Cover: Epistrophies: Jazz and the Literary Imagination, from Harvard University PressCover: Epistrophies in HARDCOVER


Jazz and the Literary Imagination

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$41.00 • £35.95 • €37.95

ISBN 9780674055438

Publication Date: 06/05/2017

Academic Trade

336 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

22 halftones


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[Edwards] says something surprising and new that no one else has, or can, about two revered musicians [Mary Lou Williams and Cecil Taylor]—a genuine rarity in jazz scholarship… [The] critical and creative impulse to test the boundaries of the ‘sayable’ in both words and music—a ‘ferment at the horizon of articulacy’—is among the book’s guiding threads. In a brilliant chapter on the ‘poetics of transcription,’ Edwards studies the blues poem, a genre that has never found a happy home in either music or literature… Ambitiously, Edwards aims not just to hear, but to read, write, and think across a range of radically different sources. Epistrophies is a book whose individual parts persuade so easily and cohere so elegantly… The gift of Epistrophies is [an] act of renewal, an expansion not just of jazz literature as a category, but of jazz as a method.—Colin Vanderburg, The Los Angeles Review of Books

[Edwards] exhibits what I can only call intellectual glamour. He joins syntax and sentiment with élan, demonstrating a charismatic brilliance that persuades in parallel with, as well as through, his argumentation and evidence… Hilarious and trenchant at once, Edwards would be a beguiling writer in any field… He’s that rare academic whose work demands attention outside of experts in the field, without sacrificing tone or complexity. Almost conspicuously, William Empson comes to mind… As an alternative aesthetic history, Epistrophies is immensely satisfying… What makes Epistrophies such a singular work is the vividness and rigor of Edwards’s storytelling. As with Coleman’s Skies of America, there exists a temptation to discuss Epistrophies for what it could have been. Nevertheless, there is brilliance.—David B. Hobbs, The Nation

This is a brilliant and utterly arresting book that takes a surprisingly uncommon subject and looks at it in a profoundly original way.—Jeff Simon, The Buffalo News

Furnish[es] the reader with material that constantly surprises and subverts expectations.—Jordan Penney, PopMatters

Dazzling… [Edwards] compares the way poets use melody in language to the ways musicians use literary devices in jazz… [A] compellingly original perspective.Publishers Weekly

Epistrophies is a brilliant and essential contribution to the new and vital field of critical jazz studies. In addition to thorough explorations of poetry, liner notes, song titles, autobiography, and the many ways in which words can become musical (and vice versa), Edwards covers key figures from the entire history of jazz. He has provided nuanced readings of poetic writing as well as the multiple levels on which jazz and literature participate in the same aesthetic projects.—Krin Gabbard, author of Better Git It in Your Soul: An Interpretive Biography of Charles Mingus

This is an excellent book on an enduring theme of African-American culture, the intimate relationship of music—particularly jazz—and literary practice. Brent Edwards sees this as a two-way relation with many different manifestations rather than as a one-way subordination of black literature to jazz, as is often suggested. No author to my mind has approached this issue as thoroughly and in as nuanced a way as Edwards in what is the culmination of a decade-long project.—Bernard Gendron, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee

Brent Hayes Edwards is the finest literary scholar of his generation—an intellectual and artist of transformative force. His work reshapes the study and the making of world literature and art.—Fred Moten, University of California, Riverside

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