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The World of Bob Dylan

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Bob Dylan has helped transform music, literature, pop culture, and even politics. The World of Bob Dylan chronicles a lifetime of creative invention that has made a global impact. Leading rock and pop critics and music scholars address themes and topics central to Dylan's life and work: the Blues, his religious faith, Civil Rights, Gender, Race, and American and World lite Bob Dylan has helped transform music, literature, pop culture, and even politics. The World of Bob Dylan chronicles a lifetime of creative invention that has made a global impact. Leading rock and pop critics and music scholars address themes and topics central to Dylan's life and work: the Blues, his religious faith, Civil Rights, Gender, Race, and American and World literature. Incorporating a rich array of new archival material from never before accessed archives, The World of Bob Dylan offers a comprehensive, uniquely informed and wholly fresh account of the songwriter, artist, filmmaker, and Nobel Laureate whose unique voice has permanently reshaped our cultural landscape.


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Bob Dylan has helped transform music, literature, pop culture, and even politics. The World of Bob Dylan chronicles a lifetime of creative invention that has made a global impact. Leading rock and pop critics and music scholars address themes and topics central to Dylan's life and work: the Blues, his religious faith, Civil Rights, Gender, Race, and American and World lite Bob Dylan has helped transform music, literature, pop culture, and even politics. The World of Bob Dylan chronicles a lifetime of creative invention that has made a global impact. Leading rock and pop critics and music scholars address themes and topics central to Dylan's life and work: the Blues, his religious faith, Civil Rights, Gender, Race, and American and World literature. Incorporating a rich array of new archival material from never before accessed archives, The World of Bob Dylan offers a comprehensive, uniquely informed and wholly fresh account of the songwriter, artist, filmmaker, and Nobel Laureate whose unique voice has permanently reshaped our cultural landscape.

30 review for The World of Bob Dylan

  1. 5 out of 5

    M. Sarki

    https://rogueliterarysociety.com/f/th... ...A star is made by his or her fans, but an artist produces without regard for whether what he or she makes will be popular. In the face of this contradiction, Dylan embodied a newly redefined stardom that allowed the two to coexist in him… Interesting to read another book about Bob Dylan and this occasion having been written by many critics instead of only one who might sometimes have a biased or ill-informed opinion, regardless of intent. This collectio https://rogueliterarysociety.com/f/th... ...A star is made by his or her fans, but an artist produces without regard for whether what he or she makes will be popular. In the face of this contradiction, Dylan embodied a newly redefined stardom that allowed the two to coexist in him… Interesting to read another book about Bob Dylan and this occasion having been written by many critics instead of only one who might sometimes have a biased or ill-informed opinion, regardless of intent. This collection of essays arranged as a deconstruction of sorts, and another take on the historical import of Bob Dylan. The first time I heard a song, specifically his voice, I was twelve years old and had not yet been exposed to much. I also had the Beatles invading my consciousness as well as soon enough coming to our shores. Dylan was new, but sounded old. He remade the news, traditional folk songs, ballads, stories, and made them his own. There was no denying his genius and at the age of eighty years old on May 24, 2021 he remains the enigma he always has been and continues to put his mark on American song. It is exciting to hear about the new Bob Dylan archival museum being established in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It is also heartening to know that Woody Guthrie will be his neighbor as his museum has already been established there. ...How do we go about creating a space where everyone feels welcome, where both the Dylan tyro and the Dylan fanatic will come away surprised and inspired, and where the themes that undergird Dylan’s life and career—individuality, restless creativity, and perseverance—are presented in such a way as to be universal to all visitors?...

