Youtube: Kerouac on Steve Allen

++ Kerouac‘s note (p. 382)

What aspects of jazz Blues, Jazz, Bop, Language, Improvisation in general or Bebop in particular seem to interest Kerouac?

Bebop, Beats, Jack Kerouac

+ Hearing Kerouac

Gerald Nicosia, Kerouac as Musician- “Kerouac’s only album without actual musical accompaniment … [is] perhaps the best demonstration of the musicality of Kerouac’s art. To appreciate the genius that has gone into these readings, one should have Kerouac’s texts in fron tof him. Kerouac uses the actual printed text the way Charlie Parker would use the score of some old jazz classic, merely as a guide form which to improvise his own variations of tempo and mood and, at times, brand-new melodic flights. In Kerouac’s work, the difference between what eye records and ear hears givesa measure of how Kerouac was creating each piece afresh simply in the act of reading it aloud.”

+ Kerouac as Improviser – Even in Prose

Jack Kerouac wrote some twenty books, including novels, poetry, and memoir – not all published during his lifetime. He is most widely known as a novelist, and noted for One the Road. Though like many writers of the 1950s, he chafed at the restrictive notions of genre and form, he did lay out some aesthetic principles.

from “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose”:

“PROCEDURE. Time being of the essence in the purity of speech, sketching language is undisturbed flow from the mind of personal secret idea-words, blowing (as per jazz musician) on the subject of image.

METHOD. NO periods separating sentence-structures already arbitrarily riddled by false colons and timid usually needless commas – but the vigorous space dash separating rhetorical breathing (as jazz musician drawing breath between outblown phrases) – ‘measured pauses which are the essentials of our speech’ – ‘divisions of the sounds we hear’ – ‘time and how to note it down.’ (William Carlos Williams)

. . . .

CENTER OF INTEREST. Begin not from preconceive idea of what to say about image but from jewel center of interest in subject of image at moment of writing, and write outwards swimming in sea of language to peripheral release and exhaustion . . . .

MENTAL STATE. If possible write ‘without consciousness’ in semi-trance (as Yeats’ later ‘trance writin

g) allowing subconscious to admit in own uninhibited interesting necessary and so ‘modern’ language what conscious art would censor, and write excitedly, swiftly,


with writing-or-typing-cramps, in accordance (as from center to periphery) with laws of orgasm, Reich’s ‘beclouding of consciousness,’Come from within, out – to relaxed and said.”




+ Introduction to Book of Blues, Robert Creeley

Discussing Kerouac reading

SF Blues, Book of Blues: Audio

What kind of voice do you hear in your head? How would did you imagine them to be spoken aloud? How do you respond to hearing Kerouac’s own performing of them? In what ways does it seem appropriate to call these texts “jazz poems”? What are the jazz elements reflected, imitated, or evoked by these poems?

Listening to Kerouac reading alone or with Zoot Simms and Al Cohn, what can you say about his vocal style and the interaction with the saxophones.  How does this collaboration come across in terms of the balance between music and language (music with poetry added, poetry with music added, poetry and music side-by-side, a marriage of poetry and music)

+ Bebop and the 1950s Writer

++ Other “Beat” writers include:

Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Gary Snyder, Ted Joans, Bob Kaufman, Anne Waldman, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McLure, Diane DiPrima, and Robert Creeley.

Robert Creeley – “line-wise, the most complementary sense I have found is that of musicians like Charlie Parker, and Miles Davis. I am interested in how that is done, how “time” there is held to a measure peculiarly an evidence (a hand) of the emotion which prompts (drives) the poem in the first place.”

Ted Joans

Youtube: Ted Joans “Jazz is My Religion”

Youtube: Ted Joans Scats with David Amran

Ted Joans – “. . . . the time has come to deal with the Beat generation and its indebtedness to Bird. The young people who became what Time-Life pronounced “the beat generation” grew up with contemporary jazz. Of course there was schmaltzy pop corn music nightly and daily being dished out for white America’s consumption, but wise ofays fished around in the deep dark waters of jazz. At the beginning there was only a small minority interested in poetry, jazz, and contemporary painting. But the hipsters spread the contagious words about what was really happening that had positive values.

Some of the poets often “preached” their poems, or attempted to “blow” the poem as they were playing a sax or trumpet. All these poets were on Bird or Prez. The latter was the bridge that many poets crossed into Bird’s land, thus arriving hip.. . . . San Francisco was the first place that the Beat generation started doing great poetry readings in clubs and coffee shops. It was in Frisco that Allen Ginsberg first exploded his masterpiece Howl on the world….. Back in the good/ole-bad/old days we often read our poems with jazz recordings. It wasn’t rare to see a poet walking to his coffee shop reading gig carrying a portable phonograph and an attaché case full of poetry and a few records. Bird was our main man of music, and many of us used his recordings to fly on. Jack Kerouac was the first white poet that I met that was hip to bird, ” – Ted Joans, Bird and the Beats

Youtube; Ted Joans / David Amran

Ted Joans on Charlie Parker

Beat “attitude” – Weary and Incensed?

Allen Ginsberg – Howl

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,

dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,

angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,

who poverty and tatters and hollow-eyed and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of cold-water flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz,

who bared their brains to Heaven under the El and saw Mohammedan angels staggering on tenement roofs illuminated,

who passed through universities with radiant eyes hallucinating Arkansas and Blake-light tragedy among the scholars of war,

who were expelled from the academies for crazy & publishing obscene odes on the windows of the skull,

. . . .

who sank all night in submarine light of Bickford’s floated out and sat through the stale beer afternoon in desolate Fugazzi’s, listening to the crack of doom on the hydrogen jukebox,

who talked continuously seventy hours from park to pad to bar to Bellevue to museum to the Brooklyn Bridge,

a lost batallion of platonic conversationalists jumping down the stoops off fire escapes off windowsills off Empire State out of the moon

yacketayakking screaming vomiting whispering facts and memories and anecdotes and eyeball kicks and shocks of hospitals and jails and wars,

. . . .

who dreamt and made incarnate gaps in Time & Space through images juxtaposed, and trapped the archangel of the soul between 2 visual images and joined the elemental verbs and set the noun and dash of consciousness together jumping with sensation of Pater Omnipotens Aeterna Deus

to recreate the syntax and measure of poor human prose and stand before you speechless and intelligent and shaking with shame, rejected yet confessing out the soul to conform to the rhythm of thought in his naked and endless head,

the madman bum and angel beat in Time, unknown, yet putting down here what might be left to say in time come after death,

and rose incarnate in the ghostly clothes of jazz in the goldhorn shadow of the band and blew the suffering of America’s naked mind for love into an eli eli lamma lamma sabacthani saxophone cry that shivered the cities down to the last radio

with the absolute heart of the poem butchered out of their own bodies good to eat a thousand years.”

