Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-5c569c448b-s84wp Total loading time: 0.181 Render date: 2022-07-05T20:57:45.287Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

Article contents

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

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 October 2020


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.

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

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Adorno, Theodor. Aesthetic Theory. Edited by Adorno, Gretel and Tiedemann, Rolf, translated by Robert Hullot-Kentor, Bloomsbury, 2013.Google Scholar
Baraka, Amiri. Blues People: Negro Music in White America. 1963. William Morrow, 1999.Google Scholar
Barthes, Roland. S/Z: An Essay. translated by Miller, Richard, Hill and Wang, 1974.Google Scholar
Blake, Ran. “The Monk Piano Style”. Keyboard Magazine, vol. 8, July 1982, pp. 2430.Google Scholar
Crawford, Margo Natalie. Black Post-blackness: The Black Arts Movement and Twenty-First-Century Aesthetics. U of Illinois P, 2017.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Derrida, Jacques. “The Law of Genre”. Critical Inquiry, vol. 7, no. 1, Autumn 1980, pp. 5581.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
DeVeaux, Scott. The Birth of Bebop. U of California P, 1997.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Du Bois, W.E.B. The Souls of Black Folk. Eucalyptus Press, 2014.Google Scholar
Eaton, Kimberly. “Deconstructing the Narrative: Language, Genre, and Experience in Erasure. Nebula, vol. 3, nos. 2–3, 2006, pp. 220–32.Google Scholar
Edwards, Brent Hayes. Epistrophies: Jazz and the Literary Imagination. Harvard UP, 2017.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Ellison, Ralph. “The Golden Age, Time Past”. The Collected Essays of Ralph Ellison, edited by Callahan, John, Modern Library, 2003, pp. 237–49.Google Scholar
Everett, Percival. Erasure. UP of New England, 2001.Google Scholar
Everett, Percival. “F/V: Placing the Experimental Novel”. Callaloo, vol. 22, no. 1, Winter 1999, pp. 1823.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Fanon, Frantz. Black Skin, White Masks. translated by Philcox, Richard, Grove Press, 2008.Google Scholar
Fitterling, Thomas. Thelonious Monk: His Life and Music. translated by Dobbin, Robert, Berkeley Hills Books, 1997.Google Scholar
Gibson, Scott Thomas. “Invisibility and the Commodification of Blackness in Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man and Percival Everett's Erasure. Canadian Review of Comparative Literature, vol. 37, no. 4, 2010, pp. 353–69.Google Scholar
Gilroy, Paul. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Verso, 1993.Google Scholar
Gilroy, Paul. “It Ain't Where You're from, It's Where You're At… : The Dialectics of Diasporic Identification”. Third Text, vol. 5, no. 13, 1991, pp. 316.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Gysin, Fritz. “The Pitfalls of Parody: Melancholic Satire in Percival Everett's Erasure!' Reading Percival Everett: European Perspectives, edited by Julien, Claude, Presses Universitaires François Rabelais, 2007, pp. 6380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hawkins, Alfonso W., Jr. The Jazz Trope: A Theory of African American Literary and Vernacular Culture. Scarecrow Press, 2008.Google Scholar
Hodeir, André. Toward Jazz. Grove Press, 1962.Google Scholar
Kelley, Robin D.G. Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original. Free Press, 2009.Google Scholar
Lock, Graham, and Murray, David, editors. Thriving on a Riff: Jazz and Blues in African American Literature and Film. Oxford UP, 2009.Google Scholar
Mackey, Nathaniel. “Other: From Noun to Verb.” Representations, no. 39, Summer 1992, pp. 5170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mackey, Nathaniel. “Sound and Sentiment, Sound and Symbol.” Callaloo, no. 30, Winter 1987, pp. 2954.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Monk, Thelonious. “Four in One”. Genius of Modern Music, vol. 2, Blue Note, 1952.Google Scholar
Monk, Thelonious. “Trinkle, Tinkle”. Thelonious Monk Trio, Prestige, 1954.Google Scholar
Monson, Ingrid. “The Problem with White Hipness: Race, Gender, and Cultural Conceptions in Jazz Historical Discourse”. Journal of American Musicological Society, vol. 48, no. 3, Autumn 1995, pp. 396422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Moten, Fred. In the Break: The Aesthetics of the Black Radical Tradition. U of Minnesota P, 2003.Google Scholar
Moten, Fred. “Taste Dissonance Flavor Escape”. Women and Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, vol. 17, no. 22, 2007, pp. 217–46.Google Scholar
O'Meally, Robert, editor. The Jazz Cadence of American Culture. Columbia UP, 1998.Google Scholar
Omry, Keren. Cross-Rhythms: Jazz Aesthetics in African-American Literature. Continuum, 2008.Google Scholar
Osteen, Mark. “Rhythm Changes: Contrafacts, Copyright, and Jazz Modernism”. Modernism and Copyright, edited by Saint-Amour, Paul K., Oxford UP, 2010, pp. 89113.Google Scholar
Ramsey, Gutherie P. Race Music: Black Cultures from Bebop to Hip-Hop. U of California P, 2003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Review of “Epistrophy” and “In Walked Bud.” Composed and performed by Monk, Thelonious, Down Beat, 20 Oct. 1948, p. 13.Google Scholar
Ridley, Chauncey. “Van Go's Pharmakon: ‘Pharmacology’ and Democracy in Percival Everett's Erasure. African American Review, vol. 47, no. 1, 2014, pp. 101–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Russell, Ross. “Bebop.” 1948. The Art of Jazz, edited by Williams, Martin, Grove Press, 1959, pp. 187214.Google Scholar
Russett, Margaret. “Race under Erasure”. Callaloo, vol. 28, no. 2, 2005, pp. 358–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Smethurst, James. The African American Roots of Modernism. U of North Carolina P, 2011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Stewart, Anthony. “Giving the People What They Want: The African American Exception as Racial Cliché in Percival Everett's Erasure. American Exception-alisms: From Winthrop to Winfrey, edited by Söderlind, Sylvia and Carson, James Taylor, State U of New York P, 2011, pp. 167–89.Google Scholar
Weixlmann, Joe. “Allusion and Misdirection: Himes, ‘Meiosis,‘ and Everett's Erasure. African American Review, vol. 49, no. 2, 2016, pp. 145–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Yost, Brian. “The Changing Same: The Evolution of Racial Self-Definition and Commercialization”. Callaloo, vol. 31, no. 4, 2008, pp. 1314–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

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

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

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

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

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

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *