Maria Micaela Coppola

Caught in a Swinging Loop: Music, Dance, and Rhythm in Zadie Smith’s Swing Time

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In her fifth novel Swing Time (2016) Zadie Smith builds a narrative dance room in which real-life and fictional stories of the Swing Era, African American tap dancers, and two inter-ethnic girls from twenty-first century London perform a manifold social dance. In Smith’s intermedial novel, music, dance, and literature are superimposed components of the same narrative ensemble, whose story line and structure resemble those of 1930s Hollywood musical duets, tap solos, and swing music. Swinging connections, mood modulations, repetitions, and counter-narratives reproduce swing rhythm and trigger the swing ‘feel’ – a kinaesthetic and emotional response to dance and music in literary forms. Thus, Zadie Smith gives life, sound, and movement to the swing feel, catching readers in the novel’s narrative loop.


  • Swing Time
  • Zadie Smith
  • music in literature
  • dance in literature
  • swing


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