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O brother, let's go down home: loss, nostalgia and the blues

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Richard Middleton


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The blues genre is commonly (and not incorrectly) regarded as a key marker of African-American identity and one with 'deep' (folk, or 'down home') roots. But this status is inadequately understood unless it is placed in a context of inter-racial exchange, in which 'roots' are a product of a complex transaction between 'modernity' and 'tradition'. This territory is explored in terms of a thematics of loss, nostalgia and trauma, evident both in blues content and in the historical structure of revival to which the genre has been continually subject. A useful background is the film 0 Brother, Where Art Thou?, a nostalgic celebration of nostalgia with a blues/bluegrass inter-racial dimension, and a productive theoretical framework is provided by Lacan's approach to fantasy, loss and nostalgia.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Middleton R

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Popular Music

Year: 2007

Volume: 26

Issue: 1

Pages: 47-64

ISSN (print): 0261-1430

ISSN (electronic): 1474-0095

Publisher: Cambridge University Press


DOI: 10.1017/S0261143007001122


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