46 Matching Annotations
  1. Oct 2021
    1. At these points, the improvising soloist (usually singular) fills the otherwise empty sonic space with dramatic solo obligatti

      To get a sense of what Anderson is talking about sonically, check out Louis Armstrong's sublime set of breaks on "Potato Head Blues" (1927) with the Hot Seven. Go listen to like two hours of the classic Hot Fives and Sevens. If you just want to catch the breaks and have other priorities (sigh), here's a link that skips to the breaks.

  2. Oct 2020
    1. Within the first pages of the 1952 novel Invisible Man Ralph Ellison’s narrator relates Louis Armstrong’s music to his own desires and self-conceptions.

      What are the big questions Anderson asks the text of Invisible Man? What does he want to discover about the text in his reading? What kinds of sources or methods will he need to use to answer his question/s?

  3. Jun 2020
  4. Mar 2019
    1. NOTES

      General question: what are some fields of knowledge that Anderson needed to know in order to write this piece? What do his readers need to know in order to read his work? What are some of the different kinds of sources did he marshal to make his argument?

    2. If the tragicomic blues spirit of collective affirmation he identified with a music born in his youth was less frequently heard with the passing of time, Ellison worked all the more to commemorate the “romantic lyricism” of a receding world. Thus he offered the following dedication to his never-published second novel: “To That Vanished Tribe Into Which I Was Born: The American Negroes.”

      What is Anderson's evaluation of Ellison's legacy, in the end? What does he affirm about Ellison, and what does he criticize? Do you think Anderson gives a fair assessment?

    3. Putting his blues modernism to work on a nationalist project, Ellison transforms the embrace of the remainder into a new dialectic and an American jeremiad in an African-American idiom. Here he sides with the ideal of an unbuilt and prospective America. Rejecting one dialectical model of history but identifying with all that is left out of that model, the narrator brilliantly uses these very residues to fuel another dialectic of history.

      Unpack this very dense passage. What is "blues modernity"? What does Ellison preserve from the Brotherhood, and what does he revise or add to it?

    4. In order to move with fidelity toward the distant new world of an idealized pluralistic and post-racist America, an older segregated African-American world, with its joys and its restrictions, had to give way. Ellison could at least maintain fidelity to that past world through his home-made stereo and private archive that sonically reproduced the beautiful world of his youth as he imagined it.

      How does the phonograph--which appears in the novel as well--mediate for Anderson the conflict between Ellison's old-school tastes in music and the newer forms that are arising in the 1950s and 60s? What are some of the implications of this reading, in which the old and new co-exist in the same cultural moment?

    5. Moreover, the lurid tableau of Parker’s plunge into self-degrading performance before a “ravenous, sensation-starved” white audience closely follows a fictional precedent from Invisible Man: Tod Clifton’s final appearance as a vacant-eyed street performer indistinguishable from the paper Sambo doll he manipulates for small change. “Who wants Sambo, the dancing, prancing? . . . There’s no license for little Sambo, the joy spreader. You can’t tax joy, so speak up, ladies and gentlemen” (433). Here was the full price of vertiginous plunging.

      How does Anderson link Parker (well, Ellison's depiction of Parker) to Ellison's novel? How does the comparison of Parker to Tod Clifton work? Do you buy this reading?

    6. Ellison’s preferred mode of lyricism in African-American music belonged to what struck him as a comparatively optimistic pre-bebop music of social romance.

      How do Ellison's tastes in music link up with broader narratives in music history (swing to bebop)? How does Anderson explain Ellison's "lagging" taste, preferring the older swing of Basie and Ellison to the new 'bop of Parker and Miles Davis? Why does this issue of what kind of music Ellison prefers matter so much?

