Re-sounding Harlem Renaissance narratives : the repetition and representation of identity through sound in Nella Larsen's Passing and Toni Morrison's Jazz Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/9c67wr43g

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  • The cultural and historical construction of African American identity in the United States has been closely tied to the dialectical relationship formed between sound and silence. This thesis examines the modernist and postmodernist representation of sound and silence in the African American novels Passing (1929), by Nella Larsen, and Jazz (1992), by Toni Morrison, as indicators of African American identity and racial oppression during the Harlem Renaissance. I analyze the soundscapes of both texts to expose the mobility of language, power, and space, especially as these soundscapes relate to the production of sound (both musical and non-musical) by African Americans, and the surveillance of these sounds by white audiences. Through my analysis of repetitive sound-images and embodied silence in Passing and Jazz, as well as textual representations of oral performance, I argue that there is harm in restricting African American voices to approved modes of audibility and/or limiting African American voices to one a singular narrative. This thesis introduces critics and theories from the disciplines of sound studies and African American studies, and applies the widely known theory of double consciousness, established by critic and author W.E.B. Du Bois, as the foundation for my literary and cultural analysis of sound in print.
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