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ThesisFinal - SWashburn1

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ThesisFinal - SWashburn1

  1. 1. John Cabot University Department of English Literature Bachelor of Arts in English Literature Minor in Creative Writing The Unaccounted Body: Popular Lyrics as a Poetic Extension of Southern Gothic Literature Samuel Washburn First Reader: Second Reader: Dr. Lewis Samuel Klausner Dr. Carlos Dews Spring 2016
  2. 2. Washburn II Abstract Popular lyrics of genres of music that have their roots in the Southern United States, like Americana, folk, country, and bluegrass, share thematic elements with Southern Gothic literature. The analysis of such lyrics reveals that the mythic identity of the South leads to anomie, a form of social isolation caused by fundamental changes in society. Isolation, as defined within this paper is the overarching and most important theme of Southern Gothic literature. Social and personal narratives express different conclusions on the theme of isolation. However, both narratives illustrate a path towards the manifestation of isolation in the most extreme lyrical narrative, the murder ballad. The lyrics of Southern influenced music, the narratives they produce, their utility in understanding the South, and the roll they play in Southern identity should be analyzed more critically, and potentially considered, as the poetic extension of the Southern Gothic genre.
  3. 3. Washburn III This paper is dedicated to my Mother and Father, thank you for all that you have afforded me – I love you.
  4. 4. Washburn IV Acknowledgments I would like to acknowledge Professor Klausner for his patience during this process. The words he shared with me in the Fall of 2014 when I was at my lowest point gave me a peace of mind that I had not had in months – it instilled in me the desire to seek help and the want to get better, thank you. I want to thank Professor Dews for his mentorship during my time at John Cabot University. More so I want to say how much I appreciate his friendship. Carlos helped me through tough times with an unparalleled level of understanding and without his help and guidance I am not sure how I would have gotten to this point. Your friendship is both cherished and missed, thank you so much. I would be remiss if I did not also thank Professor Geoghegan. If I could choose only one class to ever take it would be an Elizabeth Geoghegan class – she made me want to be a better creative writer and gave me the freedom to do so, thank you. Last, Alessandra Piano is my rock. This accomplishment would not have been possible if she were not in my life. I look forward to what is next – I love you, Ale.
  5. 5. Washburn V Table of Contents 1. Introduction----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2 2. From Gothic to Southern Gothic: A Brief History----------------------------------------------------------- 4 3. Defining Southern Gothic------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------8 4. Popular Lyrics as Literature---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------12 5. The PEN New England Award Winners and Bob Dylan-------------------------------------------------- 15 “Bird on a Wire”------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 15 “Sunday Morning Coming Down”------------------------------------------------------------------------ 17 “Memphis, Tennessee”----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------21 “Blind Willie McTell”------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------22 6. Social Narratives ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 28 “Louisiana, 1927”-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------28 “Carlisle’s Haul”------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------30 “Mariano”-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 34 “Mississippi, It’s Time”--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 38 7. Personal Narratives ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 42 “Goddamn You, Jim”----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 42 “The River” ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 44 “Ode to Billie Joe”---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 47 “Pa”---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 49 8. Murder Ballads------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 52 “Delia”------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 53 “The Body Electric”-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 55 “Murder in the Red Barn”------------------------------------------------------------------------------------57 “Long Black Veil”---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 59 9. Conclusion ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ 62 Works Cited ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------63 Lyrics -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------66
  6. 6. Washburn 2 Chapter 1 Introduction The Southern Gothic genre is a uniquely American style of literature that utilizes the dissension of the mythic regional identity and the reality of the American South as backdrop for an infinite number of stories. The evolution of the Southern Gothic from well established British genres, Gothic and Romantic, through American Naturalism, into a definitive body of canonical writers such as William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Flannery O’Connor, Carson McCullers, Truman Capote and Cormac McCarthy, mimics the infancy of colonization into a burgeoning nation. The civil unrest due to the practices of prejudicial slavery, and the war that ensued, would fracture the nation into two distinctive factions: the North and the South. The Southern identity includes a great many similarities with their Northern brethren but the differences between the two identities are vastly greater. The United States from a young age raised two very different children due to slavery, geography, industrial improvement and agricultural output, core components that forced the two regions apart. In many ways the South continues to remain apart from the majority of the United States, although, signs of greater inclusion are beginning to show. The reason for Southern isolation, the lack of will to assimilate quickly after the Civil War, was due to an immense persecution complex that helped to order a new way of life within the South. The new ordering processes of the South involved myths. The verisimilitude of the myths being created by Southerners to explain their identity was rarely called into question. The line between fact and fiction blurred until the Old South was considered Eden and the New South, until recently, was the unrelenting crusade to get back to the garden. The desire for an antiquated caste system in the name of posterity for cultural heritage, and social tradition, creates a space for Southern Gothic writers to flourish. Today, many of the best narratives and the most biting social critiques concerning the South are written on the face of a singular piece of paper. The reason for this is that the popular lyrics of American culture, like the Southern Gothic back to Britain, can chart most of its history through the South. The genesis of the blues came from slave spirituals; jazz came from New Orleans; bluegrass and country from Appalachia. While much of the content of popular music has absolutely nothing to do the South, its roots often do. There is, however, a particular strain of music that defies genre – some would call it folk, others
  7. 7. Washburn 3 Americana, a lot of people would say country – which is categorically Southern. The popular lyric takes advantage of the mystical and mythical Southern ideal in the same manner that the Southern Gothic does, therefore, due to the absence of a poetic element within Southern Gothic literature academia, and critics, should look at the popular lyric of Southern music as the proper poetic extension of the Southern Gothic. This thesis will lay forth a history and definition of Southern Gothic that is credible and which the popular lyric can meet. The exposition of the popular lyrics will illustrate a depth of history, breadth of culture, and, the interplay between the individuals of the Southern region with society as a whole. Furthermore, the paper will create a system for ordering the various narrative structures into distinct categories. As with any literary genre there are offshoots, outliers, and innovators that help maintain or expand upon the current genre. The same can be said of the songs analyzed. This paper will illustrate the importance of adopting the popular lyric into the Southern Gothic genre, not only for the betterment of Southern Gothic, but also for all literature. The popular lyric is the most ubiquitous, identifiable, and relatable form of poetry; therefore, academia should utilize it as it would any other form of studied literature. Literature, at its core is, a cultural product that tells stories about the lives of humans. The popular lyric should not be ignored when it is capable of providing the same stories at the same quality.
  8. 8. Washburn 4 Chapter 2 From Gothic to Southern Gothic: A Brief History An argument cannot be made for the popular lyric as an extension of Southern Gothic literature without first defining the Southern Gothic genre. In order to define the conjunction of “southern” and “gothic” one must first look at the tradition of Gothic literature and understand how it was appropriated in the United States. Therefore this chapter will look at Gothic literature, its offshoot of “dark” Romance and Literary Naturalism, and how they were subsumed into a distinctly American genre: Southern Gothic. The origin of Gothic literature is generally placed upon Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto. The Castle of Otranto dived and used Romance, to which the Gothic is inextricably linked, into forms of “Old Romance” and “New Romance.” “Old Romance” was characterized by a fantastical if not mythic, or medieval, element. “New Romance” was characterized as more authentic, a representation of people and settings with a basis in realistic representation. The “New Romance” form was reflected in the burgeoning form of the novel. The blending of two Romance elements by Walpole creates the early tenets of what would become Gothicism – characters acting realistically in fantastical settings. The settings, however, are not exclusively fantastical. Many Gothic settings are realistic but take place under extreme duress from absurdist situations. Anne Radcliffe, the preeminent Gothic writer of the 18th century, would utilize what The Castle of Otranto put forth, in terms of Romance elements, a manner so thorough that a genre ideal for Gothicism was formed. Radcliffe created a formal aesthetic for the reader to “view” the events of the novel from by utilizing the picturesque and invoking the sublime. The picturesque is an emotionally powerful mediating landscape or setting that allows the sublime to occur. The sublime idea can best be defined as: “a profound, near-spiritual exercising of the emotions (and intellect), and always tied to fear itself (Sucur 1).” The fear, and to an extent horror, element of the sublime gives rise to the characterization of Gothic literature as “dark.” The characteristics of an Anglo centric Romance and Gothic genre contributed to Romanticism, in particular Dark Romanticism. The definition of being “dark” is due to a movement within Romantic
