Mitch Blank is a music archaeologist and consultant archivist at the Bob Dylan Center, Tulsa Oklahoma. He is regarded as one of the pre-eminent collectors of Dylan memorabilia and artifacts, and is a longtime resident of Greenwich Village, New York City.


Ronald D. Cohen is Professor Emeritus of History at Indiana University, Northwest. He has received numerous awards including a Grammy nomination for The Best of Broadside liner notes in 2001. His books include Rainbow Quest: The Folk Music Revival and American Society, 1940–1970 (University of Massachusetts, 2002), Alan Lomax, Assistant in Charge: The Library of Congress Letters, 1935–1945 (2014) and Selling Folk Music: An Illustrated History (2017), both published by University Press of Mississippi.


Barry J. Faulk is a Professor of English at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. His recent work includes “A Matter of Electricity: William Burroughs and Rock Music” in the American Book Review (2020) and an essay on Burroughs, David Bowie, and Bob Dylan in Lit-Rock: Literary Capital in Popular Music, edited by Ryan Hibbett and forthcoming from Bloomsbury Press later this year.


Anne-Marie Mai is Professor of Literature and a chair of the Danish Institute for Advanced Study at The University of Southern Denmark. She nominated Bob Dylan for the Nobel Prize in Literature, which he won in 2016. She has published Bob Dylan the Poet (University Press of Southern Denmark, 2018), edited the anthology New Approaches to Bob Dylan (University Press of Southern Denmark, 2019), and contributed to The World of Bob Dylan (ed. Sean Latham, Cambridge University Press, 2021).


D. Quentin Miller is Professor and chair of English at Suffolk University in Boston where he teaches courses on contemporary American literature, including one on Dylan and the Beat generation. He is the author or editor of more than a dozen books, most recently Understanding John Edgar Wideman (UP of South Carolina, 2018), James Baldwin in Context (Cambridge UP, 2019), and The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature (Palgrave/MacMillan, 2020). Forthcoming books include The Routledge Introduction to the American Novel and a new edition of the Bedford Introduction to Literature.


Walter Raubicheck is a Professor of English at Pace University in New York, where he teaches American Literature, film, and college composition. He is the co-author of Scripting Hitchcock (2011) and co-editor of Hitchcock’s Rereleased Films (1991), both with Walter Srebnick. He also edited Hitchcock and the Cold War (2019). He has published essays on British crime fiction authors including Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy Sayers, and G. K. Chesterton, as well as essays on American authors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, T. S. Eliot, and Dashiell Hammett.


Bob Russell is a retired IT Manager. He is an admirer of traditional country and bluegrass music, and a longtime listener to the music of Bob Dylan.


David R. Shumway is Professor of English, and Literary and Cultural Studies, and the founding Director of the Humanities Center at Carnegie Mellon University. His most recent book is Rock Star: The Making of Musical Icons from Elvis to Springsteen (2014), and he has published numerous articles on popular music. Some of his other books include Michel Foucault (1989), Modern Love: Romance, Intimacy, and the Marriage Crisis (2003), and John Sayles (2012). He is currently editing The World of Leonard Cohen to be published by Cambridge University Press.


Rebecca Slaman is a freelance writer and editor. She has a BA from Fordham University in English and Classics. Her writing specializes in fan communities on social media, particularly Twitter. She has been cited as a Bob Dylan expert in speaking engagements at University of Tulsa and Florida International University.


Randy Turley is a retired Missouri teacher and attorney who now lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He earned a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Secondary Education at the University of Arizona and a Juris Doctorate Degree from the University of Missouri, Columbia. He has been listening to Bob Dylan since 1966.


Karl Gustel Wärnberg is a PhD student in Philosophy at Leiden University in the Netherlands. He holds an MA in Intellectual History from Uppsala University, Sweden

Dylan at 80: It Used to Go like That, and Now It Goes like This. Edited by Gary K. Browning and Constantine Sandis. Exeter, U.K.: Imprint Academic Ltd, 2021. x + 176 pp.

