Syncopated Communities: Dancing with Ellison by Joshua M. Hall I've put together new steps in the breakaway by slipping and almost falling. I was always looking for anyone dancing in the street or just walking and doing anything that suggests a step. If I could see it, I could do it. -- Shorty Snowden, Savoy dancer The present essay has developed from an affirmation of two widely acknowledged tropes in Ellison's thought and an extension of both in the pervasive presence of dance in the author's fiction, non-fiction, and life.1 The first trope could probably be captured by the title of one of Ellison's essays, "The Novel as a Function of American Democracy," if one were to add to "Function" the modifier "Moral-Educational." The second is that of the (particularly bebop-era) jazz jam session as figurative condensation of this democracy. This latter idea is strengthened significantly by Ellison's education for and career as a trumpeter. The first and longest section of this essay, then, is an attempt to wed the two tropes -- the novel as ameliorating methodology and jazz improvisation as regulative ideal -- through a phenomenological exploration of the ubiquity of dance and its near-coextension with
The Southern Literary Journal – University of North Carolina Press
Published: Jul 12, 2013
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