  9. 9. Washburn 5 literature that juxtaposed itself against the Enlightenment. Writers would use the dark style to convey themes of the human condition, particularly with the arrival of the Industrial Revolution. The Enlightenment period hinges on rational human thought for the betterment of humankind in a vast array of social areas: personal liberty, religious tolerance, democracy, et cetera. The Industrial Revolution, however, contravenes some of the practical applications of Enlightenment tenets. The revolution forces a large portion of the population into socioeconomic destitution through migration to urban areas. Urban areas were punctuated by masses of poverty, illness, starvation, homelessness and death. The lack of parity between reality and Enlightenment tenets led a literary response the focused upon human nature’s propensity for either salvation or destruction. Cornerstone literature of this period is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus. Shelley applies the dark romantic style to create a monster that opposes the natural order of the world thanks to the advancements of technology. Shelley’s novel raises concerns and critiques of modern technology and human nature in a post-Enlightenment society. Gothic and Dark Romantic literature’s thematic opposition of the Enlightenment period allowed American writers, such as Edgar Allen Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville, to establish a school of American Literature. These and many other writers attempted to write identifiably American literature in opposition to European literature. The need for American authors to create works that stood apart from British authors was characterized by an identity of “otherness.” For example, “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” by Washington Irving, characterizes “otherness” in the form of Ichabod Crane. Crane is an interloper, different from the community, and the story hinges upon whether Crane will be able to slip past the “gatekeeper,” Brom Bones, and assimilate into the society of Sleepy Hollow. “Otherness” can be defined as non-normative. It is a juxtaposition of one norm against something other than the norm. The American authors were not the first to utilize this trope. Anne Radcliffe’s novels utilized Protestant cultural ideals, the norm for England, versus the Catholicism of her Mediterranean settings. Radcliffe used the decline and fall of her characters as an example of what one could succumb to in a Catholic society - hedonism and laziness under the Pope’s rule. This extreme view of Catholicism is the opposite and therefore “other” when compared to cultural views of England. More examples of “otherness” are the low proletariat versus the bourgeois class; slave versus freeman; civilized versus uncivilized; educated versus uneducated and one nationality versus another. These juxtapositions would
  10. 10. Washburn 6 find a natural conspirator amongst the critiques of the Industrial era found in Gothic or Dark Romanticism. This pairing would morph into a new literary genre, Naturalism. There are primarily two schools of Naturalism, French and American. French luminaries such as Gustav Flaubert and Emile Zola dutifully dedicated themselves to the theory and literature of human behavior over free will; their writings exemplify French naturalism. This paper is interested in American naturalism’s contribution to the foundation of the Southern Gothic, yet must recognize that the French Naturalists influenced the Americans. The primary difference between the French and American schools of Naturalism was the lack of a unanimous theoretical philosophy among the American writers. The American school of Naturalism would include authors such as Theodore Dreiser, Edith Wharton and Jack London among numerous others. American Naturalism rebukes the middle-class literature of the late 19th century that places social mores on issues such as violence and sexuality (Davies 1). American Naturalism instead focuses on the extent to which human behavior is driven by external forces, such as heredity and social class. American Naturalism and its writers are somewhat overshadowed by the emerging movement of Modernism. Without them, however, the American modernist movement would be delayed. American Naturalism bluntly introduced realistic themes that were prevalent in American culture to American literature - themes such as racism and prejudice, poverty and filth, corruption and power. The themes had been present previously and the candid criticism had not. The uniquely individualistic ideology of American identity that bonds with United States democracy, illustrated in the Constitution as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” is thematically the most damaging to society for Naturalists. This is another separation between French and American naturalism. “While the ideology of bourgeois individualism has been decisively rejected as an explanation for human behavior, no overarching set of codes or beliefs is cited to replace it (Davies 2). American naturalists would intimate that individualistic human behavior coupled with power, particularly in the established wealthy-class, also from the emerging middle-class of the late 19th and early 20th century, could be highly detrimental to the majority of society.To simplify, one person’s pursuit of “life, liberty and happiness” potentially denies another person’s pursuit of the same goals. Naturalist writers criticisms of tenets central to American Democracy pave the way for whole novels on subject matters like the plight of the working-class, in Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, or gender inequality, in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. In Sinclair’s novel most the characters are dead or maimed by
  11. 11. Washburn 7 the novels end; the main character is alive but listing towards social destitution because of the injuriousness of capitalism. In Chopin’s novel the protagonist commits suicide because as a women she is denied the aforementioned tenets of American democracy unless they are explicitly given to her by a male figure. Neither Sinclair nor Chopin’s novels end happily, both novels issue warnings of an individualistic society but they provide no resolution for an unjust and morally corrupt society. Instead of sharing [...] Zola’s absolute faith in scientific documentation [...] their practice was generally to forego claims on final authority [...] (Davies 2). The ability to document social ills without resolution makes these novels, particularly given their time of writing, devastating and dire. The lack of final authority is the inability to foresee the future through the fog of the chaotic and climactic end Gilded Age - a term coined by the era’s sharpest social critic, Mark Twain. The writers of the Gilded Age illustrated that all was not gold behind the shiny veneer of progress. American Naturalists planted within American literature themes on the lack of freewill and the lack of resolution as a warning of how society could become more grotesque and absurd in the future, unknowingly helped to create the Southern Gothic.
  12. 12. Washburn 8 Chapter 3 Defining Southern Gothic The genre of Southern Gothic is difficult to define due to the variant influences described in the previous chapter. It is just as difficult to answer what constitutes the South. Generally speaking, south of the Mason Dixon line and east of Austin, Texas, is quote on quote, the South.. The question of geography is not trivial – where exactly is Yoknapatawpha County? Or, how is Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy credited to the canon of a Southern Gothic writer when the majority of the setting takes place in West Texas and Mexico? The definition is less definitive and more amorphous. For this reason Southern Gothic is often described to the laymen by its adherents, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor, Cormac McCarthy, and many more, rather than in specific terms. This, however, does not mean there is a lack of commonality between the great writers above and the place they choose to set their works. The Southern Gothic genre, in the most liberal definition, is set in a place that is non-existent. To be sure, the setting is generally the southern United States, however, it is a southern United States that did not exist, and does not exist, as imagined in the mentality of the Southern people. The social institutions of the South that were ended by The Civil War and expanded upon through Reconstruction leave the people of the South alienated from perceived conceptions of a specific, “Southern,” way of life. The betrayal of the Southern conception lends itself to myth making as a way to order the world, and furthermore, identify oneself within the world. The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture, vol. 4 dedicates two hundred and seventy pages to conveying the “Myth, Manner, and Memory” of the South. The first sentence of the introduction reads: “Few topics are more important than mythology in understanding the origin and development of the American South as a distinctive place” (Wilson 1). More specifically the encyclopedia has sections that entail the following myths: “Garden Myth,” “New South Myth,” “Northern Mythmaking,” “Plantation Myth,” “Reconstruction Myth,” “Appalachian Myth,” “The Black Confederate Myth,” “Cavalier Myth,” “Chosen People Myth,” “Evangeline Myth,” “Lost Cause Myth” and the “Moonlight and Magnolia’s Myth. These sections of the encyclopedia do relate a specific story or
  13. 13. Washburn 9 folktale, but rather, myth’s of identity. Each one of the above is a specific ideological conception of the South in contrast to the rest of the United States and World. James Seay, of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, writes in the encyclopedia that Yoknapatawpha County: […] extends irresistibly toward horizons we associate with beginnings and endings, the old and the new, the origins of the world’s religions, the myths and archetypes that inform much of the drama […] For the county does indeed exist in a borderless confluence of the mystical and the mythical, the, the spiritual, and the dramatic. (272) The metanarrative of Yoknapatawpha County is that, as a fictional place, it mimics the fictional identity of the Southern mind; both are paradoxically real and false. The drama of Southern Gothic literature thrives within the paradox of truth and fiction. Between truth and fiction is a fractured Southern identity. The notion that Southerners were spiritually chosen to occupy and receive the bounty of the South, on the backs of an inferior slave race, is utterly destroyed by the Civil War and Reconstruction. The alienation that ensues leads to new myths and new identities, of which, the falsities isolate the South even further, both as a collective identity and a region as they progressed into the 20th century. Tennessee Williams felt the theme of modern alienation was the driving force of southern writers, and he likewise associated this theme with the literary form of Southern Gothic” (Boyd 315). The Southern myths have become self- perpetuating which inherently breeds alienation into subsequent generations and narratives. The Southern identity, as noted by historian Fitzhugh Brundage, “[…] will endure as long as people imagine themselves within a Southern historical narrative” (Wilson 5). Due to the disconnect between the truth of the historical narrative and the falsities that exist in Southern identity alienation becomes inherent, and therefore, thematically connective throughout Southern Gothic literature Drawing from the antecedents of Gothicism, Romanticism and Naturalism, the Southern Gothic genre does contain other themes. One of the thematic motifs involve disturbed characters in distressingly grotesque, or absurdist, situations in a declining rural or urban setting. This is often used to highlight issues such as racism, social inequality, gender inequality, loss of values, and loss of freewill, among many others. The issues above are the foundational elements of the myths of identity and alienation.
