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From Ballad to Rock and Roll: Song and Poetry

In one of his early songs, “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” Bob Dylan took explicit inspiration from “Lord Randal,” a medieval English ballad collected by romantic-era scholars. This course will examine links between the English lyric tradition and popular song. We will explore medieval and folk ballads; the Cavalier poetry of Thomas Campion, Robert Herrick, and John Suckling; the romantic-era poetry of Robert Burns, William Wordsworth, Charlotte Smith, and William Blake; and ultimately, the rock lyrics of Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Joan Baez, and the Beatles, as well as more contemporary figures, including Carlos Santana, Tracy Chapman, and Alicia Keys. We will ask if there is a real literary genealogy of popular song, and if so, whether that might change our ideas about the relation between high and popular culture.

More details

You'll Walk Away with

  • An understanding of how music is connected to, and influenced by, poetry
  • Greater familiarity with literary and musical history

Ideal for

  • The curious and creative
  • Fans of music, poetry, and great literature
NO open sections available for this course at the moment. Please check back next semester.