Bob Kaufman, Crootey Songo –











Ellison – On the lower frequency, I speak for

1. Ellison’s Background

Ralph Ellison: 1914-1994; studied trumpet and piano as Tuskegee; published one novel and many essays on jazz; won the National Book Award.

Status of novel: 20thcentury work of genius

General trajectory: bildungsroman, the real and psychological journey from rural south, to a historically black college as scholarship student, to New York factory work, political involvement and disenchantment, to “hibernation” under ground.


2. Race in America: W.E. B. DuBois

“Herein lie buried many things which if read with patience may show the strange meaning of being black here in the dawning of the Twentieth Century. This meaning is not without interest to you, Gentle Reader; for the problem of the Twentieth Century is the problem of the color-line.” (W. E. B. Dubois, The Souls of Black Folks)

DuBois: “double-consciousness” is the theoretical and historical antecedent to Ellison’s metaphor of “invisibility”

  • Post-racial politics, the satire of Stephen Colbert: “I don’t see race, but I do smell class. Blindfold me and I can tell you who in the room has a yacht.”
  • coming to awareness of self as an unavoidably racial subject– a rite of passage for Fredrick Douglas, Booker T. Washington, Langston Hughes, Malcolm X, Barak Obama

Armstrong and the novel

Armstrong figures in the novel as one of several historical figures; for Ellison he is a preeminent artist, but also exemplifies the challenges of negotiating the history of racism while showing art as a means of overcoming or, at least, survival.

Rhapsody in Black and Blue, Armstrong 1932:

West End Blues, Armstrong 1952 (transcription and slides:

PBS: On West End Blues – pulled from Youtube on threat of lawsuit by Ken Burns.


Two Selections from the Novel (1952/3)
Chapter 1 was published as a short story in 1947

3. Prologue


  • How does the narrator describe his invisibility? (385-6/3-4)
  • What is the symbolic power of his battle with “Monopolated Light and Power”? (6)
  • Armstrong, “What Did I do to Be so Black and Blue”
    • jazz / blues as source of vision, act of resistance
    • the song
    • the discourse on time and rhythm
  • Descent into Hell – the dream vision – allegory / Dante
    • orality / sermon on “blackness of blackness”
    • dialogue with the mother, singer of spirituals
  • Music / Writing / Enlightenment- through music, and the compulsion towards some revelatory truth about self and world- to see music, to hear, to “make a music of invisibility” by “put[ing] invisiblity down in black and white” (by writing) (13)

Black and Blue / Intertextuality

[Debut in the 1929  show “Hot Chocolates” with Ethel Waters and Amstrong; images: dancer, scene]


What Did I Do To Be So Black and Blue, Armstrong

What Did I Do to Be So Black and Blue

(As performed by Louis Armstrong)

Cold, empty bed, Springs hard as lead,
Feel like old Ned, Wish I were dead
All my life through, I been so Black and Blue
Even the mouse ran from my house,
They laugh at you, and Scorn you too
What did I do, to be so Black And Blue?

I’m white inside, But that don’t help my case
‘Cause I can’t hide, what is in my face, oh!

I’m so forlorn, Life’s just a thorn,
My heart is torn, Why was I born?
What did I do, to be so Black And Blue?

How will it end, ain’t got a friend
My only sin, is in my skin
what did I do, to be so Black and Blue

Alternate, longer version with discography.

4. Chapter 1 – 


battle royal (n) 1. a fight, esp with fists or cudgels, involving more than two combatants; melee 

“Battle Royal” (published as a short story in 1947)

  • narrator’s acknowledgement of past shame (15); separate but equal
  • Puzzle of the grandfather’s deathbed message, and its “danger” (16) – confusion for N.
  • N’s success and graduation speech about humility as the secret to progress
  • “Bring up the shines, gentlemen” (18)
    • discuss the spectacle and the distress, confusion of it as entertainment: why are they conflicted, crying, trembling? (20-21)
  • Explain the narrator’s desire to speak, to be judged a good speaker – and the twisted irony of it (25)
  • The speech – (29)
    • its accommodationist theme of “cast down your buckets where you are”
    • the mistake of mentioning “equality
  • Final praise and the “prophetic dream” of his grandfather (33)

Concluding paragraphs of Invisible Man



Blues lyrics and Langston Hughes’ Poetry

1. Discuss: What makes it a blues?

Rowan Phillips’ answer:
“There are three foundations upon which  my understanding of the blues rests: [1] that it began as an oral art, [2] that it veers almost compulsively towards repetition, [3] and that it seeks an empathetic though not sympathetic audience — in other words. . . no matter the problem the blues is not a call for help but rather an itemization of the problem itself.  It is a desire embedded within the blues to articulate a problem without servicing it, a crux Ralph Ellison, author of Invisible Man, labeled as ‘tragicomic.'” (Rowan Ricardo Phillips, “The Blue Century” in _A Concise Companion to 20th Century American Poetry_.)