  14. 14. Washburn 10 The feeling of alienation experienced by the characters within the Southern Gothic genre is best described by a term accredited to French social philosopher Emile Durkheim. Durkheim was not necessarily a naturalist but felt there was an organic “nature” to the way in which society was composed. Durkheim termed the breakdown in the organic nature of society could lead to alienation of the individual as anomie. Two researchers for the Oxford Journal described it as follows: All nations develop normative behavior patterns and belief systems in the evolutionary change process. During the transitional period, such as the transition from a rural to an urban society, the diffusion of new norms and values disrupts the equilibrium of traditional societies and breaks down sacred-religious institutions, traditional beliefs and ascribed status relationships. The new organic social relationships enable individuals to challenge old cultural values and social rules, resulting in the rapid increase of anomie. (Zhao and Cao 1210) The rapid change that the South undertook during the 19th to mid-20th century mirrors the above definition of anomie. The abolition of slavery, the industrialization of the South, the mass migration to urban areas, women’s suffrage, and the Civil Rights Acts create a confluence of changing social values and relationships that occur simultaneously with the conception and establishment and pinnacle of Southern Gothic fiction. It is the aforementioned changes to the Southern landscape that incubate the thematic motifs of the genre and allow alienation to become the primary theme. The issue with the theme of social alienation is that it creates a vacuum to be filled, if modern/contemporary society is alienating, than which era of the South should be represented within the genre? The antebellum period prior to the Civil War is mythically considered the “Camelot” of the south. The antebellum is the era that a character such as Blanche DuBois, in Tennessee Williams’ “A Streetcar Named Desire,” represents. The antebellum period is a ghost within Southern Gothic. The specter of tradition and conformity represent the last vestigial moments before social upheaval and cultural change. The writers of the genre allow the false specter of the antebellum period to exist as a counterpoint to the contemporary. Because of this most of the genre is set post-Civil War to the middle of the 20th century. Very often the setting approximates the time of writing. The importance of time period for the setting is a point and counterpoint technique to illustrate that “what was” and “what is” both contribute to anomie. Examination of Blanche Dubois reveals that
  15. 15. Washburn 11 she is a character of falsehood. Blanche attempts the appearance of high southern culture in the form of contempt for Stella and Stanley’s lifestyle, yet she is an insecure and mentally frail woman who fears losing her past prestige, i.e. a representation of the idyllic antebellum. Because of this insecurity Blanche creates a myth of identity. The falsities of Blanche myth separate her from the truth, which is: her marriage failed when her husband had an affair with another man and committed suicide; her career as a teacher failed; she is socially known as a sexually frivolous woman. Blanche’s mythmaking disassociate her from the present because she is incapable of the adjustment needed for a new progressive society – she is too busy recreating the past. Therefore, Blanche is seen as out of touch, teetering on delusional, making untrustworthy. When Stanley rapes Blanche, and Stella does not believe her, Blanche is driven into total isolation and alienation. Blanche’s removal to the mental hospital is a symbol of how the myth making identity leads to total isolation, both mentally and socially. Stanley, on the other side, is the total embodiment of contemporary early 20th century society, particularly in contrast to what Blanche represents. Stanley is uncouth and uncontrollable and foreign. The South, however, has always contained these elements. Despite what Blanche represents in opposition to Stanley, the South had elements that were never fully traditional, functional or stable. Often times the elements were marginalized or hidden. Blanche drove herself mental attempting to hide her own instability. The contentious battle between a false past, Blanche, and an unruly present, Stanley, leads to a pseudo-dystopian society that allows the writer to criticize elements of society that inevitably lead many people into ruin. Blanche’s actions and attitude towards the present because of her anomie, her sense of a decaying life and society, allow the social changes of modernity to get the best of and ruin her. Stanley raping Stella is indicative of this. The above analysis is one instance of how a character represents the South and how their actions mimic the Southern identity crises. In academia and popular cultural a debate of what constitutes the South continues. The debate of what is Southern, past and present, helps to define the Southern Gothic genre. Southern Gothic literature is not geographical but a combination of Gothic, Romantic and Naturalist literary elements as a form of cultural criticism that revolves around the theme of alienation, exacerbated by an inherently Southern elements such as prejudicial racism, socioeconomic differences, gender inequality, lack of freewill, loss of tradition, the violently macabre and grotesque.
  16. 16. Washburn 12 Chapter 4 Popular Lyrics as Literature With a general history of Southern Gothic literature and a working definition that revolves around isolation and/or alienation one can begin to identify these elements in popular music. As stated previously the purpose of this is to identify and categorize a body of music that shares commonality with the Southern Gothic genre. This paper desires to bring more academic recognition to popular lyrical music as a worthy and respected form of literature. Many critics and layman have long viewed many musical artists as worthy literary luminaries and poets due to their songwriting ability, for example Bob Dylan. For the past several years Bob Dylan has been showing up on Ladbrokes, a U.K. gambling website, leading up to the announcement of the Nobel Prize for Literature. This coincidence has lead many cultural critics to argue that perhaps Dylan should be considered as literary as the likes of Haruki Murakami, Phillip Roth, Thomas Pynchon, Joyce Carol Oates, Don DeLillo, and Cormac McCarthy – these are a few of the previous odds on favorites of Ladbrokes. Bill Wyman, former writer for the New York Times, laid out a convincing argument when he had these words to say about Dylan: [. . .] a fierce and uncompromising poet whose writing, 50 years on, still crackles with relevance. Mr. Dylan’s work remains utterly lacking in conventionality, moral sleight of hand, pop pabulum or sops to his audience. His lyricism is exquisite; his concerns and subjects are demonstrably timeless; and few poets of any era have seen their work bear more influence. (Wyman) Not only are these high words of praise but Wyman was able to counter the most conventional argument against popular music being literary. He argues that being popular should not exclude a writer from critical acclaim from the literary world, arguing that Dylan does not write for popularity and in fact, at times, distances himself from his own adorners – furthermore, “[. . .] Dickens and Twain, Hugo and Shakespeare and Euripides – all soaked up the acclaim in their day (Wyman).
  17. 17. Washburn 13 Alas, Dylan has not yet won the Nobel prize, however, he has been recognized by the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Dylan is the first musician to be recognized as an honorary member, this distinction of honorary is significant because the Academy could not decide if he should be granted membership as a songwriter or a musician, therefore placing both Dylan’s pen and guitar on equal footing. In his closing argument for the merit of a Bob Dylan Nobel Prize in Literature award, Wyman asked: “What other songwriter would remotely qualify? Joni Mitchell or Leonard Cohen? Perhaps. Randy Newman? (In truth, the only other pop artist with work as timeless as Mr. Dylan’s is Chuck Berry — but that’s an argument for another day) (Wyman).” It is unclear whether Mr. Wyman, in 2013, was aware that PEN New England awarded the ‘Song Lyrics of Literary Excellence’ award to Chuck Berry and Leonard Cohen in 2012. Bob Dylan at the ceremony referred to Berry as the “the Shakespeare of Rock n’ Roll” and Cohen as the “the Kafka of the blues” (Sullivan). Literary luminary Salman Rushdie, former PEN America president, was a member of the awarding committee along with poet Paul Muldoon, amongst numerous others songwriters and musicians. Rushdie was recorded as stating of Cohen’s Bird on a Wire, “Put simply, if I could write like that, I would” (Sullivan). In 2014 PEN New England awarded Randy Newman and Kris Kristofferson with the same award. It is unclear whether or not the award was given in 2013 and 2015, or if it is a biannual award. The award itself is a medallion with a lyre, as Charlie Hoffman, chairman of the PEN New England stated throughout history, “[. . .] literature was sung [. . .]” (Sullivan). All of this is to state that there is critical support and public support, and apparently even some UK odds maker support, for lyrics in popular music and their songwriters to be held in higher esteem. Yet, a JSTOR database search results in one article each for PEN Award recipients Chuck Berry and Leonard Cohen that is of a literary manner. Granted, more articles show up for Bob Dylan, however the majority are reviews of his work are sociological or musicology related – few are literary. When a Google search is done for “Lyrics as Literature” there are few credible sites and/or sources that seem to entertain and debate this issue, definitely none that are academic. Granted, this is anecdotal evidence and there do genuinely seem to be minor movements in academia to begin to expand and adapt literary canon to be more expansive and inclusive.
  18. 18. Washburn 14 In a search for support of this movement “Springsteen’s Lyrics as Literature” was found. The College of New Jersey professor Lincoln Konkle teaches the course and when interviewed he stated: I’m a teacher and scholar of literature, and at his best, Bruce Springsteen really is a literary writer. The growing body of scholarly articles and books, the conferences, and the college courses devoted to Springsteen are evidence that many share my opinion, and that his body of work is worthy of rigorous intellectual inquiry. (Plasket) Konkle seemingly has no deviation between what quality literature and what quality lyrics by a popular artist are – they are one in the same. Finding a similar bedfellow in a general Internet search for anecdotal evidence to the lack of academic pursuit of popular music lyrics helps one to feel justified, however, 1 in 100 hits does not. The point being is that the literary academic articles for insight into Bob Dylan’s thematic religious imagery is lacking. There does not seem to be many English journals that want to examine the evolution of slave spirituals into Gospel, and again into the Blues, and eventually into Rock n’ Roll, which gives us the lyrics of Chuck Berry. Another thought is how did William Yeats, Irving Layton or Walt Whitman influence the poetry and lyricism of Leonard Cohen? Very few English journals or academics are answering these types of robust and rigorous questions. Investigation takes place by sociologist and ethnomusicologists and cultural studies department for their role in social and cultural development. Yet, at the very core lyricism is poetry and the English departments of academia are seemingly missing out on one of the most ubiquitous, relatable, and literary of all lyrical poetry – the popular song lyric.
