Week 10, with its poetry and jazz music, has finished. On Monday, April 8, Professor of German and Comparative Literature Jan Mieszkowski lectured on poems by Gwendolyn Bennett, Mae Cowdery, Countee Cullen, and Langston Hughes. Mieszkowski’s lecture, while lacking an overarching thesis, provided insight on, and analysis of, the different poets that students read. He also introduced Paul Laurence Dunbar and Dunbar’s poem, “We Wear the Mask.” Mieszkowski connected Dunbar’s idea of masks and unmasking to W.E.B DuBois’s notion of “double consciousness.” He also compared and contrasted Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen and their work. For Wednesday, April 10, students read poetry by Sterling Brown, James Weldon Johnson, Claude McKay, Anne Spencer, and Jean Toomer, but there was no lecture.
On Friday, April 12, Professor of Music David Schiff gave a guest lecture on Duke Ellington and jazz music. Students listened to Duke Ellington’s “Blue Light,” “Daybreak Express,” “Such Sweet Thunder,” and “Heaven.” They also watched the short film Black and Tan and read Mark Tucker’s article “The Renaissance Education of Duke Ellington.” Ellington, widely considered one of the greatest jazz musicians, was a composer, pianist, and jazz orchestra leader. During his career, which lasted over 50 years, he composed over a thousand pieces and was one of the originators of big-band jazz. Some students were disappointed in Schiff’s lecture, though. One student said that Schiff “managed to make Duke Ellington boring.”
Next week, students will read Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and study musician and political activist Paul Robeson.