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Musical/Textual Double Consciousness in W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk

Adriano Elia    Università degli Studi Roma Tre, Italia    

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abstract

Besides introducing groundbreaking critical concepts such as double consciousness, colour line and the veil, W.E.B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk (1903) was among the first books to attribute universal dignity to black music. It did so by devoting a whole chapter to the ‘sorrow songs’, seen as “the articulate message of the slave to the world”, as well as by opening each chapter with epigraphs composed of bars of ‘black’ spirituals juxtaposed with lines of poetry by notable ‘white’ authors – Symons, Lowell, Byron, among others – in a musical/textual version of double consciousness. Reconsidering the composite formal structure of The Souls of Black Folk and the role of the spirituals as ceaseless reminders of freedom, the paper explores the ways in which Du Bois’s speculations on black music foreshadow contemporary sonic/textual strategies.

Published
Dec. 19, 2022
Accepted
Oct. 6, 2022
Submitted
July 1, 2022
Language
EN

Keywords: The Souls of Black FolkSpiritualsDouble consciousnessDu BoisSound studies

Copyright: © 2022 Adriano Elia. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.