A Migration of Stars
Starting with the response to jazz in the 1920s by Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, the introduction examines how a fantasy of Black America provided European audiences, and especially European artists and intellectuals, with a way of negotiating the experience of modernity. It describes the celebrity of Josephine Baker in France and Germany. It offers a theoretical account of the affective and psychological aspects of modernity, drawing especially on the work of Georg Simmel, Siegfried Kracauer, and (to a lesser extent) Walter Benjamin. It charts the arrival of Paul Robeson in London. A reading of the Bloomsbury art theorist Clive Bell’s anti-jazz polemic “Plus de Jazz” sets the scene for an account of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land as a poem that consciously responded to the modernist aesthetic embodied in jazz. The chapter shows how the imaginative take-up of Black America was a feature of transatlantic modernism.
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