    7. Only in holding themselves close to their native community and its rituals of socialization were these men able to cultivate the deepest level of individuality and artistry. Mastering musical form in the swinging guises of jazz and the blues committed these musicians to what we might call a centripetal ethos of lyrical transition even as they enacted “from performance to performance” a more centrifugal and decentering process of what Kimberley Benston calls “multiplication and substitution.”(16)

      Two questions: a) is Rinehart the hero of Ellison's novel? Why or why not? and b) how does the long discussion of Rinehart relate to the encompassing discussion of Ellison and music? Playing music is about the only thing that Rinehart doesn't do!

    8. While “the Negro” functioned as a guilt-inducing and thus repressed or demonized presence within white American culture, a psychoanalytically informed post-war modernism might point to more sober possibilities for working through the nation’s racial pathologies. Here was another reason for Ellison’s blues aesthetic to eschew the romanticization of unmediated expression or naturalness in favor of a nearly classicist stress on restraint and self-control. The latter provided the firmest stabilizing equipment for the existential plunge into the “seething vortex” of modernity.

      What's the problem with the "primitive" for African American artists, according to Anderson? What other examples from IM can you think of that carry out this implicit critique of celebrating black "primitivity"?

    9. In such a case Ellison redescribed the African-American blues as a raft, if not a generating motor, for moving closer to the “democratic ideal.” At least on some occasions the blues came to the aid of his anti-racist dialectic of democratic national becoming.

      Unpack Ellison's figure linking the blues and the novel as a "raft" of sorts. How does this figure help us to see a kinship between the blues and the novel as cultural forms? What are the implications of seeing both as "rafts" rather than the kind of structures that grow out of "blueprints"?

    10. Ultimately, the narrator will summon Armstrong’s “beam of lyrical sound” as a heroic model for transforming slips, breaks, and plunges into opportunities to master “the swift and imperceptible flowing of time.” A dawning transvaluation of slips and plunges derived from the African-American blues, one of Armstrong’s chief idiomatic sources, will also enrich the narrator.

      How is musical form an analogue or aspirational model for writing fiction for Ellison? What's the logic of this connection? What can listening to Armstrong teach the novelist?

    11. Armstrong may have been a representative of an African-American “underworld of sound” but his musical revolution was on intimate terms with the white mainstream of American popular music. The critic Nathaniel Mackey has recently elaborated a theoretical understanding of intimacy and discrepancy through a distinction between “musical othering” and “social othering” that is relevant to this discussion of invisibility’s ironic benefits.

      Anderson's argument gets a bit hard to follow here, for me at least. Is that a mistake on his part? Why might that be? What does this opacity tell us about his style and, perhaps, his method in this piece?

      Is it clear by the end of this section why Anderson took us on this seeming detour through his theoretical analysis of "invisibility"? What is the connection?

    12. On the level of vernacular culture (if not elsewhere), an invisible but irrepressible “underworld of sound” had already quietly taken over the mainstream. This, too, Ellison heard in Armstrong’s popular music. But how was the United States to pass from the sonic and cultural pluralism Ellison discovered to the post-racist social and political revolution of which it offered some kind of foretaste?

      What is the relationship between Ellison's writing and the pre-existing tradition of African American vernacular music in this passage? Also, note how Anderson uses a rhetorical question here: why? What's the benefit of pulling out this question at this point in the argument?

    13. especially the chapter on the “sorrow songs” in W. E. B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk (1903).

      I TOLD y'all that book was important!

    14. Thus, musical othering can submit dominant “fixed equations” and aesthetic norms to what Mackey dubs a “dislocating tilt.”(10)

      What is the relationship between "musical othering" and "social othering"? How might this relationship reflect back on Ellison's novel?

    15. An extraordinary philosophical faith in the translatability, if not transparency, of meaning across artistic media shone through Ellison’s joint account of racial invisibility and musical technique.

      What is Ellison's implied disagreement with his mentors at Tuskeegee (remember: the model for the campus life depicted in IM)? What counter-model does he offer for thinking about "folk" materials?

