The seminar MUSIC GR9401 (Advanced Seminar Ethnomusicology 1) will be specifically focused on “ethnographic poetics” in writing about music, sound, dance, and sociality, and about the development of one’s own literary writing voice through fictocritical approaches to ethnographic narration and description. I hope to familiarize you with lineages of sound studies, ethnomusicology, musical anthropology, and sound studies that connect to linguistics and literary theory, and demonstrate the persistent disruption of the social scientific analytic gaze by the sensuous materiality of experience as sounded and written about — the inseparability of the semantic from the aesthetic, the musical from the ideational.
Students will produce projects in this seminar, which are themselves essays in literary and multimedia/multisensory representation. I want the seminar to be a space to do ethnographic writing specifically, at any level of advancement of your project. We will spend some time defining “poetics” and reading a selection of critically influential works by Bakhtin, Volosinov, Jakobson, Benjamin, and Sapir — a necessary engagement with the paradigm of structuralism and semiotics and their discontents. We will look specifically at the “ethnopoetics” literature in linguistic anthropology (mostly focused on Indigenous American cultures) of the 1960s-80s (work of Hymes, Tedlock, Sherzer, Urban) and at the literary and reflexive critique of ethnography in postcolonial cultural anthropology, as well as studying recent ethnographic texts that blur the lines of literary and critical voicing in exploring both the material and phenomenological dimensions of sounding/dancing culture, with texts partially selected by the seminar group based on personal project interests and partly based on availability of authors for class visits. Assignments will include weekly reflections on reading assignments and a steadily developed final project.