Humanities 135 Blues


Purpose: The board is a chance for you to express your own opinions and personalities, as long as you’re clearly responding to the assigned topic. I want everyone to feel their opinions are respected and equally valid (whether you consider yourself a “good” writer or not), so as long as you do this to my satisfaction, you’ll likely get full credit. You must write on two of the prompts assigned here (materials include the essays, lyrics, films, etc.). That way you’re always involved in a discussion at least two different topics. Feel free to post images, linked articles, etc. I might award extra points to clever and relevant links. But please – no tired memes or tweets, and absolutely nothing cruel or off-color.

Task: Write two separate comments on your chosen topics. First, choose one of the numbered options (four, in this case) and write a coherent and reflective consideration of the particular topic. This initial post must be at least 200 words and must include a word count at the end. Treat it like a short essay; this is your major statement on one aspect of what we’ve studied so far.

Title your post (always) with a reference to the name(s) of the article or a brief summary of the content, so people know at a glance your focus (e.g., “My response to Ethel Waters,” “My reaction to Black Snake Moan,” etc.). You can be creative, but the intent and subject should always be clear. Once this first comment posted, it will allow the board to open and connect you with your peers. See what they have to say.

Then respond (at least 50 words each) to a second topic (you can be briefer here) and to one student post. These peer responses might be a means for you to comment on a topic you haven’t previously written on (a third topic!) or react to a very different interpretation than your own. Either way, you should be sympathetic to and interested in what your peers have to say, and it should be clear from your response that you’ve read/viewed the material in question. Frivolous, mocking, fake, or obviously undeveloped responses will earn No Credit.

Criteria: Style, clarity, and content matter!

  • All materials referred to in the prompts are in the previous modules(4 & 5, in this case). Review them before writing. You’re expected to read all topics and materials, which are testable on the exam.
  • If there’s no second topic under discussion yet, be the first and start a new thread!
  • You must write in complete sentences, with proper grammar and syntax (sentence structure). Paragraphs need a good topic sentence providing a thesis (opinion) that encompasses what follows. You should provide details from the source materials (essays, video, your own relevant experiences) to illustrate and support your ideas as you develop them.
  • You will lose points for any missing, off-topic, or poorly developed elements (initial post/second post/peer response).
  • Do NOT attach a separate document with your typed comments. Instead, write/reply directly in the thread. You can always write elsewhere and then cut & paste here, if that’s easier for you.

Option 2: “Queens of The Blues.” Choose one of the filmed songs (videos) that are associated with these singers: Bessie Smith, Ida Cox, Ethel Waters, or Billie Holiday. Some of the musical performances are embedded within a cinematic frame, but all have dramatic or at least performative elements. What story or characterization emerges from the particular performance? Is there a message, and if so, what? Be sure to refer to at least two scenes or lyrical references that support your opinion.

Option 3: Lady Day At Emerson’s Bar & Grill

Lanie Robertson’s play is both a concert and a more traditional piece of theater adapting the “one woman show” approach. The band is present, obviously, but all the drama and brief action comes from Keia Johnson’s performance, sung and spoken. How effectively does she achieve both? Comment on her delivery of the songs and also how she brings to life the personality of Billie Holiday at this tragic final chapter of the star’s life. You must cite at least two songs and two dramatic moments as part of your discussion.

Option 4: “Buddy Guy Is Keeping the Blues Alive.”

This is a substantial article/interview by David Remnick about a great blues guitarist who provides a connection, through Muddy Waters, back to the formative years of the blues idiom. It takes us through Buddy’s daily life while filling in his past with many details and anecdotes (brief stories and recollections) from Guy and those who know him. Choose at least two of those stories/recollections and explain how they model (demonstrate) an experience of the blues (love, sex, misery, labor, loss). Be sure to point out specific details or statements that support your consideration of this living legend.

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