Listen / Read

  • Crossroads Blues
  • Kind Hearted Women Blues

2. What “literary” qualities do blues lyrics have? Do we or don’t we see them as literature?

In-class writing: Blues lyrics clearly have some”literary” dimensions. Yet they were not immediately nor have they typically been recognized as literature. Discuss some of the challenges or barriers to including blues lyrics in the canon of literary masterpieces alongside troubador songs and Shakespearian sonnets; explain whether and why you would include them as legitimate literature.


  • highly charged, expressive language
  • arranged according to special conventions
  • aimed at producing an aesthetic effect

Even in his 1922 _Book of American Negro Poetry_ James Weldon Johnson does not collect any blues lyrics as poems, even though he mentions the blues in his preface.  (

You’ll Never Miss Your Jelly

3. Harlem and Hughes – Blues, Jazz, Poetry
Langston Hughes (1902-1967) – Born in Missouri, attended high school in Cleveland, educated at Columbia and Lincoln University of PA, he travelled in Europe and Mexico while younger, but lived in Harlem, NY through the period that came to be known as the Harlem Renaissance 1920s, 1930s.  During his lifetime, he published over 30 books — with an emphasis on poetry, but including novels, drama, and non-fiction.  He was and continues to be influential for the ways in which he introduced elements of African American, urban and vernacular musical culture into poetry.

“Between 1910 and 1930, the black population of New York increased form under 100,000 to over 300,000. The mass exodus from the south had several causes: a deteriorating social climate (including an increase in lynchings), an economic depression, and such natural catastrophes as cotton boll weevils and floods. . . . By 1920, Harlem had become, as James Weldon Johnson put it, ‘the greatest Negro city in the world.’ A self-contained community of over 100,000 blacks, it was a ‘City of Refuge’ from racist attitudes …. [and] a cultural center for artists, writers, musicians, intellectuals, and various other individuals could feel free to meet, express themselves, and test their creative energies in an environment undisrupted by white America.” (Christopher Beach, _The Cambridge Introduction to 20th Century American Poetry_)

-Juke Box Love Song (381)

4. Langston Hughes “Blues poet”?

* What are some of the issues and tensions regarding the blues for Langston Hughes?
See David Chinitz, “Literacy and Authenticity: The Blues Poems of Langston Hughes”

* Language, rhythm, and address
* Midwinter Blues
* Close reading : “Weary Blues”

5. Dream Boogie – rhythm, dialogue
* Hughes’ dialogue with musical elements, from blues but also jazz and specifically bebop.
* Montage of a Dream Deferred (the set list)
* Children’s Rhymes  * Easy Boogie
* Neon Signs

Black and Unknown Bards

JW Johnson

Johnson’s Preface
Read from Johnson’s preface on the “oratory” of the preacher, being moved by the old-time preacher’s inspired sermon…; and on difficulty of intoning them properly

¿ What is it that explains the power of an old-time preacher for Johnson?
¿Why does he feel compelled to write poems in this mode?
¿What are his reservations about language choice?

The Easter Sunrise Sermon

An “old time” traditional preacher, W.T. Goodwin, “Easter Sunrise Sermon” at St. James Church, Johns’ Island, SC 1971 (302). Bio.  See 1972 publication in Alcheringa

¿ What are some of the “poetic” qualities of an oral sermon like this one that would be inspirational for a writer like Johnson?


James Weldon Johnson / Background :

  • Born 1871 in Jacksonville, FL; died 1938.
  • Founded newspaper, served as school principal, admitted to bar, wrote lyrics to hit songs with his brother, and served as NAACP General Secretary, and Consel to Venezuela. Wrote ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing. ‘
  • Associated with the “New Negro” movement, which presaged the Harlem Renaissance.
  • Also published the _Book of American Negro Spirituals_, a novel _The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man_, and other books.

The “New Negro” movement stressed racial price and self-reliance, full rights for blacks as American citizens and, in general, the desirability of assimilation into white middle-class culture. Another important element in the New Negro movement was the interest in the African heritage of American blacks: this heritage was held up as a source of pride and the basis for a worldwide racial solidarity. (Christopher Beech, Cambridge Introduction to 20th Century American Poetry)


A Key Issue: Language and Liberation

  • recognition of African American writers seen as progress towards fuller recognition of African American humanity and rights of citizenship; W.E.B. DuBois’ idea of the “talented tenth.”
  • dialect a fraught issue:
    • tradition of minstrel shows, coon songs; parody of African American dialect
  • Writers interested in folk tradition or the vernacular (common speech) had to contend with the racist associations minstrelsy; The challenge for many African American writers: how to succeed in achieving recognition, drawing upon ethnic tradition while evading racist associations.
  • Johnson rejected the dialect style of his contemporary Paul Dunbar in poems like “When Malindy Sings;” (Dunbar himself was conflicted, and also wrote formal sonnets with elevated diction like “We Wear the Mask“).  Here is a 1909 Historical Recording  released by Victor Records; the performer is Rev J.A. Myers of Fisk University (who is also recorded singer tenor on a number or spirituals).
  • Elevation of folk materials like “Spirituals” can highlight tradition while skirting issues of racism: see “Black and Unknown Bards


Johnson – God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse
“The Creation” published in 1918, other poems published in the mid 1920s. The volume was first published in 1928

scanned text and images

Noted for minimal use of dialect forms, but an achieved “racial” effect through the quotation and echo of biblical passages, other sermons, and spirituals (Jean Wagner, “The Experiment of God’s Trombones”).


Discuss Performance Approaches to God’s Trombones

  • Read “The Creation” aloud
  • Listen to James Weldon JohnsonJWJ-Creation

¿ In what ways is the language like or unlike minstrel speech?

¿ In what ways do the poems evoke oral performance? In what ways do they lend themselves to speaking aloud?

¿ How does the appropriation of biblical messages and themes shape the poems?

¿ How does “The Creation” revise the biblical text, bringing God close to a congregation?

¿ How do the original images frame your reading; what do they depict? What do you make of the style?

(Images: Aaron Douglas.