REVIEW BY Anne-Marie Mai, University of Southern Denmark


As a researcher in Bob Dylan’s art and poetry, I have found myself on my own never-ending tour. Public interest in learning more about Bob Dylan is growing among both young and old, and audiences eagerly note titles of new books and research articles whenever I give lectures on Bob Dylan at libraries, university extension courses or general education societies. I often end my lectures by noting that posterity will speak of us as an audience that was there when Dylan was alive. Just as we today talk about someone who saw and heard Amadeus Mozart play live and followed the making of his opus, our descendants will talk about us as people who were actually present and experienced Dylan’s giant opus coming into being. We might be envied because we witness how Dylan has generously shared his art, given numerous concerts, and engaged in film, radio, and visual arts. It can actually be quite demanding to follow Dylan’s eighty-year pace.


In 2020, when the world was first suffering from the coronavirus pandemic, Dylan released his album Rough and Rowdy Ways. In the summer of 2021 he appeared in a new online show, Shadow Kingdom, where he, along with a group of young musicians, played some of his early songs in masterful new interpretations. By the end of 2021, Dylan was again on tour and in 2022 announced a new book release, The Philosophy of Modern Song. He has not reduced his productivity now that he has gotten older, but thrillingly, he has increased it.


The new release, Dylan at 80, edited by Professor Gary Browning and Professor Constantine Sandis, is as thrilling as the artist himself. The publication consists of thirty-five short essays on a variety of intriguing and surprising topics: everything from Dylan’s Stratocaster, to Dylan’s ghosts, to the love of Dylan, become the subject of fine essayistic considerations. The publication dares to confront the reader with scores of diverse topics, each interesting object giving way to the next. The editors have mixed research with personal recollections and testimonies of people who have lived a long life with Dylan’s art. It is characteristic that the publication does not repeat old truths about Dylan but sees its topics from new perspectives.


It may seem hard to say anything new about well-known Dylan topics – like the famous July 25, 1965, electric performance at the Newport Folk Festival – but there is more to reveal. Professor Garry L. Hagberg’s fine analysis of Dylan’s playing on his new Stratocaster is put into relief by Jimi Hendrix’s use of the Stratocaster on “All Along the Watchtower,” where Hendrix also uses the acoustic guitar as the foundation that gets the Stratocaster to sing. No wonder Dylan himself declared: “It’s Jimi’s piece, I just wrote it.” Hagberg adds to the well-known drama of Dylan’s performance at Newport that it opened the history of the vigor of his songs: “When Dylan walked onstage with that Stratocaster, he (knowingly or otherwise) created a line of implication concerning the fecundity of his songs; what they could call for and what they could mean” (55).


Dylan at 80 also includes famous Dylan researcher Michael Gray’s analysis of the endings of Dylan’s songs. Gray notes how the young Dylan to some extent follows the rules of folk music for how a musician should end a song on an album, not by fading out the music, but by coming to an end and making it clear that the song is finished. According to Michael Gray, Dylan sticks to the rule of no fade-outs when he sings the traditional songs on his first album, Bob Dylan (1961), but when he brings in his own song, “Talkin’ New York,” he uses a fade-out. In his live performances he starts using a significant harp break before the last verse of the song as he did in the recorded version of “The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll” (1964) and he also begins to fade out more tracks on his albums (229). Or he challenges the idea of the absolute end of something, importing his characteristic contradictions and oxymorons into the endings of his songs as in “To Ramona” (1964), the ending of which includes the contradiction: “everything passes, everything changes” (233).


Among the more personal recollections of and reflections on Dylan, readers can delight in Stephen Sedley’s tale of a brief encounter with Dylan at a London club in 1962, in the days of Cuban Missile Crisis, when Dylan was recognized as a new American star and asked to play. Dylan borrowed Stephen Sedley’s guitar and fell into the ongoing session. The beauty of Sedley’s account is that he confesses his memory may have added something and subtracted something else; but the memory is his, as are the youthfully old-fashioned reviews he writes about Dylan’s London concerts in 1964 and 1965. A nice photo of the guitar that Dylan borrowed and quotations from Sedley’s old reviews are included (18-19, 20).


