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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 18:45 GMT 
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^ Boston, when i was in colllege, i remember some people pouring over Bob's lyrics,
trying to figure out their meaning and literay allusions... but that was
an individual thing....maybe for English majors. :lol:
... I'd say 99% of Dylan's fans enjoyed him at a much more emotional level.

- I don't remember any magazine articles and very few books on the topic.
It certainly wasn't the cottage industry it has become today, thanks to the computer
and search engines.

> In the late 70's, i tried to plough through some thick book analyzing Bob's
lyriics and it just put me to sleep. If people are interested in that type of thing, and
think it gives them more appreciation of Dylan > more power to them...as long as they
don't try to impugn his integrity.
....i'm content just listening to Bob. 8)


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 18:58 GMT 

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I dunno, but Scottw is hands down my favorite dylanologist. He kicks Rick's ass with both hands tied behind his back.


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 20:11 GMT 
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Train-I-Ride wrote:
Thanks for posting the Bob Charlatan link, MMD. Interesting read. I did find this puzzling:

Without suggesting that it wasn't 'incorporated' from Huck Finn, what's unusual or uncommon about that/those line(s)? We're all familiar with the idea of whispering winds, and 'I was trying to find out what it was' is surely a commonplace phrase?

Indeed he is, as a quick search within the sacred walls of ER will reveal (although his old fairfieldweekly blog- which is linked to in both these threads- has clearly disappeared, and been replaced by the one to which you provide a link). The first thread is his reveal of the Bethany Bultman lift, and the second identifies scottw as being Scott Warmuth:


I appreciate the links TiR.

As for the Twain point, above: I agree with your line of questioning. I tried out the kind of thing Trev noted a few posts after yours with a number of phrases -- some of them my own invention and others phrases that Warmuth claimed were incorporations by Dylan. I was highly skeptical when I started. In the end, Trev's findings matched my own. Even seemingly unremarkable phrases like the Twain line or, for example, one from Warmuth that raised my hackles ("baggy-pantsed outfielders") proved me wrong. Surely the internet contained a number of instances of that phrase? Not so far as I could tell.
Again, no certainty is possible, but one could build a case grounded in the various kinds of evidence I suggested in my earlier (longer) post -- e.g. Dylan's multiple uses of Twain, the likelihood that Dylan knows Twain, etc.

Another poster pointed out the the 3 kinds of methods I suggested might be at work in Warmuth's work (and anyone else's) are not mutually exclusive. Yes. That's right. I did not intend to suggest they were. Nor did I mean to suggest that I had provided a comprehensive list. Further, I don't think I've given a definitive account of those three methods. Just provisional ones.


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 20:18 GMT 
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andrea75 wrote:
John B. Stetson wrote:
Very interesting thread. Thanks, MMD!

It never occured to me there was any puzzle to solve. Or message to decode. But that he was using this technique to create a conversation in his work with the ghosts of other artists. To consciously tap into the collective unconscious this way. To create work that's richer for it. But dang, that blog is wild. Like down the rabbit hole.

I wonder if Bob isn't transitioning out of this method of writing, beginning with TTL (with the help of a co-writer there). I suppose we may see soon.


I think there is no hidden message, but the pleasure of listening is different when you recognize all those references. I remember the first time I listened to High Water, which I take as one of Dylan's best songs ever, for the way it evokes this series of lines with the past through the incorporation of references, not last the link with Dylan's own Crash on the Levee, which has in turn echoes of Charlie Patton's work (and Dylan wrote that in the 1960s). There are a lot of references, but the ones that are great are the line taken from the Cockoo (in a song driven by the banjo, the instrument reinforces this musical memory-effect), and the line from "Dust my broom). I smiled because I recognized the game.
I favor the interpretation of inter temporal dialogue with other artists' work. In my work I must have described it as Dylan "at the head of a march of the dead", or something like that.

Also, I think TTL has enough of these references, not last the beginning of If You Ever Go To Houston (you better walk right), taken straight from Midnight Special.


Stetson: Like you and andrea75 (who has done deep work on this), I am inclined to see a textual practice more about meaning and dialogue than to see cryptograms and puzzles (in Warmuth's sense).

In fact, one of the weaknesses of Warmuth's work as I understand it so far is that he had not convinced me that he's found any such puzzle's or cryptograms that reveal a secret, other message. Mostly, the "other message" is the fact that Dylan has incorporated some other text, or the new meanings that emerge from the play between Dylan's text and the incorporated one. But that is not particularly different that Modernist quotation.