  19. 19. Washburn 15 Chapter 5 The PEN New England Award Winners and Bob Dylan In the previous chapter the work of artists Bob Dylan, Chuck Berry, Leonard Cohen and Kris Kristofferson were discussed. The analysis of lyrics should rightfully begin with those artists who were formally recognized, or regularly gain traction for recognition. Randy Newman and Bruce Springsteen were also mentioned, however, their lyrics serve this paper better in a later section and therefore will not be included in this chapter. It should be noted that in wanting to show diversity each artist will only be used once despite the fact that a numerous number of lyrics from any of the above artist, or any to come later it the paper, would merit multiple entries. The lyrics to be discussed in this chapter are not necessarily Southern, Gothic, or Southern Gothic – although, the Berry, Kristofferson and Dylan lyrics are decidedly more southern in context than the Cohen lyric. The aim of this chapter is to lay forth out a template of analysis that will occur throughout the paper on the theme of isolation and alienation through a variety of “lyrical lenses.” One example is the existential isolation that exists between the individual and the expectations of society. “Bird on the Wire” “Bird on the Wire” (see 1.1) by Leonard Cohen is an exemplar version of the above, the isolated individual versus society. The lyrics of the song chronicle the tension between a first person speaker and society at large, in particular, the potential hurt that pursuing individuality may have caused others. The first verse is a sextet with an AABAAB rhyme scheme followed by a second verse quatrain of AABB. This pattern will repeat itself in the third and fourth verses followed by a refrain of the first tercet of the first verse. The lyric revolves around similes that illustrate the struggle of the individual against society. The first verse and the refrain are the only similes that express the desire of freedom, “Like a bird on the wire, / like a drunk in the midnight choir / I have tried in my way to be free (1-3).” The first line of the verse is similar to William Carlos Williams “Red Wheelbarrow,” in that the rest of the poem hinges on the image of a bird on the wire. The freedom of the bird on the wire is the single conceit that the rest of the lyric
  20. 20. Washburn 16 coalesces around; it is both the object of desire and the object of tension. The drunk reaffirms the image of the bird because the drunk does as he pleases against the backdrop of the cacophonously judgmental society, the midnight choir. A choir, like society, is orderly, rehearsed and cohesive – a drunk is none of those things. A drunk in a choir would create conflict just like a drunk does in society. The drunk is therefore isolated from society. The second tercet of verse does not affirm the objective of freedom like the first tercet does; although, the enjambment of line 2 does connote the difficulty of achieving true freedom against the inertia of society. Line 2 is intentionally disconnected from the stated objective. This is reinforced by the second tercet, “Like a worm on a hook / like a knight from some old fashion book / I have saved all my ribbons for thee (4-6).” Not unlike fishing bait tethered to a line the speaker feels trapped. It is in this verse that another persona is introduced, “thee,” revealing to the reader that perhaps the point of conflict is not just between the individual and society but expectations of the new persona and the original speaker. The reason is that “like a knight,” chivalrous yet dated, the speaker has kept his praise, “ribbons,” for the new individual in the lyric. The new individual is likely the speaker’s lover. In their relationship the speaker feels trapped between freedom and the lover applying a well intended but antiquated pressure upon the speaker, the desire to marry. The view of marriage as antiquated correlates to the imagery of the knight. The pressure by the lover is an extension of social expectation, society’s need for marriage to form a family unit, which the speaker wishes to avoid and isolate from. In the third verse the speaker apologizes for being “unkind” or “untrue” in their pursuit of freedom (7,9). The speaker recognizes that they might perhaps have been “unkind” or “untrue” to “[…] everyone who reached out […],” avowing to “[…] make it all up to thee (13,16). By apologizing the speaker is admitting selfishness, and yet, is selfless by admitting guilt. The paradox of being selfish and selfless further illustrates the push and pull of society on the individual: the desire to be free of social expectation and not be shunned for desire of said freewill. The fourth verse, the turn, is the only time that the paradox between individuality and the push and pull of society is written concretely: I saw a beggar leaning on his wooden crutch, he said to me, “You must not ask for so much,” and a pretty woman leaning in her darkened door,
  21. 21. Washburn 17 she cried to me, “Why not ask for more?” (17-20) The speaker recounts receiving advice from two separate people based on their social circumstance. A beggar takes what is given and a woman whom gets by on her “pretty” looks seeks out as much as possible. The conflicting information reveals to the speaker that society itself is conflicting: what is good for one individual may not work for the other; no one is free of his or her circumstance entirely. The final tercet is a refrain of the first, the only amendment being an added “Oh,” as if to say in exasperation that freewill is the only choice (21). The decision to try and be free may also mean that the speaker no longer is in a relationship with the other persona of the poem, who after the third verse disappears. In this manner the lyric is somewhat of a dirge because the speaker laments not only for the loss of a relationship but also the difficulty of being an individual – it is equally as likely to lose individuality to society as it is to lose a relationship to social expectations. Cohen stated in the liner notes of the album that the song was “[…] simultaneously a prayer and an anthem […] (Cohen). This statement does not explain the exact meaning of the song but it does reveal the lyric to be a cry for help in the precarious balancing act between succumbing to society and defiantly retaining individual freedom. Sonically, the artist sings the lyric in a manner that reinforces of the words. Cohen’s voice oscillates between resolution and wariness while punctuated by a melodically listless harp and out of tune string that betrays total harmony. “Bird on the Wire” is less narrative than others in this paper. Because it is not a ballad it is representative of a more poetic type of lyric due to its abstract and truncated message. Again, while this is not something one would necessarily consider Southern Gothic the tension between the individual and society is a theme that is present in Southern Gothic literature. This paper will organize itself into songs of different thematic illustrations of alienation and isolation via different organization of lyrical modes. Another form of isolation that will be seen within this paper is the isolation from faith, such as in “Sunday Morning Coming Down” by Kris Kristofferson, whom has been quoted as wanting the first tercet of “Bird on a Wire” put on his tombstone. “Sunday Morning Coming Down” “Sunday Morning Coming Down” (1.2) by Kris Kristofferson is a country song that is synonymous with both Kristofferson and Johnny Cash, the latter having covered it. On the surface the
  22. 22. Washburn 18 song can easily be associated with boozing, drugs and hangovers. A close analysis leaves the reader feeling that the character of the lyric is suffering from the absence faith. The absence of faith, or a lack of any substantive connection to the world, is replaced by substance abuse. The poem is composed of 40 lines broken into five octaves. The third and fifth verse refrains that act as a pleading cry to the “Lord,” accentuating the schism between the narrator and faith (18). The rhyming scheme of the poem is consistent throughout in each stanza, which starts with an unrhymed line followed by a rhyme – so every even numbered line will rhyme. For example: Well, I woke up Sunday morning with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt; and the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad so I had one more for dessert. Then I fumbled in my closet through my clothes and found my cleanest dirty shirt. Then I washed my face and combed my hair and stumbled down the stairs to meet the day. (1-8) The oscillating rhyming pattern gives the feeling of lulling back and forth between something abstract and something definitive, this contributes to the feeling of anomie discussed in chapter 3. The rhymed lines stress what is definitive and tangible in the narrator’s world. The chorus reiterates this idea the best of any stanza in the song: On a Sunday morning sidewalk, I’m wishing, Lord, that I was stoned. ‘Cause there is something in a Sunday, that makes the body feel alone. And there’s nothing short of dying that is half as lonesome as the sound, of the sleeping city sidewalk and a Sunday morning coming down. (17-24) The narrator’s description of being on a sidewalk on Sunday, the multiple uses of “Sunday” and “Lord,” is why one should conclude that this lyric has something to do with faith. The crisis of faith on a “Sunday
  23. 23. Washburn 19 sidewalk” is abstract compared to the definitive feeling of wanting to be “stoned.” Likewise, “something in a Sunday” is an unexplainable feeling compared to the feeling of being “alone.” The back and forth illustrates that the narrator is struggling with faith due to its abstract nature. Sunday and the feeling it gives the speaker is not concrete when compared to the worldly habits that define the character. The question is, will the narrator eventually obtain faith or become at ease as lack thereof? Referring to verse two and four the reader can view the world through the lens of the narrator. The first thing the narrator sees is, “[…]a small kid / playing with a can that he was kicking” (11, 12). This is a literal image of how the speaker too has kicked the can down the road, not looking for faith, or perhaps salvation, in lieu of his worldly habits. The narrator turns his back on the image and crosses the street as if to take a new path. The new path has the narrator catch the whiff of “[…] the Sunday smell of someone frying chicken” (14,15). Instead of the saying something as cliché as “Wake up and smell the roses,” Kristofferson uses the smell of chicken, a traditional after church meal in much of the south, yet, the message is the same. This type of imagery contributes to the Southern setting without being too overt. It is at this juncture the narrator realizes he has been “lost” (14). The narrator, however, does not yet admit what he has lost and the first time the chorus is used the reader might assume the narrator wishes he were stoned rather than face a crises of faith. The fourth verse rectifies the illusion the speaker wishing to be stoned. The narrator sees a “[…] a daddy / with a laughing little girl that he was swinging” and a “[…] Sunday school […]” where he listens “[…] to the songs they were singing […]” (25-28). The father and the girl, and the singing at church, allows the narrator to finally see he has lost his relationships to god, which is like a father to a child relationship, but also to community, like the Sunday school. In this moment that the narrator hears the “[…] lonely bell was ringing […]” (30). Kristofferson personifies the bell as “lonely” which illustrates that not only is the narrator lonely without faith but that perhaps God, or the church, misses the speaker as well. The “lonely bell” reminds the narrator of his lost “dreams,” and by extension, goals, self-worth, ambition and confidence, character traits that provide peace of mind. The narrator has misplaced himself and his beliefs into the relief of alcohol and drugs, presumably the lifestyle of a musician considering lines nine and ten state he “smoked” his head on “[…] cigarettes and songs […].” The last refrain replaces the desire to be “stoned,” despite stating so. In this instance “stoned” simply means to feel alive, high on life, so to speak. The narrator wants to feel like the
  24. 24. Washburn 20 other characters that have both faith and community. The narrator is crying out to the “Lord” to help him feel alive. Through the journey around town the narrator has realized that the “sleeping city” is only quiet and lonesome because he has self-isolated and that the city is bustling with other people when he the sobriety to see it (39). The isolation of someone from faith and by extension the community that it entails, which is often the center of social life in the South, is not uncommon in Southern Gothic literature. This is a theme that will reveal itself in other lyrics within this paper. Characters of the often impose self-isolation because they have lost faith or the community of faith isolates them for their sinful nature. This lyric is similar to the Cohen lyric in that it is also a struggle between the individual and society but it is much more of an internal struggle, for this reason this lyric will be characterized as a “Personal Narrative.” The song is of a personal struggle, which can only be rectified by the individual, there are other lyrics that will be analyzed where social elements play a larger factor in isolating the narrator and/or characters of the lyric. The Kristofferson song was not entirely Southern Gothic, however, there were a few miniscule cues that could place the song in the South such as the fried chicken and the overwhelming feeling of faith and community that is characteristic of the South. Not all lyrics in this paper will be one hundred percent Southern Gothic in nature; many of the songs share in characteristics and themes that are equivalent to Southern Gothic. Part of the reason for this is that this paper is primarily dealing with lyrics and not the music. By decoupling the lyrics from the music the reader will find a different tone than the listener. Most of the lyrics however are pulled from genres that originate from or are culturally significant to the South, therefore =, when the lyrics seem to lack an element of Southern Gothic the music can impart a tonality that lends itself to the genre. The paper will attempt to point this out in instance that it arises. At times the absence of music can also benefit, for instance, “Memphis, Tennessee,” by Chuck Berry, takes place in a Southern city but depending on how it is interpreted dictates whether it is quote on quote “Southern Gothic. Sonically, Berry plays the song with classic rock n’ roll chops that at times feels upbeat and gregarious but in the absence of music the lyric has a darker tone.