Among the personal accounts, we also notice the songwriter and musician Robyn Hitchcock, who tells of how, as a young man, he experienced Dylan’s songs and began to look at him as an older brother: “He must have fulfilled that role for millions by now” (148). Songwriter and singer Emma Swift talks about how she got hooked on Dylan during the coronavirus pandemic, when Dylan released “Murder Most Foul” with a special greeting to his fans and followers: “stay safe, stay observant and may God be with you” (151). Emma Swift finds that Dylan’s fans and followers come together in online communities, help one another, and keep each other’s spirits up during this difficult time, and that Dylan’s Rough and Rowdy Ways gives the group new material to enjoy, analyze, and share with each other. And while Hitchcock calls Dylan an older brother, Swift wants to expand the family relationship: “Bob Dylan is not merely the world’s finest songwriter – he is the charming, elusive, sage, handsome, poetic and life-affirming brother, father, uncle and grandfather we never had” (152).


All contributions in this anthology are worth reading, and they cover everything from Dylan’s first songs and lyrics to his very latest works. I’m particularly fond of Emma-Rose Sear’s excellent reading of Dylan’s poem, “Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie,” in which she shows how Dylan understands Guthrie as a kind ghost, neither living nor dead, who haunts his own work and thus never quite disappears from his universe. Guthrie is placed in a special presence, an “out of time” that Dylan returns to in other songs. The essay provides the reader new avenues to pursue the ghostly themes of Dylan’s universe, themes that seem to increase as Dylan continues to create, such as the ghostly atmosphere in Shadow Kingdom.


It’s also inspiring to follow Laura Tenschert’s article on the song, “I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You” from Rough and Rowdy Ways. Tenschert explains how Dylan’s song can be seen in relation to his Nobel lecture, as well as the song “Mother of Muses,” also from Rough and Rowdy Ways. The Nobel lecture ends with Homer’s plea to the Muse: “Oh Muse, sing in me,” while the song “Mother of Muses” asks the mother of muses, Mnemosyne, to bestow on the singer the Muse of epic poetry, Calliope: “why not give her to me?” Dylan thus surrounds himself with several muses that he hopes will come to him. “I’ve Made Up My Mind to Give Myself to You” can be seen as a love song about devotion, but it also has a deeper layer where the singer reflects on his art and realizes that it is not a matter of his winning the Muse and making her his own; rather, he must devote himself to her. Tenschert provides a fine analysis of Dylan’s use of Jacques Offenbach’s opera “The Tales of Hoffmann” as musical and textual inspiration in the song. Tenschert asks, is it really necessary for Dylan to assure himself, and the rest of us, that he has indulged in art? It is of course good that he does, because beautiful songs come out of his statements, but perhaps the relationship with art must constantly be reformulated and restored. Although Dylan has long since been able to celebrate his golden wedding anniversary with poetry, it has never been a safe marriage, but a dramatic love affair that must be constantly renewed.


There are several very readable essays in this collection about Dylan’s latest songs, his voice, and his stage performance. There is also a very careful linguistic corpus analysis of Dylan’s word choices in the 20th and 21st centuries. The linguist and translator Jean-Charles Khalifa is hesitant to draw big conclusions; however, he does note that the verb “change,” which was very prominent in Dylan’s songs from the 20th century, has almost disappeared in the 21st century (95).


Several of the writers are interested in comparing Dylan to other artists. Dylan himself has not shied away from comparing himself to Shakespeare, who is perhaps one of his most important inspirations. When Dylan first gave a concert in Denmark in 1966, he rushed to Kronborg to see Hamlet’s castle and climb onto the bastion where Hamlet’s father’s ghost first appeared.


