June 20, 2024

Dissertation Title: Literary History of Brazilian Popular Music, With Considerations on its Relevance for a Better Understanding of U.S.-American Genres

This dissertation starts with the premise that jazz, blues, and related African American song traditions had a fundamental effect on twentieth-century literature broadly, as well as on selected works by specific writers of the period (from Langston Hughes to Toni Morrison); and that this phenomenon is true not only in the United States, but across the Americas. Focusing for the purpose of comparison on the context of Brazil, this dissertation sets out to map precisely the international range and depth of the influence of popular music on modern literature. One area of concern is the long-standing claim—endorsed by a number of preeminent thinkers, from Frederick Douglass and W. E. B. DuBois to James Baldwin and Amiri Baraka—that music is the primary or paradigmatic mode of Afro-American art, anidea that has only recently begun to be reconsidered (Rice 2000, 154; Edwards2017, 86). The inclusion of key Afro-Brazilian genres and movements (such assamba and tropicalismo, for example) into the scope of the research allows fort he development of a fresh take on this and other critical debates in the field. In addition to analyzing the interchange between musical and literary movements from broad historical perspectives, the author is also interested in the potential for songs as such to function as a medium for literature. Drawing as primary sources from the lyrics of “blues women” Gertrude “Ma” Rainey andBessie Smith (Davis 1998), and of the Brazilian “baianos” Caetano Veloso and GilbertoGil and (Ferraz, 2003; Rennó 2022), the central question in this regard is how exactly song lyrics can be cast as being like or unlike traditional poetry, both in terms of their form and of their function in society.

References: Rice, Alan J. “‘It Don’t Mean a Thing If Ain’t Got That Swing’” in Saadi A. Simawe’s Black Orpheus. New York, Taylor & Francis Group: 2000, pp. 153-180; Edwards, Brent Hayes. Epistrophies: Jazz and the Literary Imagination. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2017; Davis, Angela Y. Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude “Ma”Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday. New York: Vintage Books, 1998; Ferraz, Eucanaã. "Introdução" a Sobre as letras de Caetano Veloso. Rio de Janeiro: Companhia das Letras, 2003; Rennó, Carlos Todas as letras / Gilberto Gil. Rio de Janeiro: Companhia das Letras, 2022.