  25. 25. Washburn 21 “Memphis, Tennessee” “Memphis, Tennessee” (1.3) by Chuck Berry, compared to the Cohen and Kristofferson song is much more straightforward in its composition. The song is four verses long with no refrain. Each verse has two rhyming couplets, AABB. The whole song entails the narrator trying to get in touch with Marie and why. The narrator of the song is not in Memphis, Tennessee, Marie is: Long distance information, give me Memphis, Tennessee Help me find the party trying to get in touch with me. She could not leave her number, but I know who placed the call ‘Cause my uncle took the message and he wrote it on the wall. The evident struggle is the lack of ability to communicate; the narrator has been isolated from Marie. On the surface Marie and the narrator seem to be in a relationship, and they are, but it is not the romantic relationship that the reader or listener would assume throughout the majority of the song. The narrator is quite knowledgeable of Marie, which is why the reader would assume it is a romantic relationship, a common conceit, when coupled with the longing to contact her. For example the narrator knows Marie is in Memphis, knows that she lives “[…] high up on the ridge / just half a mile from the Mississippi Bridge (7-8). The narrator also knows that Marie’s Mom is the reason contact between the two parties is difficult, “[…] we were pulled apart because her Mom did not agree […]” (11). The other verses, and conventional wisdom, would lead the reader to believe that these are two young lovers not allowed to see each other due to a parent. The upbeat music of the song would also lend itself to this belief. Rock ‘n’ roll music is youthful and rollicking, insubordinate and fun. As stated earlier, however, the music in this instance hides the darker tone of the song. Line 12 turns the song on its head because it reveals that the assumption of two young lovers is false. Marie’s Mom did not like the relationship so she “[…] tore apart our happy home in Memphis, Tennessee” (12). The question immediately becomes whose home? If Marie and the narrator had a home how could the Mom tear it apart? Perhaps the narrator is unreliable? The last verse states: Last time I saw Marie she’s waving me goodbye, with hurry home drops on her cheek that trickled from her eye. Marie is only six years old, information please, try to put me through to her in Memphis, Tennessee. (13-16)
  26. 26. Washburn 22 The trust issue between the narrator and the reader caused by line 12, and the previous assumptions, may make it seem like something insidious is occurring between the narrator and Marie. Marie is revealed to be only six years old in line 15. Of course the narrator should not be in a relationship with Marie, the Mom is right. Closer inspection reveals that it is the narrator and the Mom that were in the relationship and Marie is their daughter. This is clear because Marie is “waving” to the narrator and has “hurry home drops” in her eyes, therefore, the narrator is definitely not in a preying position. Instead, the relationship between father and daughter is pulled apart by a divorce or separation. This song is used as an example how the music can influence the lyric positively or negatively. Musically this song is very upbeat and happy and without a close reading of the lyrics the message could be missed. The subtlety of line 12 could, which throws the reader into the investigative loop of what exactly is occurs, would be negated. Line 12 pulls the reader’s heartstrings and creates a sense of dire urgency about the turmoil of a broken home. Line 15, albeit very briefly, can lead the reader to question what the narrator’s motives based on their previous assumptions – is Marie his lover of a victim? The answer lies in lines 13 and 14 illustrating the need to not rely on solely on music as contextual evidence, a close reading must be done. “Memphis, Tennessee” is also an example of how despite being southern in name it is not necessarily Southern Gothic in nature. Had Marie actually been an object of affection and not the daughter of the narrator then perhaps this could be interpreted as a grotesque and macabre Southern Gothic lyric. Though the theme of isolation between the narrator and his daughter exists it is difficult to find much more that qualifies it Southern Gothic. In contrast the song “Blind Willie McTell” by Bob Dylan enumerates the history of the south shouldered by a single blues musician. “Blind Willie McTell” “Blind Willie McTell” (1.4) by Bob Dylan tells of the horrors of African-American life in the Southern, United States; the song is a testament to Southern history and Blind Willie McTell. Blind Willie McTell was a Southern musician from Georgia who pioneered Piedmont Blues, a variant of blues on the East Coast and in the Southeast. The Piedmont Blues differs from say the Delta Blues of Mississippi because of its ragtime inspired rhythms. By using Blind Willie McTell as a framing device for the poem Bob Dylan is giving credit to him as a pioneer of the blues but also gives him reason to perform the blues.
  27. 27. Washburn 23 This is not a hyperbolic framing device because the blues originated from the African-American community of the south in response to newfound freedom without social justice accompanying the freedom. The lyric is divided into five verses with no cohesive rhyme scheme. Each verse has eight lines and the final couplet of each is a variant on the following: “And I know no one can sing the blues / Like Blind Willie McTell” (lines 7-8). It is useful to note that the listener of this song does not need to figure out the best way to transcribe it into a lyric because Dylan publishes his lyrics on his website. One of the interesting issues and questions of viewing popular music as lyrics is how to transcribe them. Not unlike translating literature to another language one should attempt to find the best interpretation without construing the writers original intent. The song’s first verse recalls Martin Luther and “The 95 Theses” by illustrating an “[…] arrow on the doorpost […]” which says “[…] ‘This land is condemned / All the way from New Orleans / to Jerusalem’ […]” (1-2). The easterly direction across the South to the Holy Land in Israel should be interpreted as linkage between the South and Christianity. The Southern treatment of blacks that the song details is evil, corruptive and corrosive. This is not a statement on the Holy Land but like Martin Luther’s writings a condemnation of behavior, a condemnation of the Christian values the South espouses in spite of their treatment blacks. The narrator travels “[…] through East Texas / Where many martyrs fell […]” indicating that people die for beliefs. African Americans died for transgressing White-Southern social laws and behavior (5-6). All of this combined allows Blind Willie McTell to sing the blues because he witnessed these transgressions occur. It is because of the isolation of the African American community, the lack of their integration into Southern society, that gives rise to McTell’s blues. While the first verse can be seen as a metaphorical image the second verse is written like a first- person account, particularly taken in conjunction with the line of the previous verse where the narrator “[…] travelled through East Texas.” The narrator states: Well, I heard the hoot owl singing As they were taking down the tents The stars above the barren trees Were his only audience Them charcoal gypsy maidens
  28. 28. Washburn 24 Can strut their feathers well But nobody can sing the blues Like Blind Willie McTell (9-16) The first person narrator is describing what appears to be the end of a concert, its quiet enough to hear the “owl” and the people are “taking down the tents.” Lines 11 and 12 state that McTell’s blues do not disappear when he is not performing, rather, even when McTell is alone with “the stars” and “barren trees,” as “his only audience,” he still feels the pain of his experiences. The dancing women work in contrast, as the audience they have come to hear McTell perform as a reprieve from their day-to-day experiences, but McTell must conjure and use the experiences of his life in order to play and sing the blues. Therefore McTell is never without the pain of the African American experience. The third verse is filled with imagery of abuse against African Americans; this verse contrasts the internal experience with the external setting of the previous verse – as if to say, this is McTell’s experience when he sings the blues. The verse is not metaphorical or fantastical but an accurate portrait of life during the plantation period, it could be described as journalistic. The verse is one of social upheaval: See them big plantations burning Hear the cracking of the whips Smell that sweet magnolia blooming See the ghosts of slavery ships I can hear them tribes a-moaning Hear the undertaker’s bell Nobody can sing the blues Like Blind Willie McTell (17-24) McTell was alive in the 20th century. The blues were not really born until after slavery, therefore, this verse describes is the internalized feelings of the African American community. The verse can best be analyzed like a historical chart: most recently the “plantations” ended in upheaval via the Civil War; prior there were “whips” and slavery that from the White Southerner’s perspective benefited the “blooming” nation and the South; prior to that “ships” came from Africa where people were forcefully taken from their “tribes.” All of these vignettes could be either initiated by the foreshadowing “undertaker’s bell,” or
  29. 29. Washburn 25 concluded by the “undertaker’s bell” due to the inordinate amount of lives lost in the process. The impact of these events weigh heavy within African American culture, allowing McTell to sing the blues. The third verse and the fourth verse are the only two verses with a discernible rhyme scheme, ABABABAB. The introduction of the rhyme scheme during this section of the poem represents the plight of slaves and African Americans – this section is told from their point of view. The back and forth rhyme pattern reiterates the unease the African American community has with the white community. The constant struggle of their history in the south, the push and the pull of their lives as pawns in a white society, is relayed to the reader via the rhyme scheme. The “squire” is illustrated in the Prohibition Era. This is evident because of the “bootlegged whiskey,” meaning illegal, contrasted against the backdrop of a “chain gang.” The chain gang is not described as black necessarily, however, it is safe to assume that the “rebels” are there for rebelling against the inadequacy of an unjust social system. The smarmy nature with which the landowning man flouts the law in the face of “criminals” is used to mimic and mock much of the black experience in the sharecropping era of the South. A white landowner would be impervious to the law compared to a black person. The final verse is a lament on how crooked and corrupt much of the world is, a contemplative portrait of a person analyzing the world through the blues of McTell. It could be argued that the final verse and the first four verses have different narrators. John Lomax, a famous ethnomusicologist who recorded various folk and traditional artists for the Library of Congress, recorded Blind Willie McTell in 1940. This recording can still be bought; the recording it is titled Blind Willie McTell: 1940, The Legendary Library of Congress Session. This album is critically considered one of the defining records of Blind Willie McTell’s entire discography, not just because of McTell but because Lomax recorded it. Lomax lived much of his life in Texas and presumably would have had to have “traveled through East Texas” to reach McTell in Georgia where the recording took place. Lomax would have witnessed the suffering, and orally recorded, much of what is described as the African American experience in the song through verse four. This is entirely conjecture but it could be appropriately argued that verse one through four is an ethnomusicologist’s, which Lomax was, narration of the African American experience and how that experience informed the blues of Blind Willie McTell. Verse five, in this argument, would be a