Further Note on Dialect

As Hughes, Hurston, and Brown would all recognize, Johnson was after an idiomatic vernacular poetics, recognizing that a break with the “dielect” tradition was prerequisite to a more variously self expressive poetry. “The Creation” shows, better than anything by Dunbar, the black folk preacher as a superior verbal artist–a virtuoso word-crafter and image-maker; it recuperates precisely the sort of syncretic linguistic feats that had been a butt of humor in the minstrel show:

And God stepped out on space,
And He looked around and said,
“I’m lonely
I’ll make me a world.”

How can anyone say that such writing “only passes for ‘colored'”? This is a stanza that rives the walls of genteel dialect poetry. As Louis D. Rubin has pointed out, most convincingly, Johnson had demonstrated the possibility of moving back and forth between “formal intensity” and “colloquial informality”; just as important, the lessons of free verse are applied to make each line correspond to a breath: “Here was the flowing, pulsating rise and fall of living speech, making its own emphases and intensifications naturally, in terms of the meaning, not as prescribed by an artificial, pre-established pattern of singsong metrics and rhyme.” Gayl Jones backs up Rubin’s point with the authority of someone who has studied the matter with an eye to getting work done: “Johnson maintains the syntax and expressive language and rhythms of the folk orators and seems to presage more contemporary ways of transcribing dialect or folk speech as a self-authenticating language.”(George Hutchinson, Harlem Renaissance in Black and White. )

Ainadamar, Lorca, Mariana Pineda

Over the semester, we have been reading works which are sometimes “recontextualized” through translations, adaptations, and performances. So troubador poets are brought into the 20th century, or a corrido form is adapted to address migration, or a play becomes a ballad. “Ainadamar” constitutes a re-reading of the mythos of Lorca — his writing, beliefs, and life verging on myth.

This opera has multiple sources and requires interpretation in relation to multiple contexts. The libretto quotes from Lorca’s play “Mariana Pineda” (which the character of Margarita is supposed to be acting) but also draws in the biography and history of the figures of Lorca and Margarita Xirgu, as well as explicitly referencing the history of 1930s Spain and implicitly 1960s Uruguay. We can add the further contexts of composer Golijov’s experience growing up in the political tumult of Argentina and, finally, our experience of the piece as a Quantum theater production in 2012 Pittsburgh, Penna.

  • What moments or passages (song, scene, metaphor) from the opera did you notice in which Aindamar reproduces something you recognize as Lorca-esque. How you think it is changed? Is this relevant to the performance as well as the libretto?


Rereading Lorca: Politicization

I have puzzled over the passage where Margarita asks Lorca why he wrote “Mariana Pineda” and he responds that it was not political but for love. I had begun to think thatGolijov (who himself grew up during a military coup in Argentina) was interested in de-politicizing Lorca; and I am also interested in the way that Quantum theater used historical war footage to return the political dimension to prominence.

Deigo Santos Sanchez writes:

“Lorca never intended to give the play a political agenda – there is evidence of annoyance at the attempt by his friend Fernando de los Ríos to apply a political layer to his text: ‘es una obra de arte puro, una tragedia hecha […] sin interés politico y yo quiero que su éxito sea un éxito poético’ (cited in Vilches and Dougherty 1992: 44). As will be shown below, press reviewers and censors alike agreed with academics and Lorca himself that the play denies any political reading of the myth. If power was ever to see a challenge in this play, it should remain clear that this could not be based on the grounds of content.”

? How does this inform our experience of the Quantum theater production? 



Rereading Ainadamar: Intertextuality

Even before tracking specific resonances, we can say that the ethos of the opera is Lorca-esque.  The tragic sense that compels characters to their deaths in “Blood Wedding” or “Lament for Ignacio Sanchez” seems to inform this opera.

Specifically, we should look at the uses the opera libretto makes of Lorca’s own 1926 play “Mariana Pineda“:  a christ figure in Lorca’s play, who dies for love rather than giving up her disloyal fiance our accepting the advances of the judge

Here are two passages worth looking at from the play (helpfully pointed out by Hernan Mouro), which are transposed into the libretto, one each from the beginning and near ending of Lorca’s play:

Ay que dia tan triste en Granada,
que a las piedras hace llorar
al ver que Marianita se muere
en cadalso por no declarar!

What a sad day it was in Granada;
that even made stones cry,
upon seeing Marianita dying
at the scaffold for not confessing!


Amas la Libertad por encima de todo,
pero yo soy la misma Libertad.
Doy mi sangreque es tu sangre y
la sangre de todas las criaturas.


You love Freedom more than anything else, 
but I am Freedom itself.
I give my blood, which is your blood 
and that of all creatures.

? Who takes up these lines in the opera?  How does it reshape your perception of them, the opera, or the characters to learn they are also the lines of Lorca’s character: Mariana? 
Similarly, we could look to ways in which the librettist imitates (or channels) Lorca through language that is reminiscent of his poetry. Compare for example his Ode to Walt Whitman with the song about Cuba in the opera. Where does the librettist seem to have derived the key images?
Language Changes: Lyric, Drama, Postmodern Libretto
Dr. Baumer spoke about postmodernism last class.  Some of the markers of literary postmodernism (pastiche, appropriation, mix of genes, etc.) are evident in the libretto. But at the same time, it explores classic themes and universalizable ideas about power, memory, art, immortality.
If time allows, let’s revisit the ending of Blood Wedding and discuss the style (poetic density) of the language there compared to the libretto for the opera.
? How would you distinguish the language of dramatic dialogue, from the poetic lines in “Blood Wedding?” How do they compare to the language in the libretto? If you were given a quotation out of context, could you tell which text they came from?  If so, how? 
Mouro, Hernan, ‘Golijov’s Ainadamar: Hybridity and Cosmopolitianism on the Operatic Stage’, Hernan Mouro, 2007 <> [accessed 1 November 2012]

Sanchez, Diego Santos, ‘Mariana Pineda’s Struggle Against Censorship’, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, 88 (2011), 931–944 <> [accessed 31 October 2012]

Federico García Lorca

Ready for Lorca? The poetry is informed by:

  • Realism + Surrealism / dreams / unconscious + folk tradition
  • Flamenco style and sensibility, the bullfight, rituals around death, and sense of inevitable Tragedy;
  • Duende – Death, tragedy, music, passion, Spanish “national character”

The Author

Federico García Lorca is arguably the most important writer of 20th-century Spain; celebrated for his poetry and plays, he was also an artist and pianist, recording with the famous singer La Argentina (alt source) (Liner notes with song lyrics in English) (Bilingual lyrics). He went to school with the painter Salvador Dalí and the film maker Luis Buñel, and befriended musicians and composers such as  Manuel de Falla, and the bullfighter Ignacio Sánchez Mejílla. His writing is celebrated by turns for its immersion in folk culture and its modern, surreal qualities.

