January 2021

Jazz Film: Improvisation, Narrativity, and Representation

Listed in: Film and Media Studies, as FAMS-375  |  Music, as MUSI-225


Jason Robinson (Section 01J)


(Offered as MUSI 225 and FAMS 375) Jazz occupies a special role in the development of American film. From The Jazz Singer (1927), the first American film that included synchronized sound, to the sprawling Jazz: A Documentary (2001) from Ken Burns, filmic representations of jazz speak to fundamental ways that Americans negotiate difference and imagine national identity. This course examines the relationship between jazz and American culture through three modalities: improvisation, narrativity, and representation. How might jazz improvisation influence the construction of film? Is there an "improvised film"? Moreover, jazz musicians often speak about "telling stories" through their music. How might this influence narrative structure in film and inform the ways that stories about jazz musicians are constructed in film? How might this influence narrative structure in film? And how might these stories about jazz musicians reflect larger debates about race, gender, sexuality and nationality? Assignments will include guided viewing of several important jazz films, required reading, and a series of essays.

January term. Professor Robinson. Synchronous and asynchronous online learning.  All elements of the course will be conducted via Zoom, the course website, streaming video reserves, and other online sources.

If Overenrolled: Priority given to Music and Film & Media Studies majors, then to seniors and 1st-year students


Artistic Practice, Attention to Issues of Race, Fine Arts for Non-majors, Online Only


2020-21: Offered in January 2021
Other years: Offered in Fall 2011, Spring 2019, January 2021