"As Real as Rain": The Blues and American Culture


Spring 2015 quarter

Taught by

American studies

“The blues is no joke. The blues is real as rain.” – David Ritz, music writer

This program will provide an introduction to, and overview of, that magnificent and enduring American art form we know as “the blues”: its musical elements, African and African American roots and precursors, historical and stylistic evolution, major practitioners, and its influence on other musical genres (most notably, jazz, rhythm & blues, rock & roll, rock and rap/hip hop). Equally importantly, we will examine its impact on American culture and, among other ventures, apply a blues theory of aesthetics to U.S. literature in general, and African American literature in particular.

Our primary written text will be the anthology, Write Me a Few of Your Lines: A Blues Reader (Steven C. Tracy, editor). Additional written texts will include biographical and autobiographical selections, fiction, poetry (including music lyrics), and scholarly articles on the blues. Weekly film screenings will include a range of fiction works and documentaries such as Martin Scorsese’s critically acclaimed series, The Blues: A Musical Journey . Finally, there will be extensive (and enjoyable!) listening assignments that will provide the soundtrack for our journey from Africa to the southern United States, to the urban North, throughout our nation, and across the globe.

We will devote two weekly seminars to close readings of written texts, film, and music. In addition to short weekly writing assignments, students will produce a final project that will help them refine both their expository and creative nonfiction writing skills. There will be a weekly open mic opportunity for musicians—whether aspiring or experienced—to play and share the blues, as well as a three-day field trip to a major Pacific Northwest blues festival.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

humanities and education.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day


Buy books for this program through Greener Bookstore.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning: Access to web-based tools required, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Required Fees

$150 for a three-day field trip.


Date Revision
December 16th, 2013 Chico Herbison will be teaching Gateways.

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Spring)

Class standing: Junior–Senior

Maximum enrollment: 25


Course Reference Number not yet available.

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