  2. 4 out of 5

    T Anderson

    This book describes itself as the “first published project to emerge from the Institute for Bob Dylan Studies at the University of Tulsa”. This institute is linked to the Bob Dylan archive which assembles over 100,000 items including audio and video recordings, essays, poems, photographs, correspondence and more. The archive has Dylan’s support and he described it as “a great honour.” The purpose of the archive is both public display and academic research. Sean Latham, editor of this title, is d This book describes itself as the “first published project to emerge from the Institute for Bob Dylan Studies at the University of Tulsa”. This institute is linked to the Bob Dylan archive which assembles over 100,000 items including audio and video recordings, essays, poems, photographs, correspondence and more. The archive has Dylan’s support and he described it as “a great honour.” The purpose of the archive is both public display and academic research. Sean Latham, editor of this title, is director of the institute as well as a professor of English at the adjacent University. Latham says the purpose of the book is to get different perspectives on “understanding the depth, complexity and legacy of Dylan’s music, while at the same time setting out an entirely new agenda for writing, research and invention.” That second goal sounds ambitious and I am not sure exactly what Latham means, except insofar as academic writing about pop music still seems something of a novelty. There is always that question: are we taking all this too seriously? Those of who have grown up with Dylan’s work are too close to it to know; we may in fact be at some kind of “peak Dylan” as the adolescents of the sixties and seventies are now the professors and writers – and yes, there are plenty of professors here, seventeen if I counted them right, along with a journalist or two, and Dylan fan and author Andrew Muir. The Dylan of Ballad of a Thin Man didn’t have much time for professors, but hey, the times they are a changin’. There are 27 essays here, with five sections: biography, the musical genres Dylan drew on, Dylan’s work and its place in culture, political contexts, and finally Dylan’s legacy. The title, by no coincidence, is the same as that of a 4-day symposium that took place at the end of May 2019, and some of the material, such as the chapter by Griel Marcus, is drawn directly from that event. We kick off with a rather selective chronology, then Andrew Muir takes us through the biographies: Scaduto, Shelton, Spitz, Heylin (“it so far outclasses its predecessors that it might as well be the first”), Sounes, and mention of some others. Enjoyed this. Then we get Latham on Dylan’s songwriting, a challenging topic, and a piece that to me does not quite capture its subject. Then comes a chapter on Dylan’s singles, or ten of them: I couldn’t make sense of this one, why include Tangled up in Blue, which is hardly single material even though it was a (rather unsuccessful) one, but not Lay Lady Lay or Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door which work well as singles? And that is it for Part 1. Part 2 on genres opens with an essay on folk music by Ronald D Cohen, then Griel Marcus on the Blues, based on his lecture. The Marcus piece is a bit odd in print, not least because it says “Bob Dylan’s Lovesick Bournemouth October 1 1997 plays.” There is always YouTube. The third section is the best. Here we get Raphael Falco on Dylan’s visual arts; interesting because Falco is a professor of English writing a book on Dylan and Imitation: Originality on trial, and he picks up on the fact that many of Dylan’s paintings are based not on what he saw on his travels, as he claims, but on photographs or pictures by other people. “Dylan’s paintings of photographs that are themselves paintings provoke new (and largely overlooked) questions about imitation as an aesthetic practice,” writes Falco. This is followed by a chapter specifically about borrowing, by Professor of English Kevin Dettmar, author of the Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan. Dettmar is perhaps needlessly verbose, but I did enjoy it when he wrote “Although the release of Love and Theft perhaps represents the apex of Dylan’s intertextual creative process, it also coincided with the burgeoning corpus of searchable online digital texts and the growing sophistication of the Google search engine, under whose scrutiny the songwriter’s entire catalog has been revealed to be full of patches and duct tape.” There are two chapters on Dylan and religion, one on Judaism by Elliot R Wolfson, and one Christianity by Andrew McCarron, author of a book on Dylan’s “religious identities.” I enjoyed them both; and liked that McCarron by no means focuses only on Dylan’s most overtly evangelistic phase but writes about “a man whose connection to God has changed as he has aged,” calling his chapter “An Exegesis of Modern Times”, a 2006 album. McCarron also, correctly I believe, observes how Dylan combines sexuality with spirituality and infuses women with holy powers; though it seems this did not always ensure good behaviour towards women which might have been an intriguing thread to follow. The sections on politics and on legacy did not work so well for me; but I was interested in the final chapter, by Mark A Davidson who is Archives Director of the American Song Archives in Tulsa including the Bob Dylan Archive. Tulsa, he notes, has become the “center of the Bob Dylan universe,” quoting an article in Rolling Stone, and in one sense it is hard to disagree. Oddly, this is also my biggest disappointment with The World of Bob Dylan, that there is relatively little here in terms of examination of the archive. There are occasional intriguing remarks like “in the case of a song like Jokerman, from his 1983 album Infidels, Dylan wrote and revised the song over the course of nineteen pages; “ I would love to know more about this, and will look forward to future books that explore some of these newly uncovered artistic treasures. The World of Bob Dylan, like most collections of essays, is good in parts, and an effective taster for further work from some of the authors included. Note: I received an advance copy of this title from the publisher

