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Hittin' the Prayer BonesMateriality of Spirit in the Pentecostal South$
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Anderson Blanton

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9781469623979

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469623979.001.0001

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The Anointed Poetics of Breath

(p.115) Chapter 3 Preaching
Hittin' the Prayer Bones

Anderson Blanton

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter explores a sacred soundscape that is punctuated by a particular technique of respiration practiced in southern Appalachia and within the African American church throughout the American South. In this sermonic performance, the faculties of articulation are inspired by the breath of the Holy Ghost. This possession, in turn, unleashes a divine poetic fluency that is characterized by a guttural and percussive gasp for breath at the end of the chanted sermonic line. Through the explosive force of this nonrepresentational noise that erupts from the anointed bodily techniques of the preacher, the power-filled presence of the Holy Ghost announces itself within the charismatic milieu. With gestures to other similar forms of rhythmic breath among African American communities opening a space of comparative leverage, I propose that the mouth of the radio loudspeaker—a crucial technological force in the oral transmission of this performative style—announces the anointed poetics of breath in particularly compelling ways.

Keywords:   Preaching styles, breath and respiration, African American work song, percussion, laughter, rhythm, chanting, dance, religious performance

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