High Culture on the Lower Frequencies: African Americans and Opera, 1900-1933

Modified on Mon, 3 Oct, 2022 at 5:31 PM

Caplan, Lucy. 2019. ‘High Culture on the Lower Frequencies: African Americans and Opera, 1900-1933’. PhD Dissertation, Yale University. 

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I am a Lecturer in the History and Literature program at Harvard University. I received a Ph.D. in American Studies and African American Studies from Yale University in 2019. As a proud alumna of Hist and Lit, I’m delighted to be returning to the Barker Center.

In fall 2021, I am teaching an HL90 seminar called "Sound & Color: Music, Race, and U.S. Cultural Politics." I also teach sophomore, junior, and senior tutorials. 

I hold office hours on Thursdays, 3:00-4:00pm in Barker 040 or via Zoom. To make an appointment, please send me an email. 

I am an interdisciplinary historian of music and culture in the United States, with particular interests in African American music, opera, cultural criticism, and the relationship between music and intellectual history. I enjoy teaching courses that span the fields of American studies, African American studies, cultural history, and musicology. In the past, I’ve taught courses titled “Music and Resistance in the Modern United States,” "The Harlem Renaissance," “Black Women and Popular Music Culture,” and “Race and Gender in American Literature.”

My book project, High Culture on the Lower Frequencies: African Americans and Opera, 1900-1933, argues that early-twentieth-century African Americans redefined the genre of opera as a wellspring of antiracist activism, collective sociality, and aesthetic innovation. Exploring the work of performers, composers, critics, pedagogues, and students, I show how black artists transformed opera into a rich vein of lived experience under Jim Crow, an aesthetic endeavor that powerfully expanded the parameters of black cultural production by facilitating new modes of self-making and world-making.

I also write frequently for public audiences. For example, I’ve written for Boston Lyric Opera about feminist dystopias, for The New Yorker about the New Orleans company OperaCréole, and for National Sawdust Log about making music in the midst of political crisis.

More information about my research, teaching, and writing is available on my personal website.

To get in touch, please send me an email at lcaplan @ fas.harvard.edu. I look forward to hearing from you!

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