FInally, I agree with andrea75 that TTL has it's share of such incorporations -- starting with the first song "Beyond Here Lies Nothing" and it's incorporation of Ovid's "Sadness" according to a poster right here on ER.
See Waterboy's post on this page:
http://expectingrain.com/discussions/vi ... 8ded8c0fea


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 21:11 GMT 
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I am having a little trouble locating for myself the Ovid line in Tristia for Beyond Here Lies Nothing. Though there are many Tristia references for Modern Times (including a blog entry from Warmuth). In the meantime, here is an article by Richard Thomas from 2007 on Dylan's incorporation of Classical writers mostly in Modern TImes. Oral Tradition, the journal in which it appears, is also referenced by Warmuth who says he has published an article there -- I've yet to look for it.

http://journal.oraltradition.org/files/ ... Thomas.pdf

Perhaps one service this that this thread might provide is to be a place on the web to link to scholarship on this topic?

Andrea75 will have much more to say about this when she has some time.

I'm off to work myself.

Happy reading, and thanks to all (present and absent from the thread) for keeping the thread civil and moving along its intended path.


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 21:27 GMT 
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Queen Anne Lace wrote:
^ Boston, when i was in colllege, i remember some people pouring over Bob's lyrics,
trying to figure out their meaning and literay allusions... but that was
an individual thing....maybe for English majors. :lol:
... I'd say 99% of Dylan's fans enjoyed him at a much more emotional level.

- I don't remember any magazine articles and very few books on the topic.
It certainly wasn't the cottage industry it has become today, thanks to the computer
and search engines.

> In the late 70's, i tried to plough through some thick book analyzing Bob's
lyriics and it just put me to sleep. If people are interested in that type of thing, and
think it gives them more appreciation of Dylan > more power to them...as long as they
don't try to impugn his integrity.
....i'm content just listening to Bob. 8)


I agree with all this.


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 21:35 GMT 
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Actually, one last general point before going back to the books.

Part of what I hope to do is to test Warmuth's approach to Dylan -- namely his claim that there are cryptograms and puzzles rather than just the more literary reference and incorporation that aims at multiplying meaning, conveying more complex and profound meaning (in part through parallels) across texts and eras of history.

The Thomas article linked in my previous post uses Warmuth's work, but is not concerned with puzzles. He, as andrea75 and Stetson suggest, follows the literary model.

Even a cursory read of the Thomas article is a little overwhelming. One thing it suggests is that the issues of Empire and Civil War are prominent concerns in Dylan's last phase (perhaps all the way back). And that Dylan reads a lot. One effect is that I feel very guilty. Given his touring and recording schedule and his age, his breadth of reading shows I clearly am not working hard enough.

So...off to work!


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 22:46 GMT 
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There is a whole industry promoting theories about Dylan and what his songs mean and the references he has used. If some of us here had the time and interests we could probably come up with another one which on the surface would sound plausible and give us some initial publicity and a following.
The fact is as another poster said elsewhere , Dylan is widely read and naturally references and maybe even similar writing styles emerge from that.
To properly support his theory mr Warmuth would have to analyze every song Dylan has written .
I think it is best to let things be.
I hope this thread maintains a high level of debate and does not end up another slanging match.


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 23:04 GMT 
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This sort of work doesn't get done by letting things be. Somewhere, someone is studying every song Dylan has ever written. Probably a lot of people are doing that.

And generally people who do this do it for the love of discovery, and not to gain publicity or a place in the 'Dylanology' field. It's been my experience that most traditional literary scholars, especially the older ones, think the idea of devoting this kind of study to Dylan is bosh - they don't consider him important enough. I wish I had a dime for every time someone has told me that. But they're wrong. And the fact that Ricks and Wilentz and Brinkley are involved in this is a foreshadowing of what is to come in academia.

There's a reason so many of the most esteemed fiction writers and poets (to keep it just to literature) mention Dylan as a major influence on their work. Artists are the first people who realize that someone is important - long before critics and academia get into the picture. Dylan has already earned this level of study. He actually earned it decades ago. Now it's catching up with him and our times.


