Guns, Knives, and Buckets of Blood

Adah Cussow

in Seems Like Murder Here

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print December 2002 | ISBN: 9780226310978
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226311005 | DOI:
Guns, Knives, and Buckets of Blood

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This chapter argues that blues weapons were instruments of self-making rather than random mayhem. It also examines the predicament of blues culture as Zora Neale Hurston came to know it: that the culture's astonishing expressive vitality was inseparable from the bodily pain that blues people regularly inflicted, or threatened to inflict, on each other. Intimate violence was a way of saving face in a panracial southern culture of honor and vengeance where self-respect could be preserved through swift, brutal, hands-on reprisal. “I'll Be Your .44” worked a metaphorical terrain employed by both gangsta rap and its Jamaican equivalent. Weapons served as a phallic totem and may be utilized as a stylus, often as a way of making visible one's own emotional wounds. As Hurston had discovered in the Polk County jooks, women claimed by the blues could be every bit as jealous, possessive, and murderous as their male peers.

Keywords: blues weapons; Zora Neale Hurston; blues culture; intimate violence; I'll Be Your .44; Polk County jooks; reprisal; honor; vengeance

Chapter.  17214 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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