    16. Musical occasions, that is, play no role in Ellison’s writing by figuring as sites of untranslatable otherness or estrangement. He regularly displayed a Malrauxian fervor for ritual interpretation in his explorations of southern and southwestern African-American music and folkways. Especially in Ellison’s early postwar work, a sense of modernization as an abrupt and volcanic process of cultural upheaval hovered over these explorations. What was happening to African-Americans’ “traditional” cultural tools – what Ellison’s friend Kenneth Burke called “equipment for living” – in the seemingly chaotic context of northern migration and urban proletarianization?(6) Ellison adapted the work of Malraux and other theorists to style his own response to the processes of disruption, survival, and transformation in African-American modernity.

      We get into the deep water here in Anderson's argument. How, according to Anderson, does Ellison think about music? How does his approach differ from other music critics? What were some of his models in developing this perspective, and how do they help him link African American music to other cultural objects? Also, note how Anderson starts with a pretty simple, clear intro and starts to tamp down on it here into something denser.

    17. A closer look at his skeptical commentaries on Parker’s prominent role in the stylistic innovations of the 1940s jazz modernists reveals Ellison’s fascinating and rarely discussed inhabitation of the posture of a musical revanchist committed to the musical superiority of certain pre-World War II idioms.

      What's the "intervention" Anderson wants to make with this piece? What does he have to say that hasn't been said, especially in a critical conversation that (as Blair points out) is already very crowded? More broadly, what can we learn here about how to create some "elbow room" for our own arguments in oft-discussed texts?

    18. revanchist


    19. the scene operated as a regulative norm for the mature Ellison.

      What does Anderson mean by a "regulative norm"? What is the "delicate balance" Ellison describes here? Why does jazz matter so much to Ellison, becoming more that mere entertainment?

    1. hortatory


    2. auratic


    3. In this episode, documentary is transformed from a method of exposure – a technique applied to the hapless, the forgotten, the marginal and unself-conscious – into a powerful exercise, at once aesthetic and political, of self-knowledge.

      How does Blair's argument respond to the idea that documentary work reduces its subjects, exploits its subjects, sticks them to a board on a pin and scrawls labels under them?

    4. sui generis


    5. Photographs Miscellaneous Invisible Men.”(24) At one point, the binder appears to have included a stack of images;

      What are some implications of Ellison's having a folder with images of "invisible men"? How does this archival discovery link to her broader argument?

    6. the tenements and alleys and basements; “the gin mills and the barber shops and the juke joints and the churches” where, as Ellison’s narrator argues, a “whole unrecorded history is spoken” (471).

      Unpack this moment in Blair's argument: how does this passage, which is not about photography at all, nevertheless link up with Blair's argument about documentary modes of representation and the camera?

    7. Yet if this desire impelled any number of writers and intellectuals of Ellison’s generation, it had a particular power, and particular novelistic uses, for him.

      What are some of the pitfalls and potentialities of engaging photography for Ellison, as a writer of color in the 1930s and 40s? What have prior critics said about this relation, and what does Blair want to add that's new?

    8. Putting the camera back in his hand,

      Blair ends the article with a riff on what happens when we "put the camera back in Ellison's hand." What does happen? Is looking at Ellison's relationship to photography something she's added to an evaluation of his novel, or does it force us to think about the novel in new ways?

    9. Ahead of me the body hung, white, naked, and horribly feminine from a lamppost.

      How does Blair read this surreal image on p. 556 of the hanged mannequins? What does it add to our reading of Ellison's novel to read this image alongside other depictions of mannequins from contemporary photographers like Cartier-Bresson? What does this interpretive move tell us about Blair's methodology?

    10. No wonder, then, that black writers and intellectuals were so fascinated by the evolving history and artifacts of documentary photography.

      How does Blair link Ellison to the broader context of "documentary" work in the 1930s and beyond? What does it mean for an African American artist to do "documentary" work? How does Blair link Ellison to broader themes in African American and American culture through this exploration of documentary?

