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The Blues Muse, The Blues Muse, 0817319948, 0-8173-1994-8, 978-0-8173-1994-6, 9780817319946, , , The Blues Muse, 0817391975, 0-8173-9197-5, 978-0-8173-9197-3, 9780817391973,

The Blues Muse
Race, Gender, and Musical Celebrity in American Poetry
Emily Ruth Rutter

Trade Cloth
2018. 232 pp.
Price:  $49.95 s
E Book
2018. 232 pp.
Price:  $49.95 d

A critical analysis of the poetic representations and legacies of five landmark blues artists
The Blues Muse: Race, Gender, and Musical Celebrity in American Poetry focuses on five key blues musicians and singers—Gertrude “Ma” Rainey, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Robert Johnson, and Lead Belly—and traces the ways in which these artists and their personas have been invoked and developed throughout American poetry. This study spans nearly one hundred years of literary and musical history, from the New Negro Renaissance to the present.
Emily Ruth Rutter structures the study around one pivotal understanding: however marginalized, poetry is a crucial medium for comprehending sociopolitical and cultural developments. Building from this idea, Rutter traces the evolution of the poetic invocation of blues muses through a succession of cultural eras, political climates, and artistic movements, asking how and why these protean blues figures change shape both within and across generations. Drawing on the work of poets Langston Hughes, Frank O’Hara, Amiri Baraka, Harryette Mullen, Terrance Hayes, and many more, as a guide, Rutter discusses topics such as the poetic renderings of black struggle, the constantly evolving notions of authenticity, and the portrayal of blues artists as heroic symbols of African American resistance.
The Blues Muse not only examines blues musicians as literary touchstones or poetic devices, but also investigates the relationship between poetic constructions of blues icons and shifting discourses of race and gender. Rutter’s nuanced analysis is clear, compelling, and rich in critical assessments of these writers’ portraits of the musical artists, attending to their strategies and oversights.

Emily Ruth Rutter is assistant professor of English at Ball State University. She is the author of Invisible Ball of Dreams: Literary Representations of Baseball behind the Color Line. Her research has been published in African American Review, South Atlantic Review, Studies in American Culture, Aethlon, and MELUS.

“An impressively researched and lucidly written analysis of nearly one hundred years of American poetry inspired by Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Lead Belly, and Robert Johnson—those ‘blues muses’ whose complex lives, art, personae, and historiographies have made them especially rich and persistent subjects for white and black American poets alike.”
—Emily J. Lordi, author of Black Resonance: Iconic Women Singers and African American Literature and Donny Hathaway’s Donny Hathaway Live

The Blues Muse is an interesting and valuable work which will be of particular interest to those teaching American poetry with an emphasis on its connections with African American vernacular musical traditions.”
—Erich Nunn, author of Sounding the Color Line: Music and Race in the Southern Imagination

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