Notes on Literature, Film, and Jazz

The Program in Critical Theory & City Lights Books, SF, Present a Seminar/Discussion with Howard Eiland on his recently published book: Notes on Literature, Film, and Jazz (Spuyten Duyvil, 2019).


Howard Eiland’s Notes on Literature, Film, and Jazz (Spuyten Duyvil, 2019) is a highly erudite and courageous inquiry into the arts. Weaving through a host of “classic” texts—literary, cinematic, and musical—these notes of a virtouso close reader set up echoes and reflections across signature moments. These “notes” address a dissident force in art while discussing an impressively diverse range of works and ideas in literature, film, and jazz. For instance: Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Jane Austen mix with Dickens and Kafka; Carl Dreyer intersects with Mizoguchi, Bresson, Lynch, and Madden; Eric Dolphy and Cecil Taylor process Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern. In a quasi-musical way, Notes interweaves elements within and between works—elements that open onto the unknown in an utterly questioning and self-questioning way. Eiland’s eloquent writing itself exemplifies this “aesthetic,” if it may be called that; the writing is enthralling in its capacity to challenge both the works examined and those who would assess them. Notes focuses on those energies in art that enact image spaces and spatiotemporal alterations in which life is never quite what it seems to be. This extraordinarily original book will interest all concerned with broad implications of developments in literature, film, and jazz.


Eiland will be joined in conversation by two jazz pianists and UC Berkeley literary critics: Michael Lucey (French; Comparative Literature; Program in Women, Gender, and Sexuality; Program in Critical Theory) and Maya Kronfeld (Comparative Literature).


Eiland will read briefly from and discuss the book. For those wishing to attend the seminar/discussion, please email to receive excerpts from the book


Howard Eiland taught literature for several decades at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is co-editor, translator, and author in the ongoing Walter Benjamin: Selected Writings series from Harvard University Press. The many volumes in the series that he’s translated, edited, and/or co-authored include The Arcades Project (2002); Walter Benjamin: A Critical Life (2014); and, most recently, the new translation of and introduction to Benjamin’s Origin of the German Trauerspiel (2019). Eiland has also worked for decades as a critic writing on literature, film, and jazz; Notes contains a sampling from among the most acute of these critical pieces.


This event is co-sponsored by the Program in Critical Theory and City Lights Booksellers and Publishers.