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 23:31 GMT 
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Think of all the stuff good and bad that has been written about Shakespeare since he died. If he had been born 400 years later imagine the level of discussion he would be under.Theories about Dylan have been both worthy and unworthy. A lot of them are no more than extensions of what we have long talked about anyhow .
What new stuff has emerged in recent times . A lot of what comes out is just a reworking of what is already there.


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 23:36 GMT 
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oldmanemu wrote:
There is a whole industry promoting theories about Dylan and what his songs mean and the references he has used. If some of us here had the time and interests we could probably come up with another one which on the surface would sound plausible and give us some initial publicity and a following.
The fact is as another poster said elsewhere , Dylan is widely read and naturally references and maybe even similar writing styles emerge from that.
To properly support his theory mr Warmuth would have to analyze every song Dylan has written .
I think it is best to let things be.
I hope this thread maintains a high level of debate and does not end up another slanging match.


To be clear, there are only really two broad theories on the table tight now.

The first is a relatively common one: whereby the author includes/incorporates passages or things from other places (literature, pop culture, etc) in order to multiply the meanings of her or his text. So, by incorporating Ovid or Virgil, writing about the Empire of their time, Dylan's text (about the collapse of love) ends up saying something in excess of what it seems to say if you don't know what Ovid said about Rome. This isn't really a controversial claim. It is a common thing among poets and writers. It has gone through a number of iterations over the history of our culture. The technical, academic styles of Modernism and Postmodernism being only the most recent iterations. The only debate here is what Dylan's sources are and what the effects of his incorporations are for understanding his texts. So, you have one broad theory and lots of different results (what some song means).
This is the kind of thing many people have been discussing here.

The second is Warmuth's hypothesis that in addition to any literary intertextuality, Dylan may be concealing a secret message that requires decryption to be seen. For instance, the "Charlatan" essay briefly describes a passage in Chronicles in which Dylan, discussing Mike Seeger, is actually using lines from a psychology, self-help book. Tracing down that reference reveals that Dylan sees Seeger as a kind of therapist (if I remember the article properly). But this is barely the kind cryptography that Warmuth suggests he is after. Presumably, Warmuth is looking for codes (numbers, letter sequences, page numbers) that reveal a totally separate message -- something akin to the plot of Brown's Da Vinci Code. If I am mischaracterizing Warmuth, he can, of course, correct me.

Unless you believe that we are discussing an other theory, lets first deal with these. If people are not quite ready to evaluate Warmuth's claims (how much time do any of us have in a given day to devote to this!), we could focus on an effort to assess the way the references already discovered by people like THomas, Fleet and Warmuth transform the possible meanings of Dylan's songs. That sounds like a great place to start.


Last edited by MMD on Tue June 19th, 2012, 23:50 GMT, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 23:47 GMT 
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MMD wrote:
Actually, one last general point before going back to the books.

Part of what I hope to do is to test Warmuth's approach to Dylan -- namely his claim that there are cryptograms and puzzles rather than just the more literary reference and incorporation that aims at multiplying meaning, conveying more complex and profound meaning (in part through parallels) across texts and eras of history.

The Thomas article linked in my previous post uses Warmuth's work, but is not concerned with puzzles. He, as andrea75 and Stetson suggest, follows the literary model.

Even a cursory read of the Thomas article is a little overwhelming. One thing it suggests is that the issues of Empire and Civil War are prominent concerns in Dylan's last phase (perhaps all the way back). And that Dylan reads a lot. One effect is that I feel very guilty. Given his touring and recording schedule and his age, his breadth of reading shows I clearly am not working hard enough.

So...off to work!


Lord, I love this thread, MMD! I am too overwhelmed to ever post on it, but I am following every sentence - it's something that I've always felt/thought/believed about Bob Dylan. Thank you for your research and for pointing us all in the right direction for further discoveries. You made me overcome my hesitation in reading Scott Warmuth's wonderful blog - What a time to be alive!
doomed


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PostPosted: Tue June 19th, 2012, 23:57 GMT 
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MMD wrote:
I am having a little trouble locating for myself the Ovid line in Tristia for Beyond Here Lies Nothing.

Do you mean that you can't find the line: 'Beyond here lies nothing but chillness, hostility, frozen waves of an ice-hard sea”?
If that's what you mean it's Book II, line 195.


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PostPosted: Wed June 20th, 2012, 00:00 GMT 
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Giada wrote:
MMD wrote:
I am having a little trouble locating for myself the Ovid line in Tristia for Beyond Here Lies Nothing.