  30. 30. Washburn 26 musician, like Dylan, recognizing in their affection for McTell’s music that the South is a very corrupt place. The argument that the last verse is Dylan, or a Dylan-esque imitation, is three fold. The narrator is “[…] gazing out the window / Of the St. James Hotel […]” (38). An internet search reveals a St. James Hotel in Red Wing, Minnesota, the home state of Bob Dylan. Red Wing, Minnesota is also on Highway 61, arguably most famous due to Dylan’s album Highway 61 Revisited. Last, the museum overlooks the Mississippi River one of the defining geographical landmarks of the South that many songs, folk tales, novels, and oral tradition revolve around. The reason for this argument is that the last verse is quite different stylistically from the other verses. The last verse recounts plaintive thoughts on the “[…] power and greed […]” of culture from a specific location (35). The last verse is not a metaphorical religious comparison of the South to Martin Luther; it does not sound like a first source account of a concert like verse two; it is not a historical charting of the South like verse three; or an illustration of inequality like verse four. It is conceivable that Dylan, as a writer and storyteller, uses the influential documentation of someone like Lomax as a framing device to tell the story of the South and Blind Willie McTell. The narrator of the fifth verse, as a Dylan- esque character, is distant enough from the South to not be affected by its culture, yet, near enough to one of the South’s defining features to be able to contemplatively comment on it. Dylan is a great writer and he has never shied away from political and/or social messages. In a hotel overlooking the Mississippi, looking down to the South, one could envision Dylan writing a stinging social critique of Southern culture through the lens of a black, Southern, bluesman. Admittedly, the argument above is a big assumption. The “St. James Hotel” could just be a reference to the song “St. James Infirmary, which the melody of “Blind Willie McTell” is borrowed. Even if the assumption were wrong the narrator’s overall statement in the final verse, that faithful men can horrifically and inhumanely pursue “power and greed,” would still be true (37). The history of a black, Southern, bluesman would remain. The analysis of the above lyrics leads one to believe that the atrocities committed against slaves and the racial prejudices committed against African-Americans could be categorized as a complete failure
  31. 31. Washburn 27 of society, it was not just a few components of society. The isolation of African Americans in the United States was an institutionalized failure at the highest levels of government and entails the whole of society. Dylan’s lyric, for the purpose of this paper, will be categorized as a “social narrative” – the opposite of the “personal narrative” set forth with the Kristofferson lyric. It is a narrative that says more about society than the individual. The “social narrative” will be the common structural theme of the lyrics analyzed in the next chapter.
  32. 32. Washburn 28 Chapter 6 Social Narratives The previous chapter analyzed the lyrics of The Pen New England award winners and a lyric from Bob Dylan; in doing so a template of how the remaining chapters would be analyzed was laid forth. This chapter deals with narratives of a social nature. The narratives are not necessarily linear. Instead the term narrative is being used because these lyrics illustrate something that occurs on a microscopic level that is indicative of a greater social narrative at the macroscopic level. Randy Newman was left out of the previous chapter even though he was recognized for his songwriting by PEN New England. The reason for the omission in the previous chapter is because Newman has one of the strongest social narratives analyzed for this paper. “Louisiana 1927” chronicles The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 from the perspective of someone living through the flood, along with the questionable response by the government. In 2005, during the flooding of Hurricane Katrina, the song gained popularity again and become an anthem for the Louisiana people. Bruce Boyd Raeburn, the curator of The Hogan Jazz Archive at Tulane University, in an interview with The New York Times in 2008 said of Newman’s lyric: “They’re trying to wash us away […] It captures the feeling that you’re trying to cling onto your culture, to your life, in the face of this wave of indifference, of racism, of malevolence and of water itself” (Himes). There are few songs that concern the isolation of communities as well as this one. “Louisiana 1927” Newman’s lyric, “Louisiana 1927” (see 2.1) is rather straightforward: five verses with two refrains create short, and journalistically styled, narrative. The first verse is a quatrain composed of two rhymed couplets. The first line of the stanza tells of impending doom, “What has happened down here is the winds have changed,” followed by, “Clouds roll in from the north and it start to rain” (line 1-2). The rain causes “Six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline” (line 4). Six feet of water is immense and devastating for a town named after the Longfellow poem Evangeline, however, it is not as horrific as what occurs in the following verse. According to the narrator of the song:
  33. 33. Washburn 29 The river rose all day and rose all night. Some people got lost in the flood, some people got away alright. The river have busted through clear down to Plaquemines, six feet of water in the streets of Evangeline. (5-10) This stanza is composed of five lines but it reads, similar to the first stanza, like a quatrain. The sixth and seventh lines could technically be conjoined, however, stylistically line six seems to be “lost. In this way the line is similar to the deceased that it references. The enjambment creates a moment of tension; a downbeat without a rhyme that indicates something is remiss, yet also, a moment of recognition. Line seven, which does rhyme, returns the natural flow of the lyrics. By completing the rhyme it is as if those that escaped the flood in line seven return to normal life having escaped their brush with death. Lines six and seven create the disjoining of those who dies and those who lived, or another way to put it is “the haves” and “the have nots.” Historically, the Mississippi Delta flooded often. The longest era without a flood to be considered a natural disaster was between the 1927 flood and the flood associated with Hurricane Katrina (Wise 217). The flooding was the lifeblood of the delta that allowed for the cotton industry to boom. That lifeblood, however, primarily benefitted the white community. In a biography on William Alexander Percy, a Mississippi poet and planter, Benjamin Wise states: “At stake for whites were economic stability and a way of life. For blacks, the threat was more physical […] If people died during a flood, they were more likely to be black than white” (212). Percy was in control of the disaster relief in Greenville, Mississippi in which African Americans were pressed into forced labor at gunpoint, whereas many white people were evacuated (Wise 213, 215). In Louisiana, however, the flood was being controlled by the levees. Any increased rain would eventually cause the levees to break and put New Orleans at risk. To avoid this risk the governor of Louisiana, at the urging of prominent businessmen in New Orleans, decided to blow the levees south of New Orleans thereby creating an outflow for the river and saving the city; in doing so many African American communities south of New Orleans were displaced or destroyed (Bradshaw). The historical information above reinforces the atrocities of the second stanza of “Louisiana 1927.” Black lives were lost and livelihoods destroyed to save the business interest and livelihoods of the white community, furthermore, levee breaks upstream negated the need to blow the levees south of New
  34. 34. Washburn 30 Orleans where “Plaquemine” and “Evangeline” were located (Bradshaw). When the second stanza of the song reveals that, “The river have busted through” it is not because of natural events but manmade ones (8). The repetition of the chorus mimics the pounding of torrential rain and flooding, the unceasing cataclysmic forces of man and nature. The fourth stanza tells the reader “President Coolidge came down in a railroad train” (16). The disconcerting element of the stanza is that the President would have the gall to not even address the African American community, instead stating to his note taker: “Little fat man, isn’t it a shame / what the river has done to this poor cracker’s land?” (18-19). The African American community has been devastated to such a degree that the Great Migration begins the earnest departure of people away from the South, yet Coolidge has no comment (Bradshaw). The rhyming also reiterates, in a return to the pattern seen in stanza one, a sense of normalcy - normal treatment of African Americans by Southerners as seen throughout its history. This social narrative is an extension of what Dylan’s lyric espoused in “Blind Willie McTell.” The lengthened repetition of the chorus continues to illustrate that perhaps the confluence of the rain and the river and the society are truly trying to “wash away” African Americans in Louisiana (21). The isolation of African American communities allowed them to be collateral damage. If “Louisana 1927” is a social narrative of the truest form, a historical look into a devastating moment of history that was complicated by the failures of society, then the next lyric reveals how social identity affects people. “Carlisle’s Haul” by James McMurtry, son of Pulitzer Prize winner Larry McMurtry, could be seen as sharing a common universe to “Louisana 1927.” The desperate characters of the song are trying to overcome an undesirable economic situation that the government and their social identity has burdened them with. “Carlisle’s Haul” “Carlisle’s Haul” (2.2) by James McMurty is a “[…] vignette of the common man,” because like his father, McMurtry figures he is a “[…] fiction writer […]” (Hudak). Although he does not write sweeping dramas of the American West like his father does in “Lonesome Dove,” James McMurtry is able to write concisely and lyrically, portraying snapshots of desperate Americans in vastly disparate situations. For example, “Choctaw Bingo,” arguably McMurtry’s most popular lyric, has people from Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri come together at a family reunion. The characters are
