New STUDY THE SOUTH Essay by Dr. Adam Gussow – “Blues Expressiveness and the Blues Ethos”

The blues—as a palette of intense, often contradictory feelings; a range of social conditions heavily inflected by blackness and southernness; an expressive form encompassing literature as well as music; and a philosophical orientation towards experience—are a more complex cultural phenomenon than some realize. This essay unpacks the latter two concepts: blues expressiveness and the blues ethos. Blues expressiveness is constituted by a range of cultural practices, including the AAB stanza, call and response procedure, vocalizations, blues-idiomatic language, and signifying. The blues ethos, too, offers multiple strategies for surviving bad times by refusing to reify the down-ness of the present moment as an inescapable condition, sometimes with the help of harsh, redemptive laughter. In this essay, Adam Gussow draws on a range of lyric, literary, and folkloristic commentary by Langston Hughes, Cornell West, Bessie Smith, Howard Odum, Kalamu ya Salaam, W. C. Handy, Angela Y. Davis, Lonnie Johnson, and many others. The essay also takes an autobiographical turn as Gussow mines his own bandstand and classroom experience with Mississippi-born blues performers Sterling “Mr. Satan” Magee and Bill “Howl-N-Madd” Perry to illustrate the blues ethos in action.

Wilkerson Receives Award from the Southern Association of Women Historians

Assistant Professor of History and Southern Studies Jessie Wilkerson received an award at the recent meeting of the Southern Association for Women Historians (SAWH). Organized in 1970, the organization meets annually and has over 700 members. The SAWH strives to stimulate interest in the study of Southern and women’s history as well to advance the status of women historians.

The Devil’s Music: Adam Gussow Publishes New Book on the Devil in the Blues

This interview by Scott Barretta originally appeared in the Fall 2017 Southern Register.

Adam Gussow is an associate professor of English and southern studies at the University of Mississippi whose latest book is Beyond the Crossroads: The Devil in the Blues Tradition (University Press of North Carolina), a survey that occupied seven years of research. Gussow has also grappled extensively with the devil in his parallel career as a professional blues musician—for over thirty years he’s recorded and toured internationally with Sterling “Mr. Satan” Magee, a relationship he addressed in his memoir Mr. Satan’s Apprentice.

Hip-hop and the South Lecture Set for Friday

A conversation about the South and hip-hop music is set for Friday, Feb. 10 at 2 p.m. in Barnard Observatory’s Tupelo Room. The Center for the Study of Southern Culture hosts a conversation between Regina Bradley and Kiese Laymon, “When the South STILL Got Something to Say: A Conversation about Hip Hop in the South.” The event, which will be introduced by Brian Foster, is free and open to the public, with a reception afterward in the lobby.

Professor Jodi Skipper to Receive Mississippi Humanities Council Honor

Written by Edwin Smith, University Communications OXFORD, Miss. – A University of Mississippi anthropology and Southern Studies professor is among five people being honored this month by the Mississippi Humanities Council. Jodi Skipper will receive the Humanities Scholar Award on Feb. 10 during the council’s 2017 Public Humanities Awards program in Jackson. The agency recognizes… Read More >

Brian Foster’s SST 102: The Southern Protest Mixtape

Brian Foster, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Southern Studies, is teaching Honors Southern Studies 102 this semester. The interdisciplinary course is structured as an examination of southern protest culture, and organized like a mixtape. See excerpts from his syllabus below. This is part of an occasional series in which we share syllabi from Southern Studies courses.