward, particularly the phenomenon jazz&poetry, is the subject of Thomas Wörtliche’s thought-provoking essay, which is also the only contribution to include a discussion of literature from the former German Democratic Republic. Helmut Neundlinger’s article about jazz in the work of Ernest Jandl is likewise the lone representation of Austrian literature in the compilation—a topic we shall revisit presently. Hans Burkhard Schlichting’s lively discussion of Ror Wolf’s radio plays is the volume’s only contribution concerning drama. [End Page 130] Editor Marc-Oliver Schuster and Andrew W. Hurley each take up the issue of gender and race in the context of jazz and contemporary literature, as presented in LaVons Lied by Katja Henkel (in Schuster’s article) and in the novels of Thomas Meineke (in Hurley’s essay). Bettina Spoerri’s survey of jazz in Swiss-German literature between 1995 and 2009 is another “singleton,” the sole representative of Swiss-German literature in the collection. Jazz in German-Language Literature concludes with a flourish in what is arguably its most interesting offering, namely jazz musician, writer, and scholar Stephan Richter’s personal account of the fascinating collaborative process of jazz&poetry.

As the first collection of critical literature on the subject, it is not surprising that the central editorial challenge presented by Jazz in German-Language Literature...


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pp. 129-132
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