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Academic Articles

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Louis Armstrong’s “Karnofsky Document”: The Reaffirmation of Social Death and the Afterlife of Emotional Labor

Dalton Jones


This essay examines a controversial memoir Louis Armstrong wrote on his deathbed in New York’s Beth Israel Hospital. I argue that critics have made the mistake of treating each of the narrative’s elements as discrete units. In doing so they have protected the musician’s legacy by detouring around many of the challenges the document poses to some deeply cherished ideas about Armstrong’s life and the significance of his art.

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