(Short Recap of the sub-section of the team’s topic I’m doing research on) This should have appeared on 22/2/19 but I uploaded in the 17-18 section by mistake. It was done before our group decided to alter the direction of our research, so new material will be uploaded soon.
Incited by the live version of “I Walk the Line” found on Johnny Cash’s At San Quentin album, I began thinking about the further possible significations of the song’s refrain: “Because you’re mine / I walk the line”. Indeed, ‘walking the line’, tracing the borderline between two states of perception, two diametrically opposed opinions, between different social roles can be seen as a defining metaphor for the sense of “America” as perceived by artists like Johnny Cash. However, the ‘line’ as a symbol of liminality does not only function divisively. Comparing Johnny Cash’s artistic and political liminality to Robert Frost’s “Mending a Wall”, one understands that the line one traces, the fence one is always so keen on rebuilding does not only divide: it eventually becomes an substantial end in and of itself, be it within a socio-political or a purely aesthetic setting. The lines is transformed into the ‘ideal’ scape in which the two sides interact and through which they find ground for escape: this is a defining trait in the works of writers like Whitman, Melville, Kerouac, and musicians like the blues singer Charley Patton ( — his mixed-race identity paradoxically placed him centre-stage in the developing Delta-Blues scene of the 1920s), Miles Davis, Bob Dylan — all walking side-by-side with Johnn Cash. Following Deleuze’s discussion on the superiority of American Literature, “to leave , to escape, is to trace a line”. On the whole, Deleuze’s essay “De la supériorité de la littérature anglaise-américaine” found in Dialogues, and his argument about American writers who find themselves bravely tracing and experimenting with borderlines is crucial as to our understanding “I Walk the Line” as an all-encompassing metaphor for Cash’s artistic and political personna and, simultaneously, to our piercing through all the performative/ political symbols which abound in the Folsom Prison and San Quentin recordings.
“It is possible that writing [and singing, song-writing] has an intrinsic relationship with lines of flight. To write is to trace lines of flight which are not imaginary, and which one is indeed forced to follow, because in reality writing involves us there, draws us in there.” Deleuze,”De la supériorité de la littérature anglaise-américaine”
Gilles Deleuze, Dialogues. 1. “Un Entretien, qu’est-ce que c’est, à quoi ça sert?” 2. “De la supériorité de la littérature anglaise-américaine” (On the superiority of Anglo-American literature)
Cf. The case of George Jackson and his murder at San Quentin in 1971. Bob Dylan’s “George Jackson”, would be an equally useful example of what an artist makes of an activist transcending boundaries and crossing lines.
[I Walk the line, Forever Words (Johnny Cash’s posthumous selection of poems and unrecorded songs, Robert Frost, “Mending a Wall”]
Cf. The Man in White — Cash’s fictional biography of St Paul — side by side with poem “Job” — binary equivalents to the construction of The Man in Black
[The Man in Black:”I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down,
Livin’ in the hopeless, hungry side of town,
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime,
But is there because he’s a victim of the times”]
The notion of “double-bind” in Dewey and Derrida is another useful phenomenological tool to take the analysis a step further into a more theoretical field