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Bob Dylan: American Culture's Defiant Prophet

The unexpected winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature, the poetic songwriter Bob Dylan speaks to the heart of the American vernacular, to our deep spiritual yearnings, and to the continuing search for racial and social justice. At once bardic and deeply allusive, calling on generations-old folk traditions but also resonant with dramatic change, Dylan’s work asks for serious exploration. In this course, we will do just that: examine Dylan’s lyrics, watch videos, and read some of the most insightful scholars of Dylan’s oeuvre. Topics to be covered include whether Dylan embodies this spirit of, as he describes in “The Times They Are A-Changin,’” the “writers and critics / who prophesize” and how his Nobel win changes our sense of literature as a category. We also will discuss his work in depth, including protest songs, such as “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “Masters of War”; surreal dreamscapes, such as “Desolation Row”; love songs like “Lay Lady Lay”; love-hate songs, such as “Shelter from the Storm”; the proto-rap of “Subterranean Homesick Blues”; existential meditations, such as “Jokerman” and “Not Dark Yet”; and—of course—key songs featuring tambourine men, rolling stones, idiot winds, and sad-eyed ladies of the lowland.

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You'll Walk Away with

  • An understanding of the expanding category of “literature”
  • Greater familiarity with the poetry and prose of Dylan’s greatest works

Ideal for

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