Do you mean that you can't find the line?
If that's what you mean it's Book II, line 195.

Many thanks. Which translation are you using? Mine didn't have the line the way I wanted it. Ha. Of course, knowing you, it's not a translation.


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PostPosted: Wed June 20th, 2012, 00:03 GMT 
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haha, too nice.
Peter Green's translation.
which one are you using? Loeb?


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PostPosted: Wed June 20th, 2012, 00:23 GMT 
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oldmanemu wrote:
Think of all the stuff good and bad that has been written about Shakespeare since he died. If he had been born 400 years later imagine the level of discussion he would be under.Theories about Dylan have been both worthy and unworthy. A lot of them are no more than extensions of what we have long talked about anyhow .
What new stuff has emerged in recent times . A lot of what comes out is just a reworking of what is already there.



Shakespeare is under intense scrutiny, probably more now than at any previous time in history. The fact that some Shakespeare scholarship is unworthy is irrelevant because there are many great critical works on Shakespeare. There are numerous new and valuable approaches to Shakespeare criticism and in just the last 20 years there have been important offerings by the likes of Harold Bloom, Terry Eagleton and Stephen Greenblatt, to name just three.

There hasn't ever been anything discussed in a thread here (to my knowledge) that has attempted a real analysis of Dylan's writing regarding the use of incorporation on a serious critical level. There is much new work to do on Dylan. Examination of Dylan's work is currently in the earliest stages. Not true that everything has already been said. In truth, very very little serious examination has yet been done.

In all fairness, if people would first let the thread get seriously underway before proclaiming that there's no point to this as 1) it's already been done before it hasn't all been done before and certainly not on this site and 2) such an inquiry might prove to be unworthy who's to say it is until there's been some time and effort put into this project. Why argue at this point that this shouldn't even be attempted? It's being attempted here. Not much point in arguing against a project that is just getting underway with no preordained conclusions.


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PostPosted: Wed June 20th, 2012, 04:57 GMT 
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I am certainly not going to say there is no point to this as already in this thread I have learnt a lot . However like with Shakespeare it has often been said before . I can remember asking my English teacher when I was 14 why there was actually so much controversy over Shakespeare as if he really wrote the works he is credited with . He gave me an answer which while it may not have satisfied everybody was enough for me.
As with Dylan I can remember discussions in the late sixties and early seventies abiout these matters as one after another we would add references to authors, biblical sayings , borrowed tunes etc . It only enhanced the stature of the man for most of us . As it was incredible to think of a person only a few years older than us who had absorbed so much culture and was giving it back to us in a way that while still recognizeable from the source had been made into his own.
I wonder what Bob would think if he were to read this thread. I think he would be both amused by it and proud that so much had been recognized.
And I guess in saying that maybe I am coming around to agreeing with those who think that Dylan is playing a complex game game with us.


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PostPosted: Wed June 20th, 2012, 06:25 GMT 
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Oldmanemu,
I am with you. I am simply blown away by the very idea of what might be going on.

I understand that people have all been deciphering Dylan lyrics from the very beginning. And of course there has been discussion of references too. Just as you say.

But what seems to be happening now is that we are able to recognize a far, far more extensive practice of including other texts in his work, but also the memoir.

The memoir is a real break. In part because it comes across as not being at al lexperimental. It comes across as a traditional memoir -- as opposed to other non-song things Dylan has given us over the years (Tarantula, Renaldo and Clara, Eat the Document). I think that's one of the reasons that everyone was so excited by it. It was an easy access to the real Dylan. But instead, it turns out to be a kind of radical lie. It is as experimental as anything by William Burroughs or Dos Passos.

What is possible is that Dylan's deep convictions about the idea of personal identity (right? he's always thought he -- and we -- could be anyone we wanted) and the idea that the past inhabits us, makes us who we are...what's possible is that all of that came to fruition in a really clever and systematic way of writing.

Isn't it possible that almost all of Chronicles or Love and Theft is made up of other texts from writers like Twain, Ovid, Timrod, and pop-culture ephemera.

What if that is true?

And what if Dylan didn't do it just to be a smart ass -- throwing things together in a way that was funny or just worked but wasn't thought out. What if he wasn't just being lazy, reverting to cutting out great lines and then drawing them out of a hat and making them rhyme.

Now, It's entirely possible that this is all just slapdash. That he throws in lines because they sound good to him and there are no deeper resonances. Then, the only valuable thing about all of this would be to say that "Oh, look, Dylan is well read and makes pop songs out of ancient poets and Japanese novelists."

