It has been said that writing about music is like dancing about architecture – and indeed, evoking melody, harmony, and rhythm with words can challenge even the most observant and eloquent among us. In this section of English 121, students will read and discuss writing on music by not only scholars and critics (e.g. Margo Jefferson and Kalefa Sanneh) but also journalists (Joan Didion and Susan Orlean), a poet (LeRoi Jones), a novelist (Jonathan Lethem), and many others. The focus will be on popular music, very broadly defined, and among the concepts to be investigated are taste and “cool.” Written assignments will include a critical review of a performance or recording, a literary essay on a musical topic, a profile of a musician, and an academic paper. The goal of the course is for students to improve their skills at observation, description, and analysis of culture.
Prerequisite: ENGL 114, 115, 120, or another writing-intensive course at Yale.