Borrowing the Blues: Appropriations, Marginalisations and the Ambiguous Voice in Women's Autobiography, Fiction and The Blues

Author: Amanda Williams

Williams, Amanda, 2015 Borrowing the Blues: Appropriations, Marginalisations and the Ambiguous Voice in Women's Autobiography, Fiction and The Blues, Flinders University, School of Humanities and Creative Arts

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Music, for many people, acts as a sound track to their lives. Like literary fiction, it can open up a space in which to experience and reflect on our own and others’ experience of the world. The Blues, in particular, narrates autobiographical stories of love and loss, of hardship, of failure, and also of action, appropriation and change. The Blues, like autobiography and fiction, tells stories, often in metaphoric terms, of what it is like to embrace life, in all its archetypal and universal similarities. Music informs my writing; in particular, the genre of blues music, with its history of appropriation and is reflected in my novella ‘Peninsula Blues’ presented here at the beginning of this thesis. The research that underpins the exegetical component of this thesis, following on from my novella, includes feminist theories of women’s autobiographical fiction and African-American theories of literature and music, as giving voice to marginalised subjects. This dissertation explores appropriation in women’s autobiographical fiction and the Blues to suggest that appropriation is a universal trope in all forms of art and that marginalised subjects often use appropriation not only as a response or to pay homage to what has gone before, but also as a political tool with regards to agency and autonomy.

What happens when my imagination re-interprets an oral story or family scenario? What do I use, what do I imagine? These are the questions I am exploring through the practice of writing. But who am I to appropriate these stories? From an historical view point, to name is to appropriate in some way, but when you are invisible, culturally and historically, surely to name is to bestow a forgotten identity.

All I can ask is that you listen to my Blues and maybe recognise your own.

Keywords: Women's autobiography, women's fiction, marginalisation, the Blues, appropriation, multi voiced narratives

Subject: English thesis

Thesis type: Professional Doctorate
Completed: 2015
School: School of Humanities and Creative Arts
Supervisor: Dr Steve Evans