Course Instructor Days Times Room
ENGL4895 PAVLIC, EDWARD T 3 :30 PM 0144

Topics Title
“. . .It Don’t Mean A Thing. . .” : Black Music in Modern and Contemporary Cinema?

ENGL 4895: Literature and Other Arts : “. . .It Don’t Mean A Thing. . .” : Black Music in Modern and Contemporary Cinema?

Course Description: This course surveys and explores the many roles that African American Music has played in US and world cinema. We’ll touch upon historical, classic Hollywood films that used black music and musicians in soundtracks and scores (1947 A Streetcar Named Desire—Alex North / 1962 Paris Blues—Duke Ellington) and mid-century Hollywood movies that featured prominent black musicians as characters (1947 New Orleans—Billie Holiday / Louis Armstrong).

We’ll also touch upon historical and contemporary international films in which black music and musicians were central: such as Louis Malle’s 1959 Ascenseur pour l’échafaud or Elevator to the Gallows—with the historically important score performed by Miles Davis and a quartet; Fatih Akin and Adam Bousdoukos’ 2009 Soul Kitchen; and Andrew Dosunmu’s 2009 Restless City. Also, we’ll touch upon international films such as Tony Gatlif’s 2004 film, Exiles, that traces the influence of African musical form on a Pierrot le Fou-like journey from Paris through Spain and Morocco en route to Algeria.?

And, of course, we’ll trace the routes of black music in films by black directors from the beginning-days of Oscar Micheaux, through the LA Rebellion works of Julie Dash (1991 Daughters of the Dust) and Charles Burnett (1990 To Sleep with Anger / 1979 Killer of Sheep), we’ll touch upon Katheen Collins’ incomparable work (1982 Losing Ground) into the Spike Lee era (1986 She’s Gotta Have It, 1988 School Daze, 1989 Do The Right Thing) and beyond to the present-day cutting edge of Terence Nance (2012 An Oversimplification of her Beauty), Dee Rees (2011 Pariah), and Barry Jenkins (2009 Medicine for Melancholy). ?I’m also in contact with several contemporary African American directors (such as Terence Nance and Barry Jenkins) as well as musical contributors to contemporary films (such as DJ 9th Wonder) who I will invite to contribute to the course via Skype or possibly in person.


There will be three papers due for the course. Students will keep listening/viewing journals.


Requirements: attendance; papers; journals.