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Americanizing BritainThe Rise of Modernism in the Age of the Entertainment Empire$
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Genevieve Abravanel

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199754458

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199754458.001.0001

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Jazzing Britain

Jazzing Britain

The Transatlantic Jazz Invasion and the Remaking of Englishness

(p.53) 2 Jazzing Britain
Americanizing Britain

Genevieve Abravanel

Oxford University Press

When jazz arrived in England, the nation was on an imaginative precipice: both grasping after history and attempting to bury it, haunted by terrible loss and eager to forget it in a frenzy of music and dance. As the contest over the jazz invasion raged in English newspapers and periodicals, in drawing rooms and public houses, the debate turned jazz into a metaphor for the modernization of England. This chapter demonstrates how a range of writers across the political spectrum, from Elizabeth Bowen and Virginia Woolf to Wyndham Lewis and W.H. Auden, each quite differently mobilized this metaphor. While it may seem surprising for writers to turn to American jazz music to explore the interwar crisis of Englishness, it was precisely because jazz invoked so many competing discourses—art and entertainment, whiteness and blackness, England and America—that it served this end so well.

Keywords:   jazz, blues, W.H. Auden, Elizabeth Bowen, Virginia Woolf, Evelyn Waugh, Wyndham Lewis, Clive Bell, Nancy Cunard, Philip Larkin

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