The Poems (Past / Last Reading)

Café Cantante – (Cafe, Sevilla 1885)


Tres Ciudades/Baile (Dance)

Lament/ La Cogida y la Muerte (Goring and Death) – – Portrait Ignacio Sánchez Mejías (youtube); Recitation by Lola Flores (youtube).

The Play

Written in 1933, Bodas de Sangre is set several decades earlier, in a rural region in the south of Spain. Some of the intertwined thematics throughout the play include:
1) violence, desire, and the unconscious
2) gender roles, masculinity and femininity
3) tradition and modernity
4) names, inheritance, blood
5) home, domestic space, and land

Lorca celebrated aspects of tradition at the same time as he recognized the limitations of the provincial. It was composed at a time of significant change in Spain, during the five-year period between the dictatorships of Primo de Rivera and Francisco Franco, whose fascist henchmen executed Lorca in 1936 at the outset of the Civil War. The 1931 Constitution established such modern rights as freedom of speech, separation of church and state, and suffrage for women. While not himself an activist, Lorca directed the traveling theater company (La Barraca) which was funded by the new government and toured rural areas.

The play was inspired by news accounts of the actual Crime of Najar.

The Ballet/The Film

Carlos Saura, dir. Antonio Gades, choreographer.

  • uses stylized Flamenco dance to selectively dramatize key scenes
  • the style is consistent with Lorca’s writing, as he used Flamenco singing as a metahpor for expressivity in art — the DUENDE
  • He organized the 1922 Concurso de Cante Jondo (Flamenco Singing Competition) in Granada with Manuel de Falla, collected and published popular song, and made recordings with himself on the piano: Canciones populares españolas, Federico García Lorca y La Argentinita.

Screen Scene 1 from the FILM
discuss the elements of the scene that the director and choreographer have foregrounded in this dance realization.

Reading the First Act

Act I.1

The dramatic situation of Bridegroom and Mother is established. What do we learn about the future and history of the family? Who are the Felixes? What is the worry about the bride? How do the symbols of knives and fruit, along with the mother’s pronouncements convey the values of an agrarian life … or those of a widowed mother in a patriarchal community?

Act I.2

Look at how Leonardo’s violent entry into the domestic space of his own home underscore what’s socially expected and how his character violates the space. How does the surreal lullaby contribute to the tone of this scene?

  • Lullaby My Baby – (41-42)
  • “Carnation, sleep and dream / the horse won’t drink from the stream…”
  • “And then you didn’t come to eat…” (44)
  • Video 32:26 – Lullaby, 34:55 –

Act I.3 Engagement

What do we learn about traditional ideas of marriage, the needs of individuals and the larger social functions as the betrothal takes place? In particular, how is the Bride exposed as a character struggling with her own subject position?

  • “Do you know what it is to be married child?” (51)
  • “Haven’t I done a man’s work? I wish I were.” (53)

Reading the Second Act

ACT II.1 / Preparing for the Wedding Day

How do we come to know the Leonardo and the Bride’s past history? Why didn’t they marry? Is the bride simply ambivalent because she loves another man? Do their stories reconcile with each other? Does either seem certain even of his or her own story?

  • Leonardo and the Bride “A man with a horse knows a lot of things and can do a lot to ride roughshod over a girl stuck out in the desert…. my breast rots with longing…” (60)
  • Welcoming the guests: “Awake O Bride Awaken

Video 39:20 – Leonardo and the Bride, apart, dreaming)45:40 – Awake O Bride; 47:20 – The Wreath.

  • Leonardo and Wife: “I’m not the kind of man to ride in a cart” (66)


ACT II.2 / The Wedding

How does Garcia Lorca compose the sense of inevitable tragedy? Who chooses what? What forces are at play? How do others react? What can you infer from their reactions? *

  • Worrying about Leonardo: “That one’s looking for trouble. He’s not of good blood. (68)
  • Parents’ hopes: “”Always in my breast there’s a shriek … that’s my hope: Grandchildren” and: “This land needs hands that aren’t tired ….” (69)
  • Mother to Groom: “Try to be loving to your wife, and if you see she’s acting foolishly…” (76).
  • THE DISCOVERY “She isn’t there…” 77-78. “Perhaps she’s thrown herself into the well…” (78) “The hour of blood has come again.” 78
  • Video 20:40 – at the reception 50:00 – Photographs, Pepe Blanco singing “Ay mi Sombrero” (pasodoble?) 50:54 – Typical dance (Sevillana?) 56:46 – Wife discovers the flight lorca-mujer.jpg

Final Act

ACT III.1 / Woodcutters

This scene begins with generic woodcutters wondering through el campo; then appear the moon and an ethereal beggar-woman. How do they frame the action? Why not cut to the chase? Does Saura’s film capture this same emotional quality?

  • Woodcutters – “O lonely Moon / moon among the great leaves” (79-81
  • Moon – “The Moon sets a knife/ abandoned in the air …/ Open roofs, open breasts / where I may warm myself…” p. 81
  • Beggar woman and groom – “This way..” (85)
  • Leonardo and the Bride – “Who was it first / went down the stairway?” ; “But I was riding a horse / and the horse went straight to your door” (86-87)

VIDEO Chase sequence – 01:01:00 knife sequence – 01:02:10 & 1:06:30-1:08:00

What kind of verdict does Lorca’s final scene provide — in the speech of the two surviving women?


