Posts

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 www.michaelgray.net

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 www.timothyhampton.org.

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, www.bjorner.com. 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 jimsalvucci.com.

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.