Professor Katharine A. Craik, a Shakespeare specialist and poet, discusses Dylan’s speech at the Nobel Banquet, where he mentions Shakespeare, and she notes that Dylan’s use of Shakespeare’s dramatic works is often pointed out. But there’s also reason to look at parallels between Shakespeare’s sonnets and Dylan’s songs. With the sonnets Craik hears a “melody” (195) and, like Dylan’s songs, the sonnets are about existential conditions: youth, age, memory, and death. Craik compares Shakespeare’s sonnet No. 66 from 1609 to Dylan’s song, “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall.” It is her point of view that the two texts are similar: they represent “a wake-up call, through repeated acts of witnessing, to a world which is terribly depleted by untruthfulness, prejudice, carelessness, cruelty and neglect” (196). The essay is a good introduction to the study of poetry across the years and shapes itself as a newly enriched approach to literary history. Craik elaborates on Dylan’s point that he has never thought about whether what he is doing is literature by highlighting that what Dylan and Shakespeare share is the awareness of the risk and vulnerability inherent to artistic work.


In her essay, Fleur Jongepier, who works in ethics, compares Bob Dylan and Iris Murdoch’s notions and practices in relation to “unselfing,” a process in which one experiences through self-expression that there is something else in the world that is real apart from oneself. It is practicing “unselfing through selfing,” which is an important point of Murdoch’s philosophy, that can be found in Dylan as he expresses himself through characters of his songs like Jimmy Reed, Johnny in the Basement, or Franky Lee, and arrives at a spiritual unselfing comparable to a Buddhist experience (205). It’s an intriguing thought that sheds new light on Dylan’s steady moving between characters and roles as thematized in Todd Haynes’ film, I’m Not There (2007) (206).


Another artist Dylan is compared to is Pablo Picasso. The art historian Ray Foulk, who specializes in modern art, discusses the differences in Dylan’s and Picasso’s significance and breakthroughs. Picasso contributed to a renewal of the realm of art with one stroke – cubism – while Dylan’s revolutionary impact had to do with stages: first he renewed folk music and then he went electric. But both became seminal. Foulk also discusses the two artists’ relationship with God and their inclusion in other arts: film, acting, and photography. The interest in the two artists illuminates the transformative power of their work.


Natalie Ferris takes a closer look at Dylan’s visual art, especially his major works in iron. She emphasizes that iron as a material has always interested Dylan and characterizes some of his gates created out of industrial iron waste. She points out the gates are tributes to craftsmanship, but that they also mark a transition from a modern industrial culture to a more uncertain future. This is neither modernism or postmodernism – rather, the artwork marks transitions while also referring to a non-place, standing both inside and outside without being fully either. Ferris considers why Dylan has sold a very large iron portal to a casino in Washington, D.C., observing the portal marks the transition from a universe governed by one logic to a universe with a different logic. The portal protrudes from the smooth marble surface and the delicate colors at the casino’s entrance.


The editors for this project, Dylan at 80, have engaged innovative writers who demonstrate that Dylan’s oeuvre is a growing field of research. Dylan’s unflagging productivity constantly puts new material on the table, and it is seized upon by many kinds of writers and Dylanologists. There are many great new ideas in this anthology that readers will want to hear much more about, and the mix of memoirs with analytical articles works well. It is promising that so many knowledgeable and committed people seek out Dylan’s work, draw comparisons to other artwork and poetry, and show their enthusiasm. I would have liked to have heard more about Dylan as a performer and about his involvement in films. It would also be interesting to look at how the different arts he engages in work together. Is there an interaction between, say, painting and songwriting, or are these isolated endeavors? Dylan’s involvement in advertising, too, could merit closer analysis. All the same, Dylan at 80 is a rewarding anthology that I’ll come back to and work on, a formidable inspiration for anyone preoccupied with Dylan, and an obligatory work on the list of books I would recommend on my own personal never-ending lecture tour.

