We Sing America

By Bobbie Kirkhart

I think it’s likely true that the people of all nations love their patriotic songs even when they don’t agree with their message.

I love American patriotic music, although some of the lyrics are much too bellicose and virtually all of it is much too religious for this atheist to embrace. And the music itself may or may not be American. Indeed, the music of one of our most prominent songs, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” is the British national anthem “God Save the Queen.” This rendition is sung by Aretha Franklin at Barack Obama’s inauguration:

Perhaps more ironic is the fact that our national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner,” a poem written in praise of our efforts against the English in the War of 1812, is set to the tune of a British drinking song, “The Anacreontic Song.”

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Happy Pride Month!

By Henrike Kattoll

The month of June commemorates a turning point in many countries’ LGBTQ+ history. In the U.S., the Stonewall Riots mark this turning point.

The Stonewall Inn is a gay bar located in Greenwich Village. Before the riots, the police routinely raided the Mafia-run gay bars to harass or detain members of the LGBTQ+ community. On the morning of June 28, 1969, a surprise raid took place at the Stonewall Inn. The angry patrons and neighborhood residents, fed up with the constant police harassment and social discrimination, gathered outside the bar and became increasingly agitated about the police aggressively manhandling people. Soon afterward, the onlookers began to throw objects – pennies, bottles, and cobble stones – at the police. The full-blown riot continued for five more days, involving thousands of people clashing with law enforcement on Christopher Street and neighboring roads. The fabulous Marsha P. Johnson, a Black drag queen, is credited for throwing the first stone – although she’s never confirmed it.

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On Bloomsday, Dublin Comes to Many U.S. Cities or ‘Milly Bloom Also Has a Few Words to Say’

By Deborah A. Cecere

James Joyce statue, Earl Street North, Dublin https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:James_Joyce_statue,_Dublin_1998.jpg

What does the novel Ulysses (1922) by James Joyce (1882–1941) have to do with American Studies? The answer is simple: Bloomsday is an annual literary festival celebrated in many U.S. cities, around the globe, and particularly in Dublin, the setting of the novel. The event is named for one of the novel’s protagonists, Leopold Bloom. The novel takes place on June 16, 1904, the day that James Joyce met his later wife, Nora Barnacle. Celebration activities include dressing up in period costumes, readings, theater performances, film screenings, and art exhibits associated with the novel and Joyce’s writings and life. The liveliness of the festivals testifies to the fun of reading Ulysses, especially if it’s read aloud. The novel is often mistakenly described as inscrutable for the average reader, but it is perhaps more accurately described as surprisingly readable.

In honor of Bloomsday, I’ve imagined a tongue-in-cheek letter of condolence from Milly Bloom, now fifty-two, but at the time of the novel the fifteen-year-old daughter of Leopold Bloom and his wife, Molly, to Mrs. Joyce (born Nora Barnacle). The letter is dated 1941, nineteen years following the novel’s publication and thirty-seven years following that famous day in Dublin in 1904.

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Call Him by His Name: Rapper Lil Nas X Marks the Spot Where Viral Becomes Substantial

By Hannah Quinque

CC BY 2.0, DiFronzo, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Lil_Nas_X#/media/File:Lil_Nas_X_(cropped).jpg

In the digital information age, sensationalist headlines are all around us, all around the clock.

To stand out from the general noise even for a split second, a genuinely momentous sensation has to shake the collective foundation on- and offline. Enter Montero Lamar Hill, aka Lil Nas X. The 22-year-old Georgian rapper knows how to jump-start the pop cultural wave pool like few others as demonstrated by the virtually inescapable splashes he made with his new single, released this March.

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A Human or Non-Human Companion? The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

By Maria Moss

Every so often, a book comes around by an author you’ve never heard about – although you pride yourself on always following new, enticing, and award-winning publications from the U.S. Well, The Friend is a novel (the sixth!) by a woman whose name I’d never encountered before: Sigrid Nunez. Not George Saunders or Colson Whitehead, not Joan Didion or Louise Erdrich, but Sigrid Nunez. And when I saw a Harlequin Great Dane on the cover, I knew I needed to read it.  

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Happy Belated Birthday, Bob Dylan!

“Bob Dylan (Bring it All Back Home Sessions)” by ky_olsen is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Let’s keep it simple. Bob Dylan, the only singer and songwriter who has won the Nobel Prize for Literature, turned 80 on May 24th. We would be surprised if you couldn’t name at least one of his songs.

The American Studies Blog decided to honor him not with a list of his numerous achievements, awards, and fun facts as others have already done that for us. Instead, we want to share a bit of his music that continues to inspire new generations.


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