Sea Surge and Sea Song – Kate Chopin


Background and Introduction
Published in 1899 by Kate Chopin, who lived in New Orleans with her husband Oscar for ten years. They traveled to France, where she experienced a liberal lifestyle, but returning to American met resistance to smoking, raised skirts, walking about without a chaperone, running her husband’s business, etc.




Open Discussion: The Title metaphor

Its suggestiveness: awakening from what, into what? Other connotations? Echoes in passages like:

“A certain light was beginning…” (135) and

“that night she was like the little tottering … child … who walks for the first time” (144)


Presentation: The Setting, Marital Relationship, Class Codes and Gender Roles

Most married women in Louisiana … were the legal property of their husbands. . . . [A]ll of a wife’s ‘accumulations’ after marriage were the property of her husband, including any money she might earn and the clothes she wore. The husband was the legal guardian of the children and until 1888 was granted custody of the children in the even tof a divorce. The wife was ‘bound to live with her husband, and follow him wherever he [chose] to reside.’ A wife could not sign any legal contract (with the exception of her will) without the consent of her husband, nor could she institute a lawsuit, appear in court, hold public office, or make a donation to a living person. . . divorce was a scandalous and rather rare occurrence. (Culley, Margo. “Contexts of the Awakening,” The Awakening, [A Norton Critical Edition].)

See Also – Decorum: A Practical Treatise on Etiquette and Dress of the Best of American Society (esp. page 179: A Lady’s Position)


Class Discussion: Initial Characterization / “contraint and mobility”


When we are introduced to LP, his judgmental or overbearing attitude is pretty clear: “‘You are burnt beyond recognition’ he added…”, yet we are supposed to believe that Edna “knew of none better” as a husband. Ch III (134,135). What kinds of ideas about constraint and mobility are conveyed by the interactions of these characters?

  1. – Mr. Pontellier introduced Ch.I (128);
  2. – Mrs. (Edna) Pontellier introduced Ch.II (129)
  3. – Reproach of the wife; “indescribable oppression”;admission that “she know of none better” ChIII (131,132)
  4. – Marriage recounted: VII (138)
  5. – The “mother-woman” Ch. IV (132)
  6. – “folly” in her disregard for duties as a wife XIX
  7. – response to her moving out XXXII (187-8)

Group Discussion: Key Female Figures: Edna, Adele Ratignolle, and Mdm. Reisz.  

How do these three characters come to seem like “types” — and how would you describe each?  Are there ways in which they illustrate different possibilities for female subjectivity in the culture of this novel? 

  1. – Edna – twenty-something, married, with children; a Protestant born in Kentucky (130) married into Lousiana Creole society (133), which suprises her with its “absence of prudery” (133); her hobby is sketching Ch. V (135)
  2. – Adele Ratignolle – Ch IV. (132); (133); keeping up music on account of the children … a means of brightening the home” (142)
  3. – Mdm. Reisz – CH IX (143) described, the artist performs.

Group Discussion: Scenes of transformation: Music and the Sea

In literature, transformations often occur through journeys or challenges; frequently the “hero” achieves change through some individual effort, or perhaps through the intervention of fate.  Consider how Chopin envisions the transformation of Edna.  Who or what force seems to get the credit or blame? 
  1. Chapter VI – the sea and the awakening: “a certain light had begun to dawn dimly”
  2. Chapter IV – moved by piano (143-4); Chopin’s “Solitude”
  3. Chapter X – suddenly swimming (144-45)
  4. Chapter XI – assertion of will (148)
  5. Chapter XIII – nap, and literal awakening at the island, Cheniere Caminada … native hospitality (150-51)
  6. Chapter XVII – “out” on reception day (160-65)
  7. Chapter  XXXVII – Visiting Mdm. Reisz and the playing of the Chopin “Impromptu” (168)

Group Discussion: Discourse of the Awakened “Self”

Part of the dramatic effect of this novel comes from the way in which the narrator and readers know more than Edna or, often, other characters.  Consider some of the moments where either Edna puzzles out and articulates for herself what she thinks is going on, or places where readers are shown what others (characters in the novel) think.  

  1. – Chapter XVI – Edna asserting she would sacrifice her life but not her “self” XVI (158)
  2. – Painting and the narrators description of her “casting aside that fictitious self” (164)
  3. – Becoming an artist requires a “courageous soul” (168); Dr. Mandalet’s diagnosis (172)
  4. – Explaining to Robert, she is not owned (197)
  5. – Recalled to being a mother-woman by Mdm. Ratignolle (188-89); “outspoken revolt against the ways of nature”!

Class Debate: Closing chapter – XXXIX

Thelma and Louise?

The conclusion to the novel provoked some controversy during its time.  We won’t try to completely recover the “period” response, but let’s evaluate some of the possible terms of a debate which, among other things, found the ending sent a dangerous message.  Did it sanction adultery or celebrate passion, portray escape from marriage as mental illness or critique the contrained options for women within patriarichal society?And is this ending consonant with the whole of the novel?

You have five minutes to prepare. Make an outline, select supporting quotations/references, choose two speakers. Remember, you are making a claim (or disputing a claim) about the position the novel takes — not what you would do, in the real world, if you were Edna, or Chopin writing the novel, etc.

Pro: Affirmative – Argue for the claim (3 min)
Con: Cross/Rebuttal (ask questions, comment on the affirmative; nothing new) (1 min)
Con: Negative – Argue against the claim (3min)
Pro: Cross/Rebuttal (ask questions, comment on the negative) (1min)

Resolution 1:
Edna’s suicide encourages readers to develop their passion and listen to their hearts, whatever the cost.

Resolution 2:
The Awakening finally shows that the woman with a “courageous soul” cannot logically accept living within patriarchy.