Alessandro Carrera is Moores Professor of Italian Studies and World Cultures and Literatures at the University of Houston, Texas. He has published extensively in the fields of Continental Philosophy, Italian and Comparative Literature, Art, Cinema, and Music (classical and popular). He is the author of La voce di Bob Dylan (Milan: Feltrinelli, 2001, 2011, 2021) and three other short books on Dylan. He has translated the songs and prose of Bob Dylan into Italian, all published by Feltrinelli: Chronicles Vol. 1 (2005), Tarantula (2007), Lyrics in various annotated editions, the most recent in three volumes: Lyrics 1961-1968, Lyrics 1969-1982, Lyrics 1983-2020 (published in 2021). 

Sarah Gates is the Craig Professor of English at St. Lawrence University, where she teaches British literature of all periods, poetry, and songwriting.  She has published on Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Tennyson, Joni Mitchell, and most recently, Louise Erdrich.  She is also a musician with the local indie-rock band Bee Children.

Michael Gray is an independent scholar who pioneered the serious study of Dylan’s work with Song & Dance Man: The Art of Bob Dylan, 1972. His books include the massively updated Song & Dance Man III(1999), The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia(2006), Hand Me My Travelin’ Shoes: In Search Of Blind Willie McTell (2007), and Outtakes On Bob Dylan: Selected Writings 1967-2021. He has delivered guest lectures in Europe and North America, including at Stanford, California and Bath Literature Festival. His website is

Timothy Hampton is professor of Comparative Literature and French at the University of California, Berkeley, where he also directs the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities. He has written widely on literature and culture, across several languages and centuries.  He is the author of Bob Dylan: How the Songs Work (Zone Books, 2019). A recent article is “Bob Dylan in the Country: Rock Domesticity and Pastoral Song” (Representations, 152, fall 2020). A new study, Cheerfulness: A Literary and Cultural History will be published in 2022 by Zone Books.  He writes about literature, music, and education at

John Hughes‘s writings on Dylan include Invisible Now: Bob Dylan in the 1960s (Taylor & Francis, 2013). He is Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature at the University of Gloucestershire and has published widely on nineteenth and twentieth-century literature and philosophy, particularly Thomas Hardy and William Wordsworth. 

Jeffrey S. Lamp is Professor of New Testament and Instructor of Environmental Science at Oral Roberts University, Tulsa, Oklahoma. His primary research and publishing interests are in the field of ecotheology. He has authored five books and co-edited one. He was a translator and editor for the Modern English Version of the Bible (Passio/Charisma House). He is a frequent presenter at academic conferences, has published articles in several journals, dictionaries, and volumes of collected essays, and is the editor of Spiritus: ORU Journal of Theology.

Michele Ulisse Lipparini, born in Milano where he’s based, is an independent scholar who started listening to Bob Dylan in 1988 at age 16. Digging into Dylan’s songs pushed him into learning English, which led him to work as a translator and eventually to collaborate for a few years with Delfina Vezzoli, Italian translator of Don DeLillo’s masterpiece Underworld. In addition to completing Vezzoli’s translation of John Edgar Wideman’s Brothers and Keepers, Lipparini has translated graphic novels and published articles about Bob Dylan in magazines such as Isis, Buscadero and on various websites, and contributed consistently to Olof Bjorner’s website, He also held a conference about the Nobel Laureate as part of the Sant’Arcangelo di Romagna Poetry Festival in 2015. He has attended 170 Bob Dylan concerts all over the world.

Anne Marie Mai is professor of literature and a chair of DIAS at The University of Southern Denmark. She has published more than 200 articles, book chapters and monographs. She nominated Bob Dylan for the Nobel Prize, which he won in 2016. She has published Bob Dylan. The Poet (University Press of Southern Denmark, 2018, German translation will be published 2021), she edited the anthology New Approaches to Bob Dylan (University Press of Southern Denmark, 2019) and contributed to The World of Bob Dylan (ed. Sean Latham, Cambridge University Press, 2021).