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bagus

    This volume will be intriguing for any Dylan fans out there, especially those who have read the best-selling memoir of the controversial musician Chronicles: Volume One. If you have not read Dylan’s memoir, I would recommend you to do so. Because you will be missing a lot of precious information on ‘Dylanology’ that is discussed in this volume. As one of the authors here suggest, there are not much artists out there whose names could be added with the suffix ‘-logy’ as though it denotes the comp This volume will be intriguing for any Dylan fans out there, especially those who have read the best-selling memoir of the controversial musician Chronicles: Volume One. If you have not read Dylan’s memoir, I would recommend you to do so. Because you will be missing a lot of precious information on ‘Dylanology’ that is discussed in this volume. As one of the authors here suggest, there are not much artists out there whose names could be added with the suffix ‘-logy’ as though it denotes the complexities of understanding a person. Many of the resources that the authors use here come from The Bob Dylan Archive which has been established in March 2016. Dylan’s memoir is full of plagiarism accusations with many uncredited quotations from journalists here and there, and the controversy did not stop with how journalists and scholars alike spotted passages chopped out of SparkNotes in writing his Nobel lecture. This volume discusses this question which is still plaguing us: “Who exactly is Bob Dylan?” Dylan flirted with many genres in pursuing his artistic expressions. It’s hardly thinkable now when he was booed by his audience during his concert at Newport Folk Festival in 1965 as he staged an electric sound with black jeans, high-heeled boots and sunglasses. At that time, the folk purists seem to misunderstand his statement and what constituted Bob Dylan as a whole. He did not come out of anywhere with electric guitar and play Like A Rolling Stone as though he betrayed the folk scenes to turn into rock and roll. Several songs in Dylan’s 1962 debut album include electric guitar as one of the instruments played. But more than anything else, this volume is successful in my opinion in explaining Dylan’s flirts with musicians from the blues, gospel, country, as well as rock scenes and how they are related to his musical expressions and how the Great American Songbook influences him. The question of authenticity is also discussed a lot in this volume, as Dylan seems to take many influences from previous works that his works could be counted as hardly original. One of the earliest allegations was the accusation by Newsweek magazine in November 1963 that Dylan stole Blowin' in the Wind from a high school student called Lorre Wyatt. The allegation turned out to be untrue. However, there are many sources which try to trace the origin of the song such as Alan Lomax who discusses in his The Folk Songs of North America that the song was originated in Canada and was sung by former slaves who fled after Britain abolished slavery in 1833, or Pete Seeger who identified the melody of the song as an adaptation of the old African American spiritual song No More Auction Block/We Shall Overcome. Whichever source is correct, it goes without saying that there are no artists without influences and the only thing that would differentiate the academic quality of quotations would be the credited references. This volume through various authors could manage to intrigue us in tracing Dylan’s many influences and in what way they could be traced to his works. Another controversial part of Dylan would be the decision of the Swedish Academy to award the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2016 to him. An author in this volume notes that the Nobel went to Dylan in the same year as the year the Man Booker Prize was awarded for the first time to an American with Paul Beatty’s The Sellout. One year previously, the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to an oral historian and documentarist Svetlana Alexievich who writes about the many sufferings that exist as the result of the disintegration of the Soviet Union. The turn of tides have come, and there are many ways to interpret the Swedish Academy’s decision as partial recognition of the broader way literature has become, for which Dylan has been awarded accordingly: "for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition." Many of the research in this volume is recent and they discuss the intertextuality of Dylan’s works which in turn influence a singer-songwriter such as him to finally become a Nobel laureate. The essays in this volume are academic, and clearly not intended for popular reading. You’ll have to be really interested with Bob Dylan and at least have read a bit about his life (Chronicles would be a book to go to). Most of the essays require slow reading and careful interpretation. Sometimes I would also play Dylan’s albums or songs in between the essays to be able to grasp the discussed ideas better. This is also clearly not a biography of Bob Dylan, as it skips many of his life stories and the timeline jumps frequently. But it’s a really insightful approach to understand the complexities of the many until we can finally answer briefly the question: “Who is Bob Dylan?” Sadly, “The answer is blowin’ in the wind.” === I received the electronic Advance Reader Copy from Cambridge University Press through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Fred

