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Blues Expressiveness and the Blues Ethos

In classroom settings, I begin my survey of the blues literary tradition with a sequence entitled “Origins, Definitions, and Myths,” offering students not just my own take on the blues, but relevant writings by Steven C. Tracy, Kalamu ya Salaam, Barry Lee Pearson, and W. C. Handy. Even as I do so, I’m aware that some of my students, like many blues fans and musicians, would rather engage the blues on the level of groove-sponsored bodily pleasure, vocal prowess, instrumental virtuosity, and the epiphenomena of blues fandom: kicking back or boogying down, as it were, with a shot of bourbon in hand. Those, too, are valid ways of apprehending the blues, but critical reflection in an academic context demands that we bracket such participatory pleasures, holding them in tension with a willingness to formally explore the inner workings of the form. (From the introduction to the article)
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Study the South
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