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2023/24 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

MUSS2128 Duke Ellington and the Twentieth-Century Jazz Environment

20 creditsClass Size: 25

Module manager: Dr Simon Baines

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This course examines ways of responding to and writing about jazz and related musics, using Duke Ellington as a central case-study figure and basis for comparison with other artists. In the last few years, coinciding approximately with the centenary of Ellington’s first compositions, writers such as John Howland (Ellington Uptown: Duke Ellington, James P. Johnson, and the Birth of Concert Jazz), Harvey G. Cohen (Duke Ellington’s America), and David Schiff (The Ellington Century) have established strong cases for a reassessment of his place in the history of twentieth-century music, in turn illuminating our understanding of jazz, and genre relationships. Coverage will draw on a range of disciplinary approaches, critical and historical views (for instance from African American writers, and those writing about relationships with film and literature), reflection on Ellington and his music, as well as comparison with other music and musicians.


The module is designed to introduce students to the body of research and repertoire corresponding with the music and cultures commonly labelled ‘jazz’, through the major part of the twentieth century, taking Ellington as a central figure. Students will engage with relevant sources and scholarship to develop critical and analytical skills appropriate to the topic. The module also supports the development of broader research and writing skills through dedicated sessions focused in these areas.

Learning outcomes
1. Demonstrate the broadening of their musical knowledge through musicological study of the music, cultures and reception of Duke Ellington and the twentieth-century jazz environment.

2. Evaluate a variety of types of sources to show critical and analytical understanding of a body of research.

3. Apply appropriate historical, analytical, critical and comparative methodologies to the articulation and development of arguments.

4. Demonstrate the development of research, and essay-writing skills.


Taught sessions will introduce the music and activity of Ellington and associated musicians over five decades (the 1920s to the 1960s), contextualised alongside contemporary movements in jazz and key critical and social discourse. A series of set readings will draw on black music research and support comparative analysis alongside other key figures in twentieth-century jazz. Lectures will be structured around a synthesis of history, musical examples and critical appraisal, and for each decade in focus there will be the opportunity to discuss key texts in more detail.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours180.70
Total Contact hours22.25
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)202.95

Private study

4 hours evaluation of notes per topic lecture: 28 hours
7 hours reading and listening per topic lecture or seminar: 70 hours
Skills lectures preparation: 12 hours
Work towards assessment: 70.75 hours

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Formative feedback will be provided on the literature review assignment through a plenary feedback seminar session, enabling all students to benefit from knowledge about common errors and examples of best practice from across the cohort. Formative feedback will also be provided through contribution to class discussions in lectures and seminars, and in the module tutorial.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay or Dissertation3800-4200 words70.00
Literature Review1400-1600 words30.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 07/06/2023


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