Date of Completion
American Literature, Music, 20th Century, Multiethnic Literature
Field of Study
Doctor of Philosophy
“Performing Americanness” situates popular music and literature as critically intertwined in the development of U.S. nationalism during the first half of the 20th century. Arguing for the treatment of music not as metaphor or literary element within texts but rather as a cultural, historical, and temporal context all its own, this project asserts that examining the role of music in works of literature provides a critical framework for shaping archives of American identity and nation-building. Focusing on the work of multi-ethnic U.S. writers, I analyze four key junctures in U.S. history at which I view music as particularly essential in public constructions of a collective national identity: the turn of the century (1898 – 1914), the 1920s (1920 – 1929), World War II (1939 – 1945), and the Cuban Revolution (1953 – 1959). I view literary work from and about each of these periods as closely connected to musical production and the U.S. music market in order to consider music’s role in developing, curating, and perpetuating modes of “Americanness.” This project examines how these texts frame music as a potential mode of resistance to cultural erasure and how writers utilize music to form alternative modes of belonging within the nation. However, it also exposes the ways in which music can be mobilized as assimilationist, imperialist, and even violent in promoting hierarchies of race, class, and gender as national projects. Ultimately “Performing Americanness” seeks to explore alternative understandings of U.S. archives, troubling the dichotomy between text and performance to imagine different ways of constructing and promoting national and community histories.
Brown, Meghan, "Performing Americanness: Music and Nationality in 20th Century U.S. Literature" (2019). Doctoral Dissertations. 2454.
Available for download on Saturday, January 12, 2030