  35. 35. Washburn 31 estranged but their commonality and background link them together. Commonality amongst different people is a trademark of McMurtry. Due to McMurtry’s trademark style, “Carlisle’s Haul” could be set on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, amongst a downtrodden African American community, like Newman’s “Louisiana 1927” It does not take place there, however, the connecting theme of “us” versus “them” illustrates the direness of being isolated or alienated from the larger social fabric. The lyrics of “Carlisle’s Haul” are generally in four to five line stanzas without a repeatable pattern of rhyme. The music is sparse allowing McMurtry to speak the story into life rather than sing it; the guitar lulls like “seine” net and is punctuated by a hand-drum that mimics the lapping of water (line 2). The narrative takes place on the water and intimates the story of Carlisle and his buddies. The lack of instrumentation implies a tone of desperation among them. The premise of the song is stated in the first line “Old Carlisle needs some money / He’s running a seine out off the point” (line 1, 2). Due to this need Carlisle and his buddies go fishing despite the fact that, “Commericial season’s closed / We might all wind up in the join” (3, 4). Despite the legality of fishing under the auspices of night and out of season the desperation is enough that jail is not a bad option. The songs second verse accentuates the anxiety of the situation when the narrator tells how “The donkey man minds his business / and I know to be minding mine (8, 9). The threat of failure from within the group is more hostile than the potential for jail. The narrator states this on good authority because he, “[…] learned from the best” (9, 10). Presumably the very men he is with during the song. In the third verse the narrator vaguely explains why the men are out on the river. The “[…] crabbers cuss the weather / and they cuss the government too / ‘cause nowadays crabbing and fishing / is hanging on to a pot to piss in / It’s just about the best a man can do” (line 11-15). While this does not tell the listener much it does explain that perhaps the government has something to do with the economic situation. The fishing trade is so bad that it is equated to the lowliness of having to take urine to the tannery as ones only source of income. The refrain of the song then tells that: “It’s hard not to cry and cuss / this old world is just bigger than us / And all we got is pride and trust in our kind” (line 16-18). If not for the community then the characters would want to kick and scream, perhaps give up, over circumstances that affect them but are not within their control. This sentiment is reiterated in the colloquial manner that the chorus it is written, which is more like a dialogue explanation via one of the
  36. 36. Washburn 32 characters rather than the lyrical monologue of the narrator. The refrain henceforth becomes a powerful mantra whenever it is read. One of the reasons that this lyric is particularly well written is that the theme does not sit on the surface of the lyric; one must analyze the lyric in detail to suss out the interaction between the internal elements of the song to the external message. The lyrics mimic the internal actions of the lyric, as if to say, “Get your feet wet, dive under the surface and look into the water.” In the water is where the answer lies. Verse five states that: “Old Carlisle and Uncle Freddy / Don’t you know they’ve seen some times / they remember gaslights / oyster war machine gun fights / Wish I’d known them in their prime” (19-23). Oyster wars took place in Maryland and Virginia at the end of the 19th century through the 1950’s on the Chesapeake Bay. The wars had as much to do with society and culture as they did with the actual economics of the oyster industry. In “Landscapes of Resistance: A View of the Nineteenth-Century Chesapeake Bay Oyster Fishery,” researchers state that: The occupational identity of fishermen, and by extension Chesapeake Bay oyster tongers, is based on the shared type of work, the common experiences, specialized skills and knowledge, location of work, and the physical and economic risks involved. Identity is imparted to fisherman through the process of entering the trade and becoming a member of the group, and identity is reinforced through constant participation in the work. (Botwick 99) The social identity of the communities involved with being a fisherman, or oysterman, for the characters of the song are just as important as the fish. Without the fish they lose their sense of purpose, skill sets and persona. The knowledge element of identity entails Carlisle and Uncle Freddy to have certain abilities that the narrator does not. The narrator states: “Now they stare out past the lights / to the darkness on the water / I don’t think they’re liking what they see / Long before that seine can make a circle / They’ll know what the outcome’s gonna be” (24-28). The heritage and tradition that creates such a skill set is steeped in knowledge that has been handed down through the social structure. As the narrator states, twice for emphasis, “They learned from the best / They learned from the best (29, 30). The couplet not only repeats for reinforcement but also brings the narrator into the culture because he stated that he too
  37. 37. Washburn 33 learned from the best in verse two. There multiple generations, Carlisle and the narrator, within the lyric those represent the dispersion of skill and identity. The economic risks of the fishermen’s lifestyle are confirmed when the characters “[…] haul the seine up in the longboat” (31). The net is relatively empty except for “[…] a bag of bunkers […] For crab bait and blue fish chum” and a “String of croaker for the Sunday meal / String of croaker makes a meal” (34-36). There are no economically viable fish to give Carlisle the money he needs. After revealing their failure, the mantra like refrain returns to reinforce the identity of these characters, as if to say, there is no backup plan, it is fishing or nothing. This time, however, the refrain is extended by an unrhymed couplet. The added couplet states: “Staring down that long steep slope / We gather round and we hold out hope / ‘Cause at the end of the rope there’s a little more rope / Most times “ (40-43). The sardonic verse illustrates that this community is perhaps hanging themselves because of their social and cultural identity; despite the desperation presented it does not necessarily need to be so desperate. In contrast to the fishermen is an interloper whom could place the fisherman in great trouble, the game warden who monitors illegal fishing. The fishermen feel threatened by him, not for fear of arrest or tickets, because he represents change. After the nets come up empty the narrator wonders, “What’s old Carlisle gonna do?” (49). The answer is that he’ll “[…] get on back to town before the warden comes” before sunrise (52). Specifically, however, the narrator states that the warden “[…] knows better than to get here before dawn” (53). The dawn is a more literal change than the metaphorical one the game warden represents. The change from dark to day is a threat to the illegal fishing like the game warden is a threat from unregulated to regulated fishing. Line 53 states that the threat of this change will be meet with a show of force. One part of the hostility that line 53 represents is because the game warden has disavowed the way of life that is socially representative of the other characters. The other issue is that the game warden prevents their fishing. The government ended the oyster wars through regulation and commercial seasons, which was referenced in the first verse. The game warden represents the governmental mechanism that has stifled the economic and cultural identity of the characters. The game warden is an ironic embodiment of the how change is possible, the narrator states: “[…] you know it’s somebody’s cousin and we can’t have a hometown boy out work” (55). Presumably the game warden was once
  38. 38. Washburn 34 connected to the identity of the fishing community and therefore he is viewed as a traitor that now keeps other “hometown boy(s)” out of work. The game warden’s entrance into the lyric creates a different tone when the refrain is read for the last time. Tradition and social identity while valuable in this instance is perhaps stifling. Rather than adjust and adapt the community becomes insular and blames the outside interference of the government or whoever is not part of the clique. The old manner which things were done is so romanticized and ingrained in cultural identity that the line 53 and 54, “’Cause at the end of the rope there’s a little more rope / Most times,” becomes a universal truth: tradition does not just die, it flames out slowly. The illegal fishing practiced by Carlisle is merely stalling the inevitability of change while hanging oneself, economically speaking, in the process. Much of the Southern Gothic myth details the struggles of society straining against the stubbornness of self-identity and the inability to change, a society stuck between remembrance of the past and fear of the future. Vise versa, often times people have changed but the machinations of society have not caught up. Part of the reason that Southern Gothic is viewed as macabre is because the character that represents a changing society is so often the victim, such as Hulga in Flannery O’Connor’s, Good Country People. It is also possible that the character that represents changes in society also creates the violence, such as the Misfit, in A Good Man is Hard to Find, also by O’Connor. The game warden is not subject to violence by the characters of “Carlisle’ Haul” but rather it is intimated violence could occur if he attempts to interfere. The game warden is presented as marginalized by other characters in the narrative when he should be heralded. In reality it is Carlisle and his gang of fishermen that are marginalized because of their inability to adapt to new circumstances. Many of the lyrics that contain social narratives follow this pattern. There are instances when the outsider, such as the game warden, is praised and viewed affectionately, like in the song “Mariano.” “Mariano” “Mariano” (2.3) by Robert Earl Keen chronicles the experience of a Mexican migrant worker from the perspective of the person who hired him, the narrator. Mariano has interloped into the world of the narrator and is viewed with great affection and admiration. In this manner it is somewhat like the reverse of Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses. In that novel John Grady a young Texan goes to Mexico and
  39. 39. Washburn 35 is hired onto a ranch where, because of his horsemanship, he is admired and respected. In this case Mariano comes to Texas to work for the narrator, Keen. Like McCarthy, Keen also employs polysyndetic coordination in his writing. Much of what Keen admires about Mariano is unknowable. The polysyndetic writing allows the narrator to ponder Mariano a metaphysical, if not biblical, philosophy question. The narrator’s wonderment is overwhelmingly heightened due to the rapidity of the polysyndetic language. The first verse of the song introduces the listener to Mariano, it states, “He cuts and trims the grass for me, he makes the flowers bloom. / He says that he comes from a place not far from Guanajuato / It’s two days on a bus from here, a lifetime from this room (line 2-4). Immediately the reader is plunged into an equal sense of wonderment because not only does this Mariano do the yard work but “he makes the flowers bloom.” Not only is Mariano foreign, he comes from a place that is “a lifetime from this room.” The language describing Mariano is not normal but miraculous and therefore otherworldly. The narrator is so touched by Mariano that he will “[…] fix his meals and talk to him in my old broken Spanish” (5). These gestures imply respect. The narrator expands upon his respect by stating, “And if when he is gone will he remember me at all?” (8). The narrator desires to attention from Mariano and for the respect to be reciprocated, not because he demands it, but because he wants to evoke the same emotion in Mariano. The narrator states that Mariano “[…] works just like a piston in an engine” (9). This is one of the instances where the syntax mimics what is being read. The narrator’s wonderment of Mariano’s work ethic is imitated by the rapidity and lack of structural stops. The whole of this, the syntax and what is being stated lyrically, creates a vision of Mariano that is ethereal. The narrator relays this to the reader when he states that, “He only stops to take a drink and smoke a cigarette / and when the day has ended and I look outside my window - / there on the horizon Mariano’s silhouette” (11-12). The brevity of the song contrasts an intimacy between Mariano and the narrator that should take time to create. This contrast helps the lyric establish in the listener the idea that Mariano is God-like. The intimacy only goes from the narrator to Mariano, not vise versa, as if Mariano, like God, is infinitely knowable should one ever meet him. Verse four begins a sequence that imitates a dream or hallucination state by the narrator. After observing Mariano looking in a “[…] south-easterly direction,” the narrator states that “I know my charts I know that he is thinking of his home / I’ve never been the sort to say I’m into intuition / but I swear he
