Not currently offered

Credit points: 15

Subject outline

In this subject we will begin with an analysis of early spirituals and blues songs of African-Americans and then then consider popular and political lyric compositions of the 20th and 21st Centuries. The emphasis will be on folk and blues traditions, songs of protest and social justice, particularly in the following contexts: the American Civil Rights movement; the anti- nuclear and anti-war movements; feminist politics; Aboriginal land-rights, stolen generations and reconciliation politics. We will consider: what are the qualities and conditions that turn a conscience-song into an activist anthem?; how important are the literary qualities of a protest song to its success?; what relationships exist between the popularity of a song and its political effectiveness? There will be a practical emphasis on the craft of writing song lyrics. The composition of exemplary songs of social justice will be examined and students will be required to write their own song lyrics on specified themes.

FacultyFaculty of Humanities & Social Sciences

Credit points15

Subject Co-ordinatorSusan Gillett

Available to Study Abroad StudentsYes

Subject year levelYear Level 3 - UG

Exchange StudentsYes

Subject particulars

Subject rules

Prerequisites 45 cps of second-year English or co-ordinator's approval


Incompatible subjects ENG2WS, ENG3WS, ENG2PIV

Equivalent subjectsN/A

Special conditionsN/A

Learning resources


Resource TypeTitleResource RequirementAuthor and YearPublisher
ReadingsBlues legacies and black feminism: Gertrude 'Ma' Rainey, Bessie Smith and Billie HolidayRecommendedDavis, A.PANTHEON BOOKS 1998
ReadingsRhythm and resistance: explorations in the political uses of popular musicRecommendedPratt, R.PRAEGER 1990
ReadingsStrange fruit: the biography of a songRecommendedMargolick, DECCO PRESS 2001

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