Andrew Muir current commitments include teaching language and literature at The Leys School, Cambridge, UK and delivering Shakespeare and Dylan talks at a variety of conferences. Dylan publications: Razor’s Edge (2001), One More Night (21013), Troubadour (2003). An examination of historical and contemporary outdoor Shakespeare performances: Shakespeare in Cambridge followed, in 2015. This led to a comparative study, Bob Dylan and William Shakespeare: The True Performing of It, (2nd edition 2021).

Jacqueline Osherow is the author of eight collections of poetry, most recently My Lookalike at the Krishna Temple (LSU Press, 2019). She’s received grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the NEA, the Ingram Merrill Foundation and the Witter Bynner Prize. Her poems have appeared in many magazines, journals and anthologies, including The New Yorker, The Paris Review, American Poetry Review, the Wadsworth Anthology of Poetry, Best American Poetry, The Norton Anthology of Jewish American Literature, The Penguin Book of the Sonnet, Twentieth Century American Poetry, and The Making of a Poem. She’s Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Utah. 

Allesandro Portelli has taught American Literature in the universities of Rome “La Sapienza” and Siena. He has served as advisor on democratic historical memory to the Mayor of Rome and founded the Circolo Gianni Bosio for the critical study and historical presence of people’s culture, folk music, and oral history. He is the author of many books on literature, popular culture, working-class history, including The Order Has Been Carried OutThey Say in Harlan Dean County; The Death of Luigi Trastulli. Form and Meaning in Oral History.

Christopher Rollason, M.A. in English, Trinity College, Cambridge. Doctorate in English, University of York. Author of numerous published articles, lectures and conference papers on Bob Dylan. Attended international Dylan conferences held in Caen (France), 2005 and Tulsa (Oklahoma), 2019.

Jim Salvucci, since receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto, has served as an English professor, dean, and vice president at several institutions of higher education. For many years he taught an advanced course in Bob Dylan studies, and he continues to blog, present, and publish on Bob Dylan. Currently he lives in Newburgh, NY, and serves as a management consultant to nonprofits and other mission-driven organizations. He can be found online at

John H. Serembus, PhD., is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Widener University. In his forty-plus years in the classroom, he has taught a wide variety of courses, but mainly those in Logic (both formal and informal), Critical Thinking, Ethics, and Values.

David Thurmaier is Associate Professor of Music Theory and Chair of the Music Studies Division at the University of Missouri – Kansas City Conservatory. His research focuses on the music of Charles Ives, as well as the Beatles. He has published book chapters on George Harrison’s connections to popular music, John Lennon’s political music, and has a forthcoming chapter on Paul McCartney’s use of pastiche. In 2019, he presented a paper examining the musical relationship between Harrison and Bob Dylan at the “World of Bob Dylan” conference in Tulsa. He also co-hosts two podcasts: “I’ve Got a Beatles Podcast,” and “Hearing the Pulitzers.”

FORUM CONTRIBUTION BY Anne-Marie Mai, University of Southern Denmark

Bob Dylan turns 80, still active and still the subject of controversy. The old songwriter, musician, and Nobel Prize winner is one of the world’s biggest celebrities; a riddle who prefers to surprise rather than to live up to the expectations of the audience or the media. His songs have long since become classics in the songbooks of the world. But have we grasped the challenges he has presented not only to his audience but also to the Humanities and to literary studies? Research in Bob Dylan’s oeuvre is a rapidly growing field, his archives are safe at Tulsa University in Oklahoma, and it is time to take a closer look at how Dylan’s work can renew the study of literature.

Bob Dylan does not seem happy when his songs are described as literature. He emphasized this when he received the Nobel Prize in 2016. In his “Nobel Banquet Speech,” he explained that he had never asked himself whether his songs are literature, and in his Nobel lecture, he ended up pointing out that songs are different from literature. They are meant to be sung, not read. Should literary scholars not simply keep their fingers off Dylan’s work and leave his songs to musicology? The question is, of course, rhetorical: the literary scholars and poets of the Swedish Academy should be proud to receive Bob Dylan’s thanks for answering a question he has never asked himself. After all, being able to ask a question that a genius of arts has not even thought of must be considered a sign of an intellectual capacity. 

