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Antiessentialist Form: The Bebop Effect of Percival Everett's Erasure

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2020

Abstract

Reading Percival Everett's novel Erasure through the musical techniques of 1940s bebop jazz shows how experimental and improvisational musical performances structure and animate this literary work. By mixing genres, and by creating a sensibility of what I call disharmonious harmony—a dissonance that deconstructs notions of paradigmatic identities—Erasure destabilizes the idea of literary category and prompts critical inquiry into the legitimacy of racial representation, provoking the reader to confront the racial discourse that supplements processes of reading and interpretation. Everett's bebop sensibility is a device of radical blackness because it incites the reader to question the viability of categorization in all its forms, but particularly in the groupings through which the racial episteme of the modern period makes legible the idea of African American identity and experience.

Type
Research Article
Information
PMLA , Volume 134 , Issue 5 , October 2019 , pp. 1042 - 1055
Copyright
Copyright © Modern Language Association of America, 2019

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