Voices of the Down and Out

The Dust Bowl Migration and the Great Depression in the Songs of Woody Guthrie


1. Edition, 2007
268 Pages

ISBN: 978-3-8253-5367-4
Product: Book
Edition: Hardcover
Subject: Anglistik/Amerikanistik
Series: American Studies – A Monograph Series, Volume No.: 153
Available: 25.01.2008

Keywords: Great Plains (Süd), Song, Great Depression, U.S.A., Kalifornien, Kalifornien, U.S.A., Dust Bowl Migration, Songwriter, Folk Song, Guthrie, Woody


Woody Guthrie's songs about the Dust Bowl Migration and the Great Depression give expression to one of the bleakest periods in the history of the United States, bearing witness both to the economic and political turmoil and to the human erosion of the 1930s. Following a New Historicist approach, this study, incorporating a variety of previously unpublished materials, sets out to reconstruct the social and cultural potential of Guthrie's songs by exploring their manifold and intricate relationships with the cultural environment in which they were composed and performed. As a result, Guthrie’s songs are shown to be deeply ingrained in the decade's culture: they criticize the deplorable social and political situation at the time, make sense of the incomprehensible and hint at those responsible for the disaster, thus amplifying the unheard voices of the down and out.
By revealing that Guthrie’s oeuvre was not only culturally produced, but also culturally productive in that it took an active part in shaping, perpetuating or undermining elements and patterns of the decade's cultural knowledge, the study also sheds new light on the social and cultural significance of the sung word.

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Stephan Richter in: Lied und Populäre Kultur / Song and Popular Culture, Bd. 54 - 2009, 328ff