In his Nobel lecture, Dylan tells the audience how, in addition to country and western, rock ‘n’ roll, and rhythm and blues, literature has been his spiritual baggage. He rounds up his lecture by a reading of three works that have been particularly important to him: Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, Eric Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, and Homer’s The Odyssey. Dylan’s reading focuses on the voices of the texts, their many sources of inspiration, their plots, themes, and symbols. But it is also characteristic that he shifts his interest in what the texts mean to what they do. 

Literary studies have tended to treat Dylan’s lyrics as close-reading goodies. We have practiced interpretation and deconstruction on the lyrics, tracing their direct and indirect quotes and loans in long, learned lines, but perhaps we should learn from Dylan and look at what the songs do and what their creative potential for the audience may be. Perhaps we have overlooked that interpreting is fundamentally about creating a connection to the text, which is exactly what the audience has done for ages and what they still do when they review Dylan’s songs in social media and at digital bookstores, describing how they have been emotionally engaged in Dylan’s songs. One Amazon reviewer expresses how he has been moved by Dylan’s 2020 album, Rough and Rowdy Ways: “Dylan erupts with words that evoke feelings of confusion, chaos, anxiety, and our/his never-ending desire for love and meaning and purpose.” Bob Dylan’s songs encourage literary scholars to not only study what a work of art means, but also, as Professor Rita Felski has put it, to study what it does, what feelings it awakes, what relations to other people and other artworks it creates, and how it changes the literary culture. We should not leave out the intertextual studies of the text, the close readings, and the literary critique, but we also need to study what the songs create and how they are used.

Dylan’s lyrics are often a network of modernist and romantic imagery, of everyday speech, ballads, folk songs, classical poetry, slogans, and commercial language, and as such, his lyrics have contributed to changing literary culture, making a rich and experimental poetry known to a wide audience. Modernist poetry is with Dylan no longer reserved for academia, and its medium is not only the book, but also the album, the rock concert, the festival, and the movie. The contrast between high and low culture, which characterized the first half of the twentieth century, has been weakened. Something has changed, and Dylan’s contribution to the changes of literary culture seems important and interesting to study. 

Dylan’s memoir, Chronicles, Volume One, can also be seen as a call for new literary studies. The memoir questions a traditional understanding of artists’ autobiographies as stories of the man or woman behind the artwork. Dylan’s book is something different. It is more about the man with the songs, and it represents a biographical turn to the musical and artistic environments and events that gave Dylan’s art its direction. The main character of the story is Dylan’s own artistic process more than it is a story of his life, and it opens up new ideas in contemporary biographical studies, paying special attention to relationships between people, things, and circumstances and how they hook up, as Dylan has put it. 

It seems that digitalization has made the audience more eager to get backstage and meet the artist. The audience is fascinated with the intersection of the performative personality, interpretations of the personal life in media documentations, and the living person, as we have seen with Whitney Houston. A kind of biographical public media mist settles, and the artist might end up as a virtual zombie, a living dead, whose hologram haunts the world.  

As for Bob Dylan, there has been no shortage of stories about his personal life. New details emerge, old friends, colleagues, and supporters report. Dylan himself is mostly silent. And he has said that people ask him, “Are you who I think you are? Are you really him? No, you are not him?”, and these questions go on and on (Bradley 2003). But in Scorsese’s movie Rolling Thunder Revue (2019), Dylan takes part in the creation of a funny autofiction, where fictional characters and episodes become part of the story of the show. In Chronicles, destiny is often pictured as a feeling and a personal understanding but also as an outer unknown power. Perhaps this is a contradiction — but as Dylan sings in 2020: “I’m a man of contradictions and a man of many moods.” Which can, of course, be considered as another invitation to further studies.