Comparative Literature | Lyrics and Popular Culture
C251 | 1214 | David M. Hertz
TR 11:15-12:30 BH 347
This course carries COAS Cultural Studies and A & H credit
Survey of popular songs of Europe and the Americas, including modern
ballads, Broadway tunes, classical jazz standards, country western,
rock, French cabaret songs, Spanish flamencos, Mexican rancheras,
Brazilian ballads, Argentine tangos, and Neapolitan melodies.
Discussion of literary qualities of lyrics in context of musical
setting and performance and independently as literature. Some
discussion of musical stylists as well. Live performances of selected
works. No previous courses in music or poetry required.
The course will deal with all sorts of popular songs, from the
nineteenth century to now. We will periodically study French and
Spanish songs, and even some German and Brazilian tunes, but we will
mostly concentrate on the great American writers, including such
figures as Porter, Kern, Ellington, Gershwin, Wonder, and Springsteen.
Our target: the varied phenomena of how words and music come
together in the hybrid art form we call the popular song. At times we
will concentrate on the culture that produced the song, or focus more
attention on the lyricist or the composer. Sometimes we will discover
that they are the same person. The great Cole Porter is a case in
point, and Irving Berlin is another fine example. At other times, we
will focus on a great performer, such as Piaf or Sinatra. Or we will
discover that the performer and creator are sometimes the same person,
as in the case of Brel or Springsteen. Lyrics will be analyzed in
relation to the musical structures, and as poetry too. Most important
will be to study the popular song as a complete art form using both
words and music. Emphasis will be on the 30s through the 50s, but
there will be very recent song materials as well.
Assignments: there will be a short prospectus and an expanded final
paper (the two can be interrelated). Two quizzes (midterm and final).
Readings: assigned reading for each class is a must.