English 390S-1.01 Single American Author: Bob Dylan

English 390S-1.01

Single American Author: Bob Dylan 

Bob Dylan is certainly a divisive figure. That said, one cannot deny his impact and influence on the ways we understand American culture. His 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature requires us all to reconsider the ways in which we have traditionally approached the worlds of music and literature. On top of this, in order to understand the impact his work will have on future generations, we must immediately get down into Dylan’s groove. I welcome Dylan devotees as well as those with little to no knowledge of his catalog.

We will analyze Dylan as both a contemporary, living figure and a more opaque, shadowy persona that moves backwards and forwards through time and space. Our work will chart Dylan’s course through time—song by song, album by album and decade by decade—while also filling in the space surrounding his music with historical materials that add life and meaning to his creations.

This class requires a willingness to accept improvisation as an intellectual skill and openness to new forms of response. On top of the music itself, which we will experience in-class and you will be expected to take in on your own time, we will consider primary materials by Dylan, films, interviews secondary criticism and primary historical documents. Practically speaking, however, students should expect to do a lot of listening: to the music itself, but also to the, sometimes counterintuitive, messages that non-musical materials have to offer.

Throughout the semester, we will endeavor to cultivate our habits as critical listeners and musical thinkers. To accomplish this task, regular participation and conversation in class will matter a great deal. Additionally, students will be expected to complete a handful of short (1-2

page) and two longer (6-8 page) essays that will make up a final portfolio due at the end of the semester. I will be open to various approaches to these writing assignments, accepting both traditional academic prose and more creative interpretations of the form.