Notes on Michael Magee's talk
Ralph Ellison: Pragmatism, Jazz, and the American Vernacular
Poetry Project, 10/22/04

Emerson -- "How easily we capitulate to badges and names."

The maintenance of idealism in the face of the myth of democracy.

How to avoid the patterns of getting locked into the traditions that precede you.

Social flexibility vs. stagnant institutional power as a discipline -- that is -- what a process of democratization would actually mean.

Magee paraphrase of Emerson: "part of self reliance is to protect other people from yourself."

History is a text that can be revised.

Symbolic action -- creating new idioms, new dialogue, new ways of speaking -- hence new thoughts reflecting new realities, and: new actions.

"All literary power is social power."

Burke's take on Hitler and his popularity w/ Germans at the time: enforced repetition of thought until it becomes tradition.

Complicity of power and language, which can cut both ways -- the opportunity available to use the social power of language for change.

Burke's take on why America won't ever go fascist -- we can't agree on who to hate.

The polyvocal aspects of jazz -- the including of dissonance -- different needs and voices in the social sense, as enriching and inherently progressive socially.

American culture is "jazz-shaped."

Making players out of audiences: this point made me think of a recent performance of Cornelius Cardew's The Great Learning I participated in recently (there was no other way to experience it, really) where the entire audience emptied out from the bleachers and joined the musicians on stage -- players and audience were one, voila!)

Ellison on interdependent form and content -- heavy overlap with Creeley.

The Bill of Rights as improvisation.

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