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Yoknapatawpha Blues

Faulkner's Fiction and Southern Roots Music

Southern Literary Studies

288 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / no illustrations

ebook available

Literary Studies

  Hardcover / 9780807160251 / April 2015
During the 1920s and 1930s, Mississippi produced two of the most significant influences upon twentieth-century culture: the modernist fiction of William Faulkner and the recorded blues songs of African American musicians like Charley Patton, Geeshie Wiley, and Robert Johnson. In Yoknapatawpha Blues, the first book examining both Faulkner and the music of the south, Tim A. Ryan identifies provocative parallels of theme and subject in diverse regional genres and texts.
Placing Faulkner’s literary texts and prewar country blues song lyrics on equal footing, Ryan illuminates the meanings of both in new and unexpected ways. He provides close analysis of the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 in Faulkner’s “Old Man” and Patton’s “High Water Everywhere”; racial violence in the story “That Evening Sun” and Wiley’s “Last Kind Words Blues”; and male sexual dysfunction in Sanctuary and Johnson’s “Dead Shrimp Blues.” This interdisciplinary study reveals how the characters of Yoknapatawpha County and the protagonists in blues songs similarly strive to assert themselves in a threatening and oppressive world.
By emphasizing the modernism found in blues music and the echoes of black vernacular culture in Faulkner’s writing, Yoknapatawpha Blues links elucidates the impact of both Faulkner’s fiction and roots music on the culture of the modern South, and of the nation.

Tim A. Ryan is associate professor of English at Northern Illinois University and the author of Calls and Responses: The American Novel of Slavery Since “Gone with the Wind.”

Praise for Yoknapatawpha Blues

“A scintillating new study. . . . [I] have long been impressed not just by [Ryan’s] interpretive gifts in the matter of blues lyric utterance, but by the unerring clarity and vigor of his writing; both those strengths are vividly present here. . . . Ryan is leading the way, brilliantly, gifting us with some of the very best writing about the blues we are likely to see.”—Southern Register

“The first book-length work of its kind, Yoknapatawpha Blues provides a nuanced, insightful look at the cultural, aesthetic, and political connections between Faulkner and southern roots music. Along the way, Ryan revises many previously held assumptions and offers surprising new readings of the layered relationship of Faulkner and the Delta blues.”—Style

“[Yoknapatawpha Blues] will appeal to scholars and non-specialists alike, because Ryan’s prose is crisp, his arguments lucid. . . . This is a book about where American modernity came from, and though the methods are scholarly, Yoknapatawpha Blues underscores that Faulkner and the blues belong to everybody.”—Los Angeles Review

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