Friday, June 16, 2017

Joycelyn Moody and the Coltrane Quartet

Years ago, I met someone who had seen the John Coltrane Quartet play live. I asked the guy what it was like to be an eye-witness to a performance by Trane and those three other musicians.

He took a second to think and then told me, “Listen: it was like going to see God. Except there were four of them.”

Years from now when people ask me what it was like to see one of our greatest interlocutors discussing scholarly projects with folks, I’ll take a second to think and then respond “Listen: witnessing  Joycelyn Moody in action was like going to see the Coltrane Quartet. Except it’s just one of her.”

At one point, she’s multi-directional like Elvin Jones. Textured like McCoy Tyner. Essential like Jimmy Garrison. And then, leading you here and there and everywhere like our heaviest spirit, Trane.

The highlight of our summer Institute is Moody meeting with each of the Fellows to discuss their projects. Sure, the discussions of Black Studies readings are great. The poster sessions are really exciting. The New York City trip is always amazing. But again, the highlight is Moody meeting with those Fellows about their projects.

When’s the last time you’ve observed a senior, accomplished African American literature scholar having extended individual meetings with a succession of students about their proposed projects? Been a while, hunh? Never?

The process is really something to witness. Intense at times. Calming. Wide-ranging. Enlightening. Spiritual, even. You know, like going to see the Coltrane Quartet live.

AALCI 2017


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