Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Christopher White

Second Advisor

Dr. Rashidah Jaami Muhammad

Third Advisor

Dr. Liam Lanigan


An examination of musical references (“literary needle drops”) in contemporary literature: Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad, Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, and Haruki Murakami’s Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. The novels are viewed through the various conceptual lens, literary and otherwise, such as Marcel Danesi’s Modal Flow Principle or “perceptual stimulations” as defined by Guillemette Bolens.

Egan’s novel utilizes punk bands and tracks to construct her characters’ identities, and send them on a journey through lost time to reflect on who they once were, who they have become, and whether they have been able to preserve the authenticity the Bay area music scene once demanded of them. Smith transforms the genre of hip-hop into an authentic Black cultural proxy in order to juxtapose the artform with classical music, which is largely propelled by a lily-White discourse. Lastly, Murakami creates a work with a carefully curated selection of jazz and classical pieces, as well as pop songs, to enrich the narrative through added characterization and the establishing of mood.