Robert O’Meally

Columbia University

Paris Blues Revisited: Film, Novel, Collage

My research uses the various "Paris Blues" projects, of which the movie of 1961 is the best known, to examine the modern and contemporary jazz scene in Paris as a global one requiring an interdisciplinary toolbox for full understanding. Using the movie and its score by Ellington and Strayhorn, the novel "Paris Blues" and "Paris Blues" the book of collages undertaken by the painter Romare Bearden, I will challenge the movie's stark mapping of the jazz world as either New Orleans or Paris. To begin with, these are global jazz cities, and there are many other places in the jazz story, as new close readings of all these texts, augmented by archival digging and interviews, will reveal. "Paris Blues Revisited" will uncover a dynamically expressive international jazz scene that is gay and straight, with exchanges (including love affairs) beyond the simple axes of black and white.

Robert G. O’Meally is the Zora Neale Hurston Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, where he has served on the faculty for twenty-five years. A scholar whose work encompasses literature, music, and visual art, O’Meally is the founder and director of Columbia’s Center for Jazz Studies. He is the author of The Craft of Ralph Ellison, Lady Day: The Many Faces of Billie Holiday, The Jazz Singers, and Romare Bearden: A Black Odyssey. His edited volumes include The Jazz Cadence of American Culture, Living with Music: Ralph Ellison’s Essays on Jazz, The Norton Anthology of African American Literature (co-editor), and the Barnes and Noble editions of Mark Twain, Herman Melville, and Frederick Douglass. For his production of a Smithsonian record set called The Jazz Singers, he was nominated for a Grammy Award. He has held Guggenheim and Cullman Center at The New York Public Library Fellowships, among others. His new books are The Romare Bearden Reader and Antagonistic Cooperation: Collage, Jazz, and American Fiction.

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