Yes, it is possible there is nothing to it. I am aware of that.

Then, in a sense, we would all just be "mentally pleasuring ourselves" (to put it euphemistically) and making up our own totally subjective interpretations of thrown together lines.

Often, that is what happens with the surrealist writing of any writer. It can be a bunch of fascinating but illogical images that create idiosyncratic meanings in our heads but that were not really meant to do anything but challenge our rational, waking-brain way of thinking. I think that is all valuable.

That is possible.

But what I think just might be happening with Dylan (especially since 2000) is something far more systematic and controlled and purposeful. At least, I hope so, because it will take quite a bit of time to work out even one song. I am willing to spend the time because if what I suspect (along with many others, of course) then we have a highly remarkable, even important artist and body of work on our hands.

Here's what I mean:

What if there was a pretty well-thought out set of connections and relationships between Dylan's themes -- let's say just as a first guess: American exceptionalism, American Empire, also the Civil War, love, loss, decline -- and the texts he chose to include in his own? Let's say that he chose Ovid and Virgil because they are Roman and write about the same themes (civil war, empire, decline) but set in Ancient Rome. And he chooses Twain and Timrod and others because they are writing in and about the American Civil War, he chooses 20th century texts because they talk about American empire and decline, etc. The same with Japanese texts. and so on.

And what if, each line or paragraph that Dylan took from one of these sources was meant to change how we understand (a) what Dylan seems to have just said in Chronicles or a song, and (b) how we think about the event itself--

Here is a totally made up example that is based on something I read in Thompson -- but again, it is totally made up:
Let's say the song or interview is about Dylan's home town, Hibbing, and Dylan says something about Hibbing today. It seems fairly odd and quirky -- you know, Dylanesque - but not particularly serious. To do so, he (without telling us) uses an Ovid line from a poem by Ovid about Rome being doomed and falling apart (again, I just made that up). Further the Ovid line and the discussion of Hibbing are followed by a seeming non-sequiter line about the flowers in field (in Hibbing) but really, it's a reference to a Civil War poet's work who is attacking the capitalist North and the destruction of the Southern way of life. Now, the passing comment about Hibbing becomes this intense, and wide-reaching comment on life in the US with parallels to Rome, the Civil War, etc.

What if this was going on constantly in his work in a systematic way?

My point is that it would be crazy, amazing, and shocking because while he is beloved as an American musician -- certainly by American and global musicians, but also by a very large fan base across the world -- and while he is seen as among the most literate of song-writers, whenever he is mentioned in the context of the Noble for lit., it is usually said that he is not a real, sufficiently sophisticated artist. He is just a poetic pop-song writer. Big fish, little pond.

If Dylan has constructed these intricate songs and texts, then he becomes a whole different kind of artist.

That's why it's worth pursuing. Just in case, Dylan has quietly become a this kind of artist -- or has been for a while. That's worth checking out, I think,


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PostPosted: Wed June 20th, 2012, 08:06 GMT 
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I agree with you . However I feel it has been going on all along since the start not 2000. It is possibly only now that we are starting to realize the extent of this.


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PostPosted: Wed June 20th, 2012, 08:29 GMT 
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the_revelator wrote:
Artists are the first people who realize that someone is important - long before critics and academia get into the picture.

Good point, rev.

MMD: this is fascinating stuff. Good luck, you have set yourself a stakhanovite task. Have you tried contacting scottw? I know you were attempting to elicit information from him as to his methodology, on the Plagiarism thread, but he seems to have disappeared from here, for the time being at least. One thing this work will achieve- and probably already has- is to put to the sword the idea that Dylan has simply been a thieving copycat. Even so, unearthing the puzzles is one thing, solving them is another. Once again, all power to you and your labours.


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PostPosted: Wed June 20th, 2012, 09:53 GMT 

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MMD wrote:
Oldmanemu,
I am with you. I am simply blown away by the very idea of what might be going on.

I understand that people have all been deciphering Dylan lyrics from the very beginning. And of course there has been discussion of references too. Just as you say.

But what seems to be happening now is that we are able to recognize a far, far more extensive practice of including other texts in his work, but also the memoir.