    I finished reading "The World of Bob Dylan" last night and found the essays generally disappointing. Perhaps the book's promotional materials set my expectations too high, but I was hoping to see more insights from the Tulsa archival material. Instead, much of the writing could have been produced at any point within the past decade and way too much of it is retreading familiar territory. Some random thoughts on the book... - A bit weirdly, several of the essayists separately refer to the 1963 New I finished reading "The World of Bob Dylan" last night and found the essays generally disappointing. Perhaps the book's promotional materials set my expectations too high, but I was hoping to see more insights from the Tulsa archival material. Instead, much of the writing could have been produced at any point within the past decade and way too much of it is retreading familiar territory. Some random thoughts on the book... - A bit weirdly, several of the essayists separately refer to the 1963 Newsweek article whose author took Dylan to task for his "... deliberately atrocious grammar, punctuated with obscenities" as well as revealing that Bob Dylan from parts unknown was actually Bobby Zimmerman from Hibbing, MN. and repeating the unfounded rumor circulating in the Village at the time that he had stolen/bought "Blowin' in the Wind" from a high school student. One of the essayists even states that the Newsweek article accused Dylan of plagiarism, while another maintains that the article is what triggered Dylan's lifelong antipathy to the press. The first claim is untrue. The second is arguable at best. - Maybe you have to adopt the attitude in order to be part of the Bob Dylan academic fan club, but I tired of the "ain't the boy cute?" subtext of excuses that ran through too many of the essays. It's like being trapped at a 13-year-old's bar mitzvah with his adoring relatives while he throws a temper tantrum and smashes his gifts to the floor. "Ain't that boy cute?" He copies historical photographs for "The Asia Series"? He makes up characters and incidents for his memoir? "Ain't that boy cute?" He uses Cliff and Spark Notes for his Nobel Prize speech? "Ain't that boy cute?" Maybe it's like fudge. You don't want too much at one time. But after awhile, I would have traded the whole unctuous "World of Bob Dylan" krewe for one Scott Warmuth essay. It's not all bad. Larry Starr has an interesting essay on Dylan's American Songbook trilogy, as does Leigh Edwards on the Dylan/Cash collaborations, and there are a few others that are readable. But most run the gamut of insight into Bob Dylan from A to B.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jay Gabler