  40. 40. Washburn 36 sees the faces of the ones he calls his own” (13-16). In this instance the narrator attempts to justify what he witnesses and feels, instinctually, by his corporeal knowledge of maps. It is as if the narrator wants to deny the how he feels in Mariano’s presence. The lure of Mariano, however, is great enough that the narrator is transported to witnessing a culture apart from his own: Their skin is brown as potter’s clay; their eyes void of expression Their hair is black as widow’s dreams; their dreams are all but gone They’re as ancient as a vision of a sacrificial virgin Innocent as crying from a baby being born. (17-20) What the narrator describes are a desperate people who have nothing but Mariano to cling to. The description is apocalyptic because without Mariano it seems these people would cease to exist. One would assume this is because of their society hence the reason Mariano must seek employment elsewhere. The narrator forces the reader to make assumptions of Mariano and his culture, his people, in the same manner that the narrator does – assumptions that are not verified or denied by Mariano. Verse six, however, states that: They hover around a dying flame and pray for his protection Their prayers are often answered by his letters in the mail He sends them colored figures that he cuts from strips of paper and all his weekly wages saving nothing for himself (21-24) The assumptions of the narrator and reader about Mariano are confirmed by his actions. By not saving his wages Mariano resolves the crises of his people thereby also confirming Mariano as a savior like figure. The larger question is why does the narrator view Mariano the way he does? The question is not resolved within the confines of the song. Unfortunately for both the narrator and Mariano, “The border guards they came one day and took him (Mariano) far away” (26). In a reversal of roles the narrator becomes like Mariano’s family, praying, “I hope that he is safe down there at home in Guanajuato - / I worry though I read there’s revolution every day” (27-28). It is possible that the narrator interprets his interactions with Mariano retroactively and therefore they have created a mythic view of Mariano. There is a subtle change in tense from present to past between the first six verses and the seventh, not in verb tense, but narratively that would confirm this.
  41. 41. Washburn 37 It is plausible that Keen has overlaid “Mariano” with biblical overtones to imitate a moral code to which the narrator wants to adhere in honor of how Mariano affected that narrator’s life. The narrator’s visions of Mariano’s family imitate a conversion story that build upon Christ-like narrative. Mariano could be viewed has having been persecuted by society, the border guards, and forced to return home where revolution is akin to the crucifixion. Home is a metaphorical extension of heaven, his loved ones for example worry in fear without his presence, and upon returning he is like the savior unburdening them. Geographically, crossing the Rio Grande would be the metaphorical baptism in the river Jordan. This type of narrative is not unprecedented in American music. The folk and gospel song “Wayfaring Stranger,” popularized by Emmylou Harris, tells of a travelling person who endures hardship before joining their family in heaven. In totality, the impact that Mariano had on the narrator’s life is akin to a conversion of faith. The mythic retelling of the narrator’s involvement with Mariano is a coping mechanism in his absence, an explanation, a way for the narrator to deal with his loss. This lyric is a good example of how the interloper, Mariano, influences the socially native person of a text, the narrator. Mariano has different life experiences that are explained via the juxtaposition between him and the narrator, one is a migrant laborer while the other is an employer of labor. The contrast between two vastly different characters, particularly in terms of society and culture, does not typically result in such an amenable reaction by the nativist character. Despite the personal reaction by the narrator society still attempted to negate this interaction as represented by Mariano’s removal and the specter of revolution. Social upheaval and the removal of a social ill is a common thread in Southern Gothic literature, often times, despite the affinity for the interpersonal connections. The individual relationship between people from different sectors of society is often not enough to overcome the injustices of society. For example, consider the Southern caste system in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch’s decision to defend Tom Robinson despite the threat of violence did not change the social circumstance. Tom Robinson was viewed as a social ill and should therefore be removed from society. Atticus Finch’s defense of Tom Robinson represents, despite its failure, an attempt to remove a racist belief system, something discarnate, however, it can also be something much more concrete such as a flag. The need to remove social ill is the theme of Steve Earle’s “Mississippi, It’s Time.”
  42. 42. Washburn 38 “Mississippi, It’s Time” “Mississippi, It’s Time” (2.4) by Steve Earle is a relatively new lyric that comments on the political controversy of the Confederate flag following the massacre at the Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Steve Earle, through his lyrics, unrelentingly asks for the removal of the Confederate Jack from Mississippi’s state flag – a symbol that is associated with racism and White supremacy. Earle states: I grew up in the South and lived there until I was 50 and I know that I’m not the only Southerner who never believed for one second that the Confederate battle flag is symbolic of anything but racism in anything like a modern context […] This is about giving those Southerners a voice. (Musician Steve Earle) The collective voice that Earle refers to is a growing chorus of people who have demanded the removal of Confederate namesakes, iconography and symbolism from the public sphere. That chorus of people, however, have been met by an equally strong opposition who belief this to be an inquisition on Southern culture, history, and psyche. This belief is known as, “The Lost Cause of the Confederacy.” “The Lost Cause of the Confederacy” espouses that the “Old South” was morally compelled in their secession from the Union as a way to retain their belief system despite the changes during and after Reconstruction, which gives rise to the “New South.” “The Lost Cause” myth was first used in 1866 by Edward Pollard, author of The Lost Cause: A New Southern History of the War of the Confederates, who wanted to preserve Southern identity of the antebellum period and wanted to help shape the historical record of the perceptions of the Civil War (Ulbrich). Charles Wilson, in “The Religion of the Lost Cause: Ritual and Organization of the Southern Civil Religion, 1865-1920!,” writes that this belief system closely mimics a religious identity: The southern civil religion emerged because defeat in the Civil War had created the spiritual and psychological need for southerners to reaffirm their identity, an identity which came to have outright religious dimension […] As with all ritualistic repetition of archetypal actions, southerners in their institutionalized Lost Cause religion were trying symbolically to overcome history. By repetition of ritual, they recreated the mythical times of their noble ancestors and paid tribute to them. (237)
  43. 43. Washburn 39 The Lost Cause religious overtones meant that many Southerners perpetuated an ideology of persecution by the North, Reconstruction policies, industrialists and Civil Rights Leaders, which would allow them to remain purposefully naïve to their own role in secession and continue their pursuit of an unethical and morally corrupt caste system of the “Old South” in the “New South.” The Lost Cause of the Confederacy is perhaps on best display in Margaret Mitchell’s, Gone With the Wind, and the film adaptation of the same name. Mitchell’s novel portrays the plight of Scarlett O’Hara and her new found poverty when the antebellum lifestyle and social system is destroyed. Mitchell’s novel is more controversial historical fiction than Southern Gothic. An example within Southern Gothic literature, of the Lost Cause would be Faulkner’s novel, Sartoris, or Flannery O’Connor’s short story, “A Late Encounter with the Enemy.” Both stories detail generational decline from antebellum fortune. More specifically Sartoris, it could be said, is a novel of how the “Lost Generation” could have benefitted from the false ideal of a Lost Cause-like myth, whereas, O’Connor’s story unveils the illusion of the Lost Cause as a lie. The history and ideologies of the old and new South permeate the stories of Southern Gothic so it should be no surprise that the same iteration occurs in popular music. If, like O’Connor’s short story, Earle’s “Mississippi, It’s Time” dispels the illusion of Confederate pride, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” (2.5) by The Band, reiterates glorification, like Faulkner’s novel. The Band sings, “Now I don’t mind choppin’ wood, and I don’t care if the money’s no good / You take what you need and you leave the rest / but they should never have taken the very best (line 10-12). The idea that “they,” presumably the North, took the “very best” like an unprovoked rape is the danger of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy premise. It promulgates a belief system based on victimization that is intergenerational and immovable, “Like my father before me […] / Like my brother above me […]” (line 16, 17). The interplay between past and present is what drives the social narrative of Earle’s song. Earle’s song gives reply to the very issues that “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” puts forth. Earle writes, “Mississippi, don’t you reckon it’s time / that the flag came down, cause the world turned round / and we can’t move ahead if we’re looking behind” (line 2-4). Asking for the removal of the Confederate Jack on the Mississippi flag, a removal of a symbol of a social ill and disrupter of progress, is asking for an admission of guilt for the fallacies of the Lost Cause of the Confederate philosophy. The narrator states that he comes “[…] from a long, long line / of a rebel strain […]” and yet, even he, is willing to admit that