Olivia Davis

Date of Award


First Advisor

Wesley Brown

Second Advisor

John Myers


Louis Armstrong famously said, "if you have to ask what jazz is, you'll never know." While some elements of jazz may perhaps always be lost in translation, there are specific creative flairs that uniquely define jazz. And All That Jazz argues that the musical genre has so artistically defined itself that it also finds expression in literature through iconic audible "sounds" and visual "symbols" of the music. Poems and novels from the Harlem Renaissance deliberately use such sounds and symbols to recreate the musical experience of jazz in their texts, thus, forming the interdisciplinary genre, jazz literature. This thesis examines the sounds of jazz, the sonic elements that make jazz so identifiable to the ear including call-and-response, syncopation, the blues moan, and the vamp. Not only is jazz an audible phenomenon in Harlem Renaissance literature, but it is manifested in visual "symbols," including the musical persona of the Negro preacher and their congregations, the ragtime piano, the blues woman persona, and the city of Harlem itself. In order to prove these "sounds" and "symbols" belong to jazz, this thesis explores these iconic elements alongside a chronological analysis of the musical genres that built Harlem Renaissance jazz: Negro spirituals, ragtime, Negro blues, and swing.

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