Year of Publication

2020

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Document Type

Master's Thesis

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Classical Languages and Literature

First Advisor

Dr. Brenna Byrd

Abstract

May Ayim has become a staple when it comes to Black German poetry within German Studies and continues to influence and challenge ideas of what it means to be black in Germany at the end of the 20th century. What is perhaps not challenged enough is the ways in which we, the readers and students of German literature and poetry, approach and study Ayim’s poetry as we move deeper into the 21st century. Her collection of poetry, Blues in Schwarz Weiss, can be seen through a significant word found in her collection’s title—blues. It is through blues, the musical form as well as the cultural influences therein, that we can better view and follow the intentional ways that Ayim chooses to create and present her work to herself and the world.

The blues scale, in the truest musical sense, is “a pentatonic scale with one morenote added in the scale”. This added note is specifically called the “blue note”. It is in fact through the viewpoint of the blues scale and “blue notes” that we can read Ayim’s poetry and better understand her structure, not only of the individual poems, but the collection as a whole. Ayim’s poetry displays “blue notes” and juxtaposes them beside the larger “scale” that is the majority white German society. Blues in Schwarz Weiss is therefore a cultural blues product that follows the tradition of blues music by transcending any one singular perspective or thought, instead using the tension between these angles or mindsets to create a third space--a space where different traditions can speak to and have a conversation with one another (Brommel 197). In my research, I plan on using the four “blues form features” presented in Nick Brommel’s analysis—intonation, call-and-response, the “lick”, and blues paradigms—to help categorize the distinct influences and allusions to blues music that Ayim utilizes in her work, and the ways in which the poems themselves are a reflection of blues music forms.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

https://doi.org/10.13023/etd.2020.216

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