Date of Award

Spring 5-5-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Professor Jeremy M. Glick

Second Advisor

Professor Sonali Perera

Academic Program Adviser

Professor Amy M. Robbins


I will investigate the language around, and in direct relation to, the musicality of James Baldwin’s work. The interdependence of music and literature compose the majority, if not all, of his literary corpus. However, at some point both art forms bifurcate and we are confronted by the difficulties of writing about music and sound, and about music in text. I confront Roland Barthes’s disdain for the adjective and his theory of the “Grain of the Voice” in order to argue that attention to Black expressive musical narrative forms make audible and allow readers to witness to the grain of the Black body in James Baldwin’s work. I will frame the music with the assistance of a seminal history of Jazz and Blues music by Amiri Baraka. I will then push and further complicate my argument by focusing on the Sonic Color Line as theorized by Jennifer Stoever. Stoever offers the “Embodied Ear” and “Listening Ear” as means to describing the racialized sound filters that I would like readers to be aware of when “listening” to the music performed in James Baldwin’s short stories, plays, and novels. Some of the works I examine include: “Sonny’s Blues”, “Going to Meet the Man”, Just Above my Head, and Another Country. I will also reference one of Baldwin’s theoretical works, The Fire Next Time.



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