Carmen – The Novela

Watercolor by Merimee


  • Prosper Mérimée – 1803-70.  Wrote a number of stories, one novel, and non-fiction. Son of an academic painter, he received numerous government positions, including appointment as Senator. Composition Date: (1845/47)
  • Languages: The novel was published in French. Characters implicitly speak Spanish, though Basque (a non-Romance language of the Iberian Penninsula) and Calo (Romani/Spanish pidgin)
  • Genre: Novella,  A short, fictional work longer than a short story — often centering on a single plot event and sometimes structured, or grouped with other novellas, by a frame tale.
  • Form:  Narrative Frame: Scholar/Archaelogist/narrator  recounting the interesting events surrounding his travels in Spain researching the location of an ancient Roman battle. He is not a major participant in the dramatic story, but intersects with it and serves as an intermediary for readers. Could be considered a frame tale.

Four chapters: 1 and 2 establish the narrator’s aquaintance with Don Jose and Carmen. Chapter 3 is dominated by Jose’s telling of his story to us through the narrator.  Chapter 4, added two years later, purports to give sociological and historical information; no narrative.

Major Characters

  • Narrator
  • Stranger/Don Jose Lizzarrabengoa
  • Carmen
  • (Guide/Antonio, Garcia el Tuerto, Lucas the bullfighter)


Southern Spain, contemporary map / Historical map.
Tobacco Factory in Sevilla, Mezquita in Cordoba.


Novella of Spanish content for the French Reader

“What cared I? I knew enough of the Spanish character to be very certain I had nothing to fear from a man who had eaten and smoked with me. …. And besides, I was very glad to know what a brigand was really like.” (38)


CHAPTER 1 – Meeting Don Jose, befriending and helping him evade capture.

? What impression do we form of the narrator’s personality, reliability?
? What impressions do we form about Don Jose ?


CHAPTER 2 – Researching in Cordoba

Encounters Carmen, is charmed by her and the fortune-telling is only interrupted by Don Jose; later returning, he learns that Don Jose is to be executed, continues to befriend him, receives a medal for his mother (?) and turns toward the story which follows.

? Does our impression of the narrator’s personality, reliability change?
? What impressions do we form of Carmen (40, 41)?
? How does the atmosphere of southern Spain (ancient site of Musselman kings, and also the place where the woman bathe in the river) and the narrator’s appreciation of it come across? (40)
? How do you respond to the scholarly footnotes from the narrator (about Spanish regional pronunciation, geography, etc.)? How do you imagine these are intended to function for readers?


CHAPTER 3 – The Story Don Jose tells of how he became a thief and outlaw, as a consequence of being allured by Carmen; and how her “gipsy” upbringing is responsible for their fate.

Identity, Class and the Telling
With whom are we invited to identify?
• “No one in this country has wronged me so far as I know” (44);
• “I promised to perform his commission…. From his lips I learned the sad incidents that follow”….(44)
• Your thief is a Hidalgo. So he’s to be garrotted the day after tomorrow, without fail. (43)
• He was known to be a man who would shoot any Christian for the sake of a peseta… (43)

Attitudes and perspectives towards  honor, loyalty, and retribution.
• “‘My boy,’ said Carmen to me, ‘you’ll have to do something. Now that the king won’t give you either rice or haddock you’ll have to think of earning your livelihood….If you have the pluck, take yourself off to the coast and turn smuggler. Haven’t I promised to get you hanged? That’s better than being shot”(54)
• “Have I paid you? By our law, I owed you nothing, because you’re a payllo…. Now we’re quits” (51)
• “Ha ha! You’re jealous!’ she retorted, ‘so much the worse for you.  How can you be such a fool as that? Don’t you see I must love you, because I have never asked you for money?” 54
• “We all escaped except the poor Remendado, who received a bullet wound in the loins. I threw away my pack and tried to lift him up. … ‘Idiot’ shouted Garcia, ‘ what o we want with offal!  Finish him off, and don’t lose those cotton stockings!” 55
• “‘No,’ said I, ‘I hate Garcia, but he’s my comrade. Some day, maybe, I’ll rid you of him, but we’ll settle our account after the fashion of my country. It’s only chance that has made me a gipsy, and in certain things I shall always be a thorough Navarrese…” (59)

Construction of national / cultural identity: the Basque, the hidalgo, the foreigner, the gipsy/gitana/cali
• “I belong to Elizondo” I answered in Basque, very much affected by the sound of my own language…” 46
• “when she did speak, I believed her — I couldn’t help myself. She mangled her Basque words, and I believed she came from Nararre” (47)
• “I thought to myself that if the Spaniards had dared to speak evil of my country, I would have slashed their faces just as she had slashed her comrade’s.”  (47)
• “Perhaps if you turned gipsy, I might care to be your romi. But that’s all nonsense, such things aren’t possible….” (51)
•  “To people of her blood, liberty is everything” (48)
• “Are you a negro slave, to let yourself be driven with a ramrod like that?” (51)

Male/female relationships – and the conflict between Don Jose’s and Carmen’s expectations.
• “She showed me more affection than ever; nevertheless, she would never admit, before my comrades, that she was my mistress…” 55)
• “Ah! upon my word! Are you my rom, pray that you give me orders?  . . . Oughtn’t you to be very happy that you are the only man who can call himself my minchorro?” 58“‘
• Do you know,’ said she, ‘now that you’re my rom for good and all, I don’t care for you so much as when you were my minchorro!…  Take care you don’t drive me too far; if you tire me out, I’ll find some good fellow who’ll serve you just as you served El Tuerto.’(60)
• “Devil take these love stories! he cried. “If you’d asked him for Carmen, he’d have sold her to you for a piastre!” 59
• “You are my rom, and you have the right to kill your romi, but Carmen will always be free. A calli she was born, and a calli she’ll die.  (63)

Layers of seduction – how the allure Carmen has for Don Jose, is reproduced in their allure for the narrator and, by extension, our fascination as readers in this simultaneously lurid and attractive other space.