    The Institute for Bob Dylan Studies sounds like somewhere a '60s parent would sarcastically encourage their boomer teen to apply for college, but these days Bob Dylan studies are no joking matter — least of all to the University of Tulsa, which joined with the George Kaiser Family Foundation to spend an estimated $15-20 million for the artist's personal archive. That archive is itself now institutionalized as the Bob Dylan Archive®, a name invariably printed with the registered trademark symbol i The Institute for Bob Dylan Studies sounds like somewhere a '60s parent would sarcastically encourage their boomer teen to apply for college, but these days Bob Dylan studies are no joking matter — least of all to the University of Tulsa, which joined with the George Kaiser Family Foundation to spend an estimated $15-20 million for the artist's personal archive. That archive is itself now institutionalized as the Bob Dylan Archive®, a name invariably printed with the registered trademark symbol in The World of Bob Dylan, the first book generated by the Institute for Bob Dylan Studies. (The book derives from a 2019 symposium by the same name.) If the question is why the world needs yet another book about an artist who's generated more ink than any other rocker outside the Beatles (they have four times as many Amazon listings, but then, there are four of them), the answer is obvious: because no previous author has had access to Bob's boxes. Before you get too excited, let me warn you that The World of Bob Dylan does little to scoop the inevitable forthcoming coffee table books reproducing lyrics, notes, and ephemera from the archives. Of the anthology's 27 chapters, the one that draws most substantively on materials from the Bob Dylan Archive is editor Sean Latham's essay on "Songwriting," which argues, essentially, that Dylan's songwriting secret lies precisely in having no songwriting secret. "He tries desperately not to repeat himself," writes Latham, "and thus appears to be regularly in search not just of new songs and sounds, but new techniques for distilling his imagination into music and performance." I reviewed The World of Bob Dylan for The Current.

  6. 4 out of 5

    J Earl

    The World of Bob Dylan, edited by Sean Latham, is an enlightening collection of essays looking at Dylan from many different perspectives. Taken separately, the essays are interesting, but together they offer something for every Dylan fan and quite a lot for those interested in him in relation to other topics. I won't rehash every essay, this isn't a book report, but I will say that the book touches on his influences and his influence, both musically and societally. In the process there is a lot o The World of Bob Dylan, edited by Sean Latham, is an enlightening collection of essays looking at Dylan from many different perspectives. Taken separately, the essays are interesting, but together they offer something for every Dylan fan and quite a lot for those interested in him in relation to other topics. I won't rehash every essay, this isn't a book report, but I will say that the book touches on his influences and his influence, both musically and societally. In the process there is a lot of biographical information but, obviously, a collection of essays is not a biography. If you truly want some insight beyond just what happened in his life and career, this will offer a great deal. If you think insight is just more trivia about a person's life, well, there is some of that here but it isn't what is highlighted nor is that what the book is about. I have enjoyed several books recently, well, past year or so, that look at a person's life and career through various essays. I am finding such books very interesting because, as long as you know the basic biography of the figure, the essays offer deep looks at focused aspects. The two that jump to mind are 42 Today about Jackie Robinson and Long Walk Home about Bruce Springsteen. If you're looking for something about a figure that goes a bit beyond simply a life story, these types of collections seem, to me, to offer a great deal. Admittedly, these are no substitute for a good biography, more like a wonderful supplement. In addition to fans of Dylan, I would recommend this to readers interested in the intersection of popular culture with social justice as well as the interplay between different musical genres and between music and literature. Reviewed from a copy made available by the publisher via NetGalley.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Vincent Coole

