Poetry and Violence

Poetry and Violence : the Ballad Tradition of Mexico's Costa Chica

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Does art that depicts violence generate more violence? Taking up a question that touches on contemporary developments such as gangsta rap and schoolyard shootings, John H. McDowell provides an in-depth study of a body of poetry that takes violence as its subject: the Mexican ballad form known as the corrido. McDowell concentrates on the corrido tradition in Costa Chica, where the ethnic mix includes a strong African-Mexican, or Afro-mestizo, component. Through interviews with corrido composers and performers, both male and female, and a generous sampling of ballad texts, McDowell reveals a living vernacular tradition that amounts to a chronicle of local and regional rivalries. Focusing on the tragic corrido with its stories of heroic mortal encounter, McDowell examines the intersection of poetry and violence from three perspectives. He explores the contention that poetry celebrates violence, perhaps thereby perpetuating it, by glorifying for receptive audiences the deeds of past heroes. He discerns a regulatory voice within the corrido that places violent behavior within the confines of a moral universe, distinguishing legitimate from illegitimate forms of violence. Finally, he contends that poetry can be a healing force that helps sustain the community in the wake of violent events. A detailed case study with broad social and cultural implications, Poetry and Violence is a compelling commentary on violence as human experience and as communicative action. This volume comes with a CD of corrido music taken from live performances in Costa Chica.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 264 pages
  • 159 x 237.2 x 23.9mm | 597.18g
  • University of Illinois Press
  • Baltimore, United States
  • English
  • 0252025881
  • 9780252025884

Review quote

"A brilliant study of a thriving ballad tradition extant in the Costa Chica region. It is written in a clear, coherent, and concise style. The book will appeal to those interested in ethnomusicology, ballad studies, and corrido studies... The photographs ... are excellent... McDowell has included a CD with eleven samples of the songs recorded in situ. -- Maria Herrera-Sobek, Western Folklore "The rich representations of the composer's voice interwoven with the theoretical overlay of scholarly abstractions, the critique of the (racist) allegations that the African heritage of Costa Chica afromestizos is the source of the patterns of violence, the counterdistinction of the roles of composer, performer, and audience member in relating to the corrido's veracity, and the charming CD of ethnographic recordings that bring the book's protagonists to life are all reasons to give McDowell's work 'two thumbs up." -- Daniel Sheehy, Ethnomusicology "[McDowell] has uncovered a vernacular tradition that relates to regional rivalries that have centered on land redistribution since the revolution, captial formation, and consolidation of federal authority. His account is brought to life by the inclusion of a CD of eleven representative corridos." -- The British Bulletin of Publications on Latin America, the Caribbean, Portugal and Spainshow more

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