Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


American Studies


Jacquelyn Y McLendon


The use of the blues as a critical theory and as a literary model for the crafting of fiction opens new possibilities for both intellectual and artistic exploration. Reflecting the power of human agency amidst antagonism, the blues is the music of personal triumph over the brutality of circumstances despite any change in condition. The music's emphasis on improvisation reveals human agency because through instrumentation, singing, stylistic nuances, audience participation and/or venue individuals transform perceived or imagined woefulness into hopefulness. Studying the blues and its cultural legacy is significant in identifying the mechanisms by which individuals and ultimately entire communities sustain themselves. The literature that uses the blues as an aesthetic guide demonstrates variety of experience, human agency, and an individual crafting of identity in relation to group identity.;Albert Murray's Scooter series, Train Whistle Guitar (1974), The Spyglass Tree (1991) and The Seven League Boots (1995), lends insight into the ways in which the blues contributes to the writing of fiction. Initially set in the 1920s and 30s Jim Crow U.S. South, the series follows Scooter through maturity into the 1960s. Scooter is reared in the blues tradition; its history is his life. Music abounds, living conditions are harsh but his community exudes vitality that parallels the music. The blues is intrinsically linked with heroic activity because it demonstrates the ways in which personal agency transforms actual or perceived limitations.;In Murray's blues-based series, a modeling of jazz is the logical outcome of Scooter's characterization because jazz resonates with ingenuity and variety while being rooted in African American culture. This study analyzes Scooter's maturity as it parallels the development of the blues through the country blues (Train Whistle Guitar), classic blues to jazz during Scooter's college years (The Spyglass Tree), and the smoothness of style consistent with swing-style jazz during Scooter's mature adulthood (The Seven League Boots). Scooter's characterization will be considered in conjunction with Thomas Malory's, Arthur in Le Morte D'Arthur (1485); Ralph Ellison's protagonist in Invisible Man (1952); and Richard Wright's Bigger Thomas in Native Son (1940).



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