Exploring the deep and enduring relationship between music and literature, Hot Music, Ragmentation, and the Bluing of American Literature examines the diverse ways in which African American “hot” music influenced American culture–particularly literature–in early twentieth-century America. Steven C. Tracy provides a history of the fusion of African and Eu212-6159-Product_LargeToMediumImageropean elements that formed African American “hot” music, and considers how terms like ragtime, jazz, and blues developed their own particular meanings for American music and society. He draws from the fields of literature, literary criticism, cultural anthropology, American studies, and folklore to demonstrate how blues as a musical and poetic form has been a critical influence on American literature.

Hot Music, Ragmentation, and the Bluing of American Literature begins by highlighting instances in which American writers, including Herman Melville, Stephen Crane, and Gertrude Stein use African American culture and music in their work, and then characterizes the social context of the Jazz Age, discussing how African American music reflected the wild abandon of the time. Tracy focuses on how a variety of schools of early twentieth-century writers, from modernists to members of the Harlem Renaissance to dramatists and more, used their connections with “hot” music to give their own work meaning.

Tracy’s extensive and detailed understanding of how African American “hot” music operates has produced a fresh and original perspective on its influence on mainstream American literature and culture. An experienced blues musician himself, Tracy draws on his performance background to offer an added dimension to his analysis. Where another blues scholar might only analyze blues language, Tracy shows how the language is actually performed.

Hot Music, Ragmentation, and the Bluing of American Literature offers a refreshingly broad interdisciplinary vision of the influence of African American “hot” music on American literature. It is an essential addition to the library of serious scholars of American and African American literature and culture and blues aficionados alike.


Steven C. Tracy is a professor of Afro-American Studies at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. He served as Fulbright Senior Specialist at the University of Konstanz in Germany and also as Chutian Scholar at Central China Normal University. He has authored, edited, coedited, or introduced nearly thirty books. A singer-harmonica player, he has opened for B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, and others.


“Steven Tracy’s magisterial study fills one of the gaping holes in our historic understanding of American expressive culture. As no one else before him has done, Tracy explores in detail the role of the art form known as the blues, which is rooted in the southern black experience, in shaping not simply our national popular music but also our most acclaimed and even revered literature. Tracy brings to this achievement both his unusual gifts as a practicing bluesman and also his finely honed skills as an academic, one able to meet complex challenges in research and interpretation and write about them with clarity and grace. This is an extraordinary, indispensable book from a remarkable American scholar.”
–Arnold Rampersad, author of Ralph Ellison: A Biography and The Life of Langston Hughes

Hot Music, Ragmentation, and the Bluing of American Literature is a monumental contribution to our understanding of the deep, enduring influence of blues on American literature. Steven Tracy ranges across the fields of literature, literary criticism, cultural anthropology, American studies, and folklore, and he offers the reader a refreshingly broad, interdisciplinary vision of blues and American literature.”
–William Ferris, author of The Storied South: Voices of Writers and Artists and Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues

“Steven Tracy’s book is a highly original study which applies strikingly new ideas and approaches to an important aspect of modern American culture which has never been adequately examined and appreciated. Tracy’s unique credentials as an accomplished blues performer and a distinguished literary scholar enable him to explore ‘the emergence of the blues in mainstream culture’ in ways that are both comprehensive and penetrating. This book will make a major contribution to our understanding of the diverse ways in which African American music has broadly influenced American life and literature.”
–Bob Butler, author of The Open Journey in African American Literature and Native Son: The Emergence of a New Black Hero


Trade Cloth
6 X 9, 560 pp
ISBN: 978-0-8173-1865-9 Cloth
ISBN: 978-0-8173-8813-3 Ebook
Price: $64.95