The book is the fruit of Douglas Mark Ponton’s and co-editor Uwe Zagratzki’s enduring interest in the Blues as a musical and cultural phenomenon and source of personal inspiration. Continuing in the tradition of Blues studies established by the likes of Samuel Charters and Paul Oliver, the authors hope to contribute to the revitalisation of the field through a multi-disciplinary approach designed to explore this constantly evolving social phenomenon in all its heterogeneity.
Focusing either on particular artists (Lightnin’ Hopkins, Robert Johnson), or specific texts (Langston Hughes’ Weary Blues and Backlash Blues, Jimi Hendrix’s Machine Gun), the book tackles issues ranging from authenticity and musicology in Blues performance to the Blues in diaspora, while also applying techniques of linguistic analysis to the corpora of Blues texts. While some chapters focus on the Blues as a quintessentially American phenomenon, linked to a specific social context, others see it in its current evolutions, as the bearer of vital cultural attitudes into the digital age.
This multidisciplinary volume will appeal to a broad range of scholars operating in a number of different academic disciplines, including Musicology, Linguistics, Sociology, History, Ethnomusicology, Literature, Economics and Cultural Studies. It will also interest educators across the Humanities, and could be used to exemplify the application to data of specific analytical methodologies, and as a general introduction to the field of Blues studies.
About the Author
Uwe Zagratzki is Professor of Anglophone Literatures and Cultures and the Chair of Literature at the Institute of English, University of Szczecin, Poland. He has widely published on the topics of Scottish and Canadian Literature and Culture, Cultural Studies and War and Literature. His recent publications include co-editorships of and contributions to Ideological Battlegrounds - Constructions of Us and Them Before and After 9/11, Exile and Migration, Disrespected Neighbo(u)rs - Cultural Stereotypes in Literature and Film, Perspectives on Canada - International Canadian Studies despite Harper and Trudeau. His interest in the culture of the Blues, evolving from an early passion for rhythmical music, manifests itself in a study of the Blues in Germany (with Winfried Siebers, Das Blaue Wunder - Blues aus deutschen Landen) and contributions to specific collections (e.g. "From Early Country Blues to Rap" in Chaos in the Contact Zone, 2017). He is also a founding member of a local group of Blues enthusiasts in Northwest Germany. After having organised annual international Blues concerts for 25 years, their 'Blueslawine' ('Blues Avalanche') was awarded the best national Blues event in 2017.
Table of Contents
Blues impressions: responding to the music
1. Trouble in mind: the Blues according to Lightnin’ Hopkins
2. Scales of Blue: the contagion and dissemination, the persistence and transformations of a form and a name
3. The old black or the new white. Identities in postmodern lyrics: the case of the King of Desert’s Blues, Ali Farka Touré
4. Hendrix’s “Machine Gun” and the limitations of Blues performance
5. The protean character of the Blues
Blues on the page: perspectives from literary criticism
6. “Singing your mean old Backlash Blues”: Blues, history, and racial inequality today
7. Going back home: the politics of the blues in Langston Hughes’s “The Backlash Blues”
8. A Bluesy sound: from Weary Blues to “Nigger-Reecan Blues”
9. “The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes: catharsis and the healing power of poetry and music
Authenticity and identity in contemporary Blues studies
10. Dead or alive: Blues and the question of authenticity
11. I’m goin’ away to a world unknown: a corpus study of classic Blues lyrics
12. The devil’s music–a critical discourse analysis-based study of the lyrics of Robert Johnson
13. How blue is our Blues? The validation of Blues in the 21st century and the role of technology and social media in its progression
14. Black and White Blues: the sounds of Delta Blues singing
Black and White Blues Corpora