What is the current state of Blues Literature? It has been well over thirty years since Houston Baker Jr.’s Blues, Ideology, and Afro-American Literature: A Vernacular Theory (1984) put blues back on the critical map. Much has changed since then.
What, when & where
Chicago, IL 3 January – 6 January 2019
With the turn to “post blackness,” where individual expression no longer constitutes the voice of the community, the blues are quickly losing their power to, as Larry Neal put it, “reach way down into the maw of the individual and collective experience.” They become, to paraphrase Kenneth Warren’s argument concerning the change in African American identity, either history or memory. Is Blues literature a genre of writing that once held prominence but no longer holds any cultural weight, or a part of a cultural past that still informs the literature produced today? What do the blues offer the current state of African American literature?
Expanding our conception of the genre further, there are myriad blues novels, poems, and plays written by non-African American authors. These additions to blues literature provide cultural variations on the blues as well as meditations on black experience in the US and across the Atlantic basin. For example, Spokane/Coeur D’Alene Sherman Alexie’s Reservation Blues (1995), Ojibway Richard Wagamese’s Keeper n’ Me (1994), Ojibway Drew Hayden Taylor’s blues plays, Chinese-American Bill Cheng’s Southern Cross the Dog (2013), African Canadian Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues (2011), and the poetry and fiction of Africadian (African Acadian Canadian) George Elliott Clarke add to an evolving blues literature. How do we account for these voices too?
This panel seeks papers that provide new and dynamic ways of conceiving how we recognize, discuss, and analyze blues literature. Drawing from the disciplinary changes in the humanities, how does blues literature attest to critical race theory, regional studies, transnationalism, post-colonial studies, music studies, activism, and popular culture? Successful papers will consider some of the following: the current state of Blues Literature; its (continuing) disciplinary value; the literature’s function as cultural memory/history; the blues’ ability to express cultural experiences beyond the US and black experience; and the future of the literature as a whole
Deadline & how to apply
Please send a 250 word abstract, AV requirements, and a short CV to Josh-Wade Ferguson, University of Mississippi (email@example.com) by 12 March 2018
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