The memoir is a real break. In part because it comes across as not being at al lexperimental. It comes across as a traditional memoir -- as opposed to other non-song things Dylan has given us over the years (Tarantula, Renaldo and Clara, Eat the Document). I think that's one of the reasons that everyone was so excited by it. It was an easy access to the real Dylan. But instead, it turns out to be a kind of radical lie. It is as experimental as anything by William Burroughs or Dos Passos.

What is possible is that Dylan's deep convictions about the idea of personal identity (right? he's always thought he -- and we -- could be anyone we wanted) and the idea that the past inhabits us, makes us who we are...what's possible is that all of that came to fruition in a really clever and systematic way of writing.

Isn't it possible that almost all of Chronicles or Love and Theft is made up of other texts from writers like Twain, Ovid, Timrod, and pop-culture ephemera.

What if that is true?

And what if Dylan didn't do it just to be a smart ass -- throwing things together in a way that was funny or just worked but wasn't thought out. What if he wasn't just being lazy, reverting to cutting out great lines and then drawing them out of a hat and making them rhyme.

Now, It's entirely possible that this is all just slapdash. That he throws in lines because they sound good to him and there are no deeper resonances. Then, the only valuable thing about all of this would be to say that "Oh, look, Dylan is well read and makes pop songs out of ancient poets and Japanese novelists."

Yes, it is possible there is nothing to it. I am aware of that.

Then, in a sense, we would all just be "mentally pleasuring ourselves" (to put it euphemistically) and making up our own totally subjective interpretations of thrown together lines.

Often, that is what happens with the surrealist writing of any writer. It can be a bunch of fascinating but illogical images that create idiosyncratic meanings in our heads but that were not really meant to do anything but challenge our rational, waking-brain way of thinking. I think that is all valuable.

That is possible.

But what I think just might be happening with Dylan (especially since 2000) is something far more systematic and controlled and purposeful. At least, I hope so, because it will take quite a bit of time to work out even one song. I am willing to spend the time because if what I suspect (along with many others, of course) then we have a highly remarkable, even important artist and body of work on our hands.

Here's what I mean:

What if there was a pretty well-thought out set of connections and relationships between Dylan's themes -- let's say just as a first guess: American exceptionalism, American Empire, also the Civil War, love, loss, decline -- and the texts he chose to include in his own? Let's say that he chose Ovid and Virgil because they are Roman and write about the same themes (civil war, empire, decline) but set in Ancient Rome. And he chooses Twain and Timrod and others because they are writing in and about the American Civil War, he chooses 20th century texts because they talk about American empire and decline, etc. The same with Japanese texts. and so on.

And what if, each line or paragraph that Dylan took from one of these sources was meant to change how we understand (a) what Dylan seems to have just said in Chronicles or a song, and (b) how we think about the event itself--

Here is a totally made up example that is based on something I read in Thompson -- but again, it is totally made up:
Let's say the song or interview is about Dylan's home town, Hibbing, and Dylan says something about Hibbing today. It seems fairly odd and quirky -- you know, Dylanesque - but not particularly serious. To do so, he (without telling us) uses an Ovid line from a poem by Ovid about Rome being doomed and falling apart (again, I just made that up). Further the Ovid line and the discussion of Hibbing are followed by a seeming non-sequiter line about the flowers in field (in Hibbing) but really, it's a reference to a Civil War poet's work who is attacking the capitalist North and the destruction of the Southern way of life. Now, the passing comment about Hibbing becomes this intense, and wide-reaching comment on life in the US with parallels to Rome, the Civil War, etc.

What if this was going on constantly in his work in a systematic way?

My point is that it would be crazy, amazing, and shocking because while he is beloved as an American musician -- certainly by American and global musicians, but also by a very large fan base across the world -- and while he is seen as among the most literate of song-writers, whenever he is mentioned in the context of the Noble for lit., it is usually said that he is not a real, sufficiently sophisticated artist. He is just a poetic pop-song writer. Big fish, little pond.

If Dylan has constructed these intricate songs and texts, then he becomes a whole different kind of artist.

That's why it's worth pursuing. Just in case, Dylan has quietly become a this kind of artist -- or has been for a while. That's worth checking out, I think,


Superb summary of this debate MMD - by far the best I have seen. You are making historic contributions to this debate. Keep up the great work!


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PostPosted: Wed June 20th, 2012, 10:29 GMT 
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Wonderful post MMD!

