“A truly powerful book written by one of the leading scholars of the history of poetry today. The writing is clear and intellectually most exciting: Dylan’s idiosyncratic genius is explained more compellingly than ever before. Hampton remains relevant, exciting and persuasively accurate as he shows the genesis of the songs as musical and literary forms and assesses their originality….the study sets a gold standard.”–Nigel Smith, Princeton University
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The 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature recognized Bob Dylan as a major modern artist, elevating his work beyond the world of popular music. In this book, Timothy Hampton focuses on the details and nuances of Dylan’s songs, showing how they work as artistic statements designed to create meaning and elicit emotion. With Bob Dylan’s Poetics, Hampton offers a unique examination of both the poetics and politics of Dylan’s compositions. He studies Dylan not as a pop hero, but as an artist, as a maker of songs.
Focusing on the interplay of music and lyric, Hampton traces Dylan’s innovative use of musical form, his complex manipulation of poetic diction, and his dialogues with other artists, from Woody Guthrie to Arthur Rimbaud. Moving from Dylan’s earliest experiments with the blues through his mastery of rock and country to his densely allusive more recent recordings, Hampton offers a detailed account of Dylan’s achievement. Locating Dylan in the long history of artistic modernism, he examines the relationships among form, genre, and the political and social themes that crisscross Dylan’s work. With this book, Hampton offers both a nuanced engagement with the work of a major artist and a meditation on the contribution of song at times of political and social change.
Timothy Hampton teaches literature at UC Berkeley, where he also directs the Townsend Center for the Humanities. He has written widely about literature and culture across several languages and is the author, most recently, of Fictions of Embassy: Literature and Diplomacy in Early Modern Europe.