Roma in Spain today

Gregorio Cortez

Character of the Hero:

Gregorio Cortez epitomized the ideal type of hero of the Rio Grande people, the man who defends his right with his pistol in his hand, and who either escapes at the end or goes down before superior odds-in a sense a victor even in defeat. . . . It was as if the Border had dreamed Gregorio Cortez before producing him, and sung his life and deeds before he was born” (Paredes, 124-5)

Discussion Part I: The Forum Prompt: How does the variation among collected versions concentrate us on crucial elements of a corrido? (What’s essential, what’s dispensed with?)  How  are the historical events used in its telling (by the teller and its implied audience)? Are there moments where the song seems to be embellished or shaped to a specific purpose (that has little to do with actual events or a credible report)? What kind of author is implied? What kind of audience is implied?  What makes the “cultural space” and time from which the corrido comes distinctive? Discuss how this background would influence audience response.  What’s achieved in the continued circulation of a 100 year-old song?

The Border: Cultural Context
The late-19th century Texas/Mexico Border as a scene of past battles, ongoing struggles over land, rights, identity — particularly between Anglo-Texans and Mexican-Texans– a situation already polarized before the Gregorio Cortez incident.

The New York Times cover story “Big Man Hunt in Texas” gives an interesting perspective. (nytimes-cortez-1901-June18)

Oral Tradition:
Oral or folk texts help constitute the values of a culture and given its members a sense of belonging. The corrido plays such function in the American southwest, particularly along the Rio Grande border with Mexico.

  • Corrido’s are ballads, or poetic narratives — that is, they tell a story.  But they are sung more often than written, and in the years before recording, would have been transmitted from one singer to another.
  • A typical corrido deals with factual incidents that one might today see in the newspaper, but obviously the events and perspectives are shaped specially by the singer/teller for a specific audience.
  • It often includes formulaic elements (In such and such a place/ this thing happened; or Now with this I say farewell, under the shade of the cypress tree).
  • Its poetic form derives from the European/Spanish “Romance” ([roh-m’ahn-saay] 11th-century narrative poems, 8-syllable lines, o/a assonant rhyme, indeterminate length)

Film Clips

The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (29 Jun. 1982)American Playhouse: Season 1, Episode 25
Director: Robert M. Young. Writers: Américo Paredes, Victor Villaseñor et al
Stars: Edward James Olmos, James Gammon and Tom Bower


Read variant Corrido texts aloud (packet) and Listen to the Music

  • Paraphrase
  • Speaker
  • Attitude
  • Structure
  • Theme

Discussion: Part II
Unlike the troubador songs, which we presume to have had singular “authors,” texts in oral tradition are often collectively composed. In the case of the Corrido of Gregorio Cortez, we cannot name a single author but instead attribute it to its various singers.

  • How does collective or anonymous authorship of a piece effect our relationship to it as an audience? Does it gain or lose in meaning and significance? Does it challenge or ease our job as interpreters?
  • Is it significant that in traditions such as the corrido, early performers seem to have the latitude to “edit” the text? Is it significant that such oral texts must compel other performers to take them up … or they are forgotten?
  • Are the “formal elements” such as paraphrase (plot), speaker, structure, and theme consistent across the variants?  Why?
  • What do you make about the fact that this song continues to be performed and recorded, long after Gregorio Cortez ceases to be “news?”

Modern Poetry, Sound and Translation

Modern Poets on The Music of Words:

“Melopoeia can be appreciated by a foreigner with a sensitive ear, even though he be ignorant of the language in which the poem is written.”(Pound, Literary Essays)

“More than to read poetry we must listen to poetry. . . . And . . . the ear that has listened to the greatest number of sounds will have the most to choose from when it comes to self-expression. . . .”  (Mina Loy, “Modern Poetry”)

“The test of poetry is the range of pleasure it affords as sight, sound, and intellection. This is its purpose as art.” (Louis Zukofsky, “Introduction,” A Test of Poetry)

“It is by their syllables that words juxtapose in beauty, by these particles of sound as clearly as by the sene of the words which they compose . . . . the obedience of his ear to the syllables.” (Charles Olson, “Projective Verse”)

Can we imagine why  modern writers repeatedly invoke sound, musicality, and the ear in articulating their aesthetics or calling for a renewal of poetry? Have we been taught to listen to “literature” or to digest it for content? How should it be spoken? What would we revisit from the past and how would we recover or translate it?

Ezra Pound reading/chanting the poem Cantico del Sole

Sound of Poetry – (Optional in-class writing prompt)

How does the sound of language shape meaning or a poem’s aesthetic effect? Can you imagine making a translation that tried to carry over the sound patterns of the original as much as the sense?  Can you select a stanza from one of the poems and describe some of the repetitions or sound patterns that call attention to themselves. If you choose one that is translated, look at the English stanza — does it capture, rework, or totally sacrifice the “music” of the original?  If you’re feeling creative, why not take up a stanza of one of the poems and rework the lines to heighten or alter the sound patterns


American modernist poet Ezra Pound (1885-1972) championed troubador poetry, urging readers and aspiring writers to study it, and making many of his own translations.

As time allows, let’s look at one or two translations — paying special attention to whether the translator carried over “sound” as well as “sense”:

  • Compare Bornehl’s “Reis Glorios” and Pound’s “I. Compleynt…”
  • Look at  Guilhen de Peitu’s “Ab la douzor del temps novel”[For the sweetness] and Pound’s “II. Avril”:

Sherwood’s guide to Troubador versification:



Questions for Further Reflection:

? Why is sound important to poets?

? How would/could/should this importance shape the way we read/interpret/ study poetry?

? Can translation be seen as a kind of interpretation — taking into account what is said and how it is said?  To what extent should the different sounds of words in a given language be factored into translation?

?Is there a difference between our experience of the more “literal” translation of Peitu’s “Ab la douzor…”/ “For the sweetness of springtime” (handout p. 4) and “Reis Glorios” (top of page 4) as translated (adapated?) by Pound as “Compleynt” (p. 5)?

? Do the PAST/LAST  guidelines allow us to “close read” the “Alba” poem?