    With its Cambridge University Press publication and array of academic insight, this is Dylan positioned as a scholarly subject. Which is only right given the huge scope and detail of his work, which this books attempts to cover. And its coverage is commendable, from political, religious, and cultural contexts discussed, to more left field examinations such as his physical body, or his relationship to theatre. Some chapters veer towards the esoteric, such as the one of Judaism, and the visual art With its Cambridge University Press publication and array of academic insight, this is Dylan positioned as a scholarly subject. Which is only right given the huge scope and detail of his work, which this books attempts to cover. And its coverage is commendable, from political, religious, and cultural contexts discussed, to more left field examinations such as his physical body, or his relationship to theatre. Some chapters veer towards the esoteric, such as the one of Judaism, and the visual arts chapter was just a bore. The section on the different genres of music was excellent (except for the Greil Marcus lecture transcript, although I still learned a lot). The grouping was somewhat odd, such as why Christianity and Judaism were under the Culture section, but the counter-culture chapter was under Political? The best chapter was the one on John Wesley Harding and the counter culture which was well argued and, most importantly, used findings from the new Dylan archive. Which highlights the biggest disappointment with this book, as very little of the archive findings seem to be present in the book, despite its claim that the book emerged out of its findings. This is perhaps why the archive chapter is tagged on at the end rather than at the beginning. Nevertheless, for anyone wishing to study Dylan through an academic lens, this is the best published resource that we currently have.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    This book is a collection of essays written about various facets of the iconic enigma Bob Dylan. It looks at him through different periods of his life, both personal and professional, showcasing his ability to capture in both words and tunes the happenings of the day, pointing out his continuous self-reflection which challenges others to examine themselves and world situations well. Dylan has constantly reinvented himself as a musician over the sixty years of his career, "from folk icon to rock s This book is a collection of essays written about various facets of the iconic enigma Bob Dylan. It looks at him through different periods of his life, both personal and professional, showcasing his ability to capture in both words and tunes the happenings of the day, pointing out his continuous self-reflection which challenges others to examine themselves and world situations well. Dylan has constantly reinvented himself as a musician over the sixty years of his career, "from folk icon to rock star to contry singer to gospel performer to unlikely crooner." He has a "distinctive method of composition, looking to the past as a source of innovation." A Nobel winner for his body of work, this man sought fame yet also carried the core desire for total privacy. I think he's done a fairly good job of achieving both. Though his song lyrics are known world-wide, I doubt there are many people who feel they know him well. A must-read for any Dylan fan, this collection scratches the itch, but doesn't cure it. My thanks to NetGalley and Cambridge University Press for allowing me to read a review copy of this book scheduled for publication on 4/27/2021. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Dennis

    This is an impressive collection which looks at Dylan in twenty-seven chapters by different writers, each focusing on his career through a different focus, some broad and some narrow. His music is looked at through the genres of folk, blues, gospel, country, rock, roots, and the Great American Songbook. Other topics include religion, literature including the Beats, gender, counterculture, civil rights, biographies, and many more. Most of the authors are college professors writing in non-academic This is an impressive collection which looks at Dylan in twenty-seven chapters by different writers, each focusing on his career through a different focus, some broad and some narrow. His music is looked at through the genres of folk, blues, gospel, country, rock, roots, and the Great American Songbook. Other topics include religion, literature including the Beats, gender, counterculture, civil rights, biographies, and many more. Most of the authors are college professors writing in non-academic style; others are music critics and independent writers. Lots of information and thought-provoking ideas, so recommended to anyone interested in Dylan. Thanks to Cambridge University Press and NetGalley for an advance copy to review.

  10. 4 out of 5

    James

    This is an enjoyable CUP collection of essays on Dylan, very well organised with each chapter looking at Bob from a different perspective. It both benefits from the new archive & advertises it: the editor is the director of Uni of Tulsa’s Institute of Bob Dylan Studies. Dylan is now established as a proper subject for academic interrogation; I’m sure he’s delighted... There’s a handful of really good chapters, fewer really bad ones & the rest are fine, short reads.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Konet

    Fantastic biography of Bob Dylan. It mentions most of his life but also the music. I could not put this down and finished in a few days. A true poet for music and a lyricist master. A must read for any Bob Dylan fan. Highly recommended. Thanks to Netgalley, Sean Latham and Cambridge University Press for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Available: 4/27/21

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ginger Webb

    Written in accessible language despite most of the chapters coming from academics, but mostly this books is pretty dry, with too many contributions meandering towards vague conclusions.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Jack Gladney

  14. 4 out of 5

    Dan Sterdt

  15. 4 out of 5

    Garry Ivill

  16. 5 out of 5

    Timothy E.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Jones

  18. 5 out of 5

    Gilly

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan Chubb

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mike Mitchell

  21. 4 out of 5

    Hugh Ruppersburg

  22. 4 out of 5

    David

  23. 4 out of 5

    Diana Grace

  24. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Myers

  25. 5 out of 5

    val landi

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kate Blalack

  27. 5 out of 5

    Cathy Grogan

  28. 5 out of 5

    Tracy Casaday

  29. 5 out of 5

    Lauren Hakimi

  30. 5 out of 5

    Corey Herlevsen

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