I have a question that I guess no one can really answer but I have been thinking about this for a while. I can't imagine anyone writing a cohesive song, much less a memoir while sitting with books open and referencing texts. Is it possible then, that this multitude of passages are culled from memory?

Whatever may be going on, I feel like I am witnessing something very important.


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PostPosted: Wed June 20th, 2012, 10:45 GMT 

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MMD wrote:


Let's say the song or interview is about Dylan's home town, Hibbing, and Dylan says something about Hibbing today. It seems fairly odd and quirky -- you know, Dylanesque - but not particularly serious. To do so, he (without telling us) uses an Ovid line from a poem by Ovid about Rome being doomed and falling apart (again, I just made that up). Further the Ovid line and the discussion of Hibbing are followed by a seeming non-sequiter line about the flowers in field (in Hibbing) but really, it's a reference to a Civil War poet's work who is attacking the capitalist North and the destruction of the Southern way of life. Now, the passing comment about Hibbing becomes this intense, and wide-reaching comment on life in the US with parallels to Rome, the Civil War, etc.

What if this was going on constantly in his work in a systematic way?

My point is that it would be crazy, amazing, and shocking because while he is beloved as an American musician -- certainly by American and global musicians, but also by a very large fan base across the world -- and while he is seen as among the most literate of song-writers, whenever he is mentioned in the context of the Noble for lit., it is usually said that he is not a real, sufficiently sophisticated artist. He is just a poetic pop-song writer. Big fish, little pond.

If Dylan has constructed these intricate songs and texts, then he becomes a whole different kind of artist.

That's why it's worth pursuing. Just in case, Dylan has quietly become a this kind of artist -- or has been for a while. That's worth checking out, I think,



This is exactly where I fall in this debate. The dim bulb jealous types here simply use these "borrowings" as a cheap shot to try and tear Bob Dylan down. For me, and as you have so clearly shown here, it only further intensifies the "wow factor" of this unbelievably gifted individual.


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PostPosted: Wed June 20th, 2012, 11:01 GMT 
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What a pleasure it is to read the contributions to this thread and follow the fascinating possibilities as they develop.

raging_glory wrote:
I have a question that I guess no one can really answer but I have been thinking about this for a while. I can't imagine anyone writing a cohesive song, much less a memoir while sitting with books open and referencing texts. Is it possible then, that this multitude of passages are culled from memory?



I think the important question you have raised here raging_glory will need to be addressed as we go along. I was going to mention memory and the process of recall when I posted. Dylan by his own account, has been able to “soak up” songs after one hearing and totally immerse himself in what he his reading, he may have something like an eidetic memory. I believe that unlocking his hoard of remembered material, his own or other people’s, is an important part of his creative process. Obviously, I'm not being definitive here, and I certainly don't think it is the only string to his creative bow, so to speak, but as Chronicles is at least partly about memory and recall I don't think we can discount it entirely.


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PostPosted: Wed June 20th, 2012, 11:20 GMT 
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chrome horse wrote:
This is exactly where I fall in this debate.... For me, and as you have so clearly shown here, it only further intensifies the "wow factor" of this unbelievably gifted individual.


Thanks for the kind words chrome horse and raging_glory.

Raging and Darwin, am I right that there have long been rumors (I can't recall if any had good sources) that Dylan kept a box of passages from texts? I remember a story (again, no sense of source) that Dylan arrived at a meeting with someone with this box (or boxes) to start writing -- maybe it was Masked and Anonymous.

I don't have boxes, myself. I have notebooks. Lots of them. Full of copied passages and notes. But, if it were a box of merely good-sounding, but unorganized lines and passages, this would be hard to do much with besides to kind of slapdash plug in, cut up thing that many do accuse Dylan of. But if Dylan did what most writers do, and had interests in themes and ideas, and he kept those notes organized, then because the themes would be recurring (as they are in his work) quite a bit could be done by looking through the categories of notes.

As for Chronicles and memory -- just a little point: I was originally incredulous about the seeming absolute recall Dylan was implying he had about his conversations and impressions from as far back as 1961 (the account of reading in the friends apartment at which he slept, and the conversation with MacLeish are the two I remember noting first). But, of course, it has turned out that many of these seemingly photographically recalled scenes and conversations were constructed from outside sources -- in the case of MacLeish, from his own poem (and accidentally, it is claimed, Sandburgs introduction to the poems).

Finally, wouldn't co-writers (especially recent ones) be important for answering raging's question?

Good night all.


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