Bob Dylan's Poetics: How the Songs Work

October 30, 2020
Bob Dylan's Poetics: How the Songs Work

A career-spanning account of the artistry and politicsof Bob Dylan’s songwritingBob Dylan’s reception of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature haselevated him beyond the world of popular music, establishing him asa major modern artist. However, until now, no study of his careerhas focused on the details and nuances of the songs, showing howthey work as artistic statements designed to create meaning andelicit emotion. Bob Dylan’s Poetics: How the Songs Work isthe first comprehensive book on both the poetics and politics ofDylan’s compositions. It studies Dylan, not as a pop hero, but asan artist, as a maker of songs. Focusing on the interplay of musicand lyric, it traces Dylan’s innovative use of musical form, hiscomplex manipulation of poetic diction, and his dialogues withother artists, from Woody Guthrie to Arthur Rimbaud. Moving fromDylan’s earliest experiments with the blues, through his mastery ofrock and country, up to his densely allusive recent recordings,Timothy Hampton offers a detailed account of Dylan’s achievement.Locating Dylan in the long history of artistic modernism, the bookstudies the relationship between form, genre, and the political andsocial themes that crisscross Dylan’s work. Bob Dylan’sPoetics: How the Songs Work offers both a nuanced engagementwith the work of a major artist and a meditation on thecontribution of song at times of political and social change.