    11. Even the somewhat random, as-yet uncatalogued, photographs housed with Ellison’s archived papers suggest a certain rehearsal on his part of the menu of representational possibilities: formalist, socially conscious, reportial, intimate.

      Blair takes rather seriously the idea that Ellison is a photographer, not just a writer who snaps photos. As such, how does his work fit into the landscape of postwar art photography? How does she massage him into the broader story of the history of photography? How does Ellison's place in this history relate to his examination of "invisibility" in the novel?

    12. he habitually posed for photographs and self-portraits with camera in hand

      What happens when Blair shifts from Ellison as photography to Ellison as subject of photography? How does she read his performances, so to speak, in front of the camera?

    13. the materials preserved in his archive

      What does Blair find in Ellison's archive and how does she put it to use? What strikes you about her methodology here? What significance does she find in materials that one might ordinarily find, well, insignificant?

    14. the young Ellison serendipitously finds “a large photographic lens”

      What does Blair do with this seemingly minor anecdote in one of Ellison's memoirish essays, about finding a camera lens? Why is this such a big deal? What can we learn from Blair about writing criticism from this move, digging up this anecdote and applying it in this way?

    15. reified


    16. apercu


    17. Ellison was to some extent merely one of his generation

      How does Blair "historicize" Ellison's work? To the implied question, "how did Ellison's work, including his fascination with photography, link up with broader cultural historical currents?," what kinds of answers does she give? How does Ellison's race fit into this broader narrative?

    18. But Ellison’s negotiations of racial history and experience in Invisible Man owe an as-yet unacknowledged debt to another cultural form with which he purposively experimented: photography.

      Okay, bold claim, but how does Blair set out to convince us of this argument? What will be her "methodology"? What have prior critics missed in their readings of Ellison's novel?

    19. “Ralph Ellison, Photographer.”

      What are the implications of this object Blair has pulled from the archives? Why does it matter what's written on Ellison's old memoranda sheets? What's a memoranda sheet, anyway? Why was photography so important to Ellison, and how do we know?

    20. General note: this is the first piece of criticism we're reading for the course (I'm leaving out the theoretical pieces by Emerson, Du Bois, etc., which did not analyze a particular literary text). Here, I want to pose some questions in the margins that call attention to the craft of criticism: what moves critics make, what methodologies they employ, what assumptions they make about what their readers know and don't know, what questions they ask of the text, implicitly or explicitly. We'll keep developing these skills throughout the term, and you'll develop more independence as you go. For now, you'll be sort of reading over my shoulder. For those who have read Dante, I'll be the Virgil to your Dante!

    21. Among readers of Ellison, it is a truth universally acknowledged that the benchmark for his aesthetics and novelistic style is jazz.

      Note the "here's how everyone else reads this text" opening move. What are the advantages of starting this way? How does Blair develop this theme of a critical consensus, and how does she wedge herself in the discussion?

  5. Jan 2019
    1. I don’t get the LINE token, the Kakao token, the Telegram token and now the Facebook token. All these messaging apps DO NOT need crypto token for digital payment or in app purchase an elegant digital payment design plus LOTS of effort on merchants on-boarding can work well

      <big>评:</big><br/><br/>现行的数字支付体系和推广模式固然能满足 IM 软件生态内的支付与流转需求,但这些互联网厂商的野心并不止步于此,圈地画饼背后的贪婪足以压倒所有关于无用功的论述。若把屏幕前的用户比作浩瀚宇宙中的孤独星球,现在的即时通讯平台就是强大的引力场,被吸引过来的星体在此不断碰撞、合并。有朝一日,这些引力场都跳出来说自己要成为新的宇宙。可是这对于星体们来说,又与其何干呢?<br/><br/>在庞大的生态体系里,力量不断堆聚,演化出新的「极」。没有人是孤岛,但你就在孤岛。