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Title: The "aesthetic" of the Blues Aesthetic
Author: Skansgaard, Michael Ryan
ISNI:       0000 0004 7972 9688
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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This study of the "Blues Aesthetic" both supplements and revises the now-dominant socio-aesthetic paradigm by introducing the perspectives of cognitive aesthetics to African-American vernacular literary criticism. New methods of scansion, informed by literary and linguistic prosody, are developed to measure previously neglected or misclassified innovations in verse practice. Chapter 1 argues that the versificational structures of the blues tradition, enriched by African-diasporic technique, cannot be measured adequately by existing systems of English prosody. Chapter 2 identifies figures of speech that developed during plantation slavery and considers their legacy in African-American literary verse. Chapter 3 examines the often-counterintuitive influence of racial caricature on the verse practices of black writers and performance artists in the blues tradition. Chapter 4, which builds on these insights, reassesses the formal practices of blues poets. Chiastic polyrhythms, blues-sonnet hybrids, and experimental uses of 12-bar phrasing are discovered and evaluated. Finally, several now-forgotten or misconstrued advances in vernacular aesthetic theory are recuperated. What emerges from this far-reaching intervention is a more interdisciplinary, stylistically complex, and demographically diverse map of the blues tradition as a category of literary art.
Supervisor: Hurley, Michael D. Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Blues Aesthetic ; African American Literature ; Historical Poetics ; Cognitive Aesthetics ; Prosody