Bob Dylan's Poetics: How the Songs Work
Timothy Hampton, Bob Dylan's Poetics: How the Songs Work, Zone Books, 2019, 304 p.
About the book
A close examination of Bob Dylan's songs that locates his transgressive style within a long history of modern (and modernist) art.
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.