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Bob Dylan’s Poetics: Book Discussion | City Lights Books

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Thursday, April 11, 2019 - 7:00 pm | Cost: FREE
City Lights Books | 261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, CA


Zone Books in conjunction with City Lights present an evening of discussion centering around the release of Timonthy Hampton’s new book: Bob Dylan’s Poetics: How the Songs Work from Zone Books.

Bob Dylan’s reception of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature has elevated him beyond the world of popular music, establishing him as a major modern artist. However, until now, no study of his career has focused on the details and nuances of the songs, showing how they work as artistic statements designed to create meaning and elicit emotion. Bob Dylan’s Poetics: How the Songs Work is the first comprehensive book on both the poetics and politics of Dylan’s compositions. It studies Dylan, not as a pop hero, but as an artist, as a maker of songs. Focusing on the interplay of music and lyric, it 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, 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 book studies the relationship between form, genre, and the political and social themes that crisscross Dylan’s work. Bob Dylan’s Poetics: How the Songs Work 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 is a writer, scholar, teacher, and translator based in Northern California. Raised in the Rockies, educated in New Mexico, Europe, Canada, and on the East Coast, he is primarily a scholar of the Romance Languages, and of the literature and culture of the Renaissance. His particular research interests include the relationship between literature and politics, the philosophy of history, and the transmission of culture. He has written widely on literature in its many forms (epic, lyric, dramatic, novelistic) across several languages and national traditions. Recently, he has been working on the history of emotion, on multilingualism, and on popular music. He is Professor of Comparative Literature and French at the University of California at Berkeley, where he holds the Aldo Scaglione and Marie M. Burns Distinguished Professorship and directs the Doreen B. Townsend Center for the Humanities.

what has been said about Timothy Hampton’s writing:

“This is an essential Dylan book and unlike any other. Hampton left me with a deeper appreciation of Dylan’s uniqueness as both songwriter and singer; his methods, his lyrical and poetic brilliance, his many voices.” — Dean Wareham, musician (Galaxie 500, Luna) and author of Black Postcards

“This is 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. Bob Dylan’s Poetics: How the Songs Work will become a standard account, destined to appear in class lists under ‘required reading’; it contains the searching close readings of songs that will both enable future study and require contestation for an alternative account: the study sets a gold standard.”–Nigel Smith, William and Annie S. Paton Foundation Professor of Ancient and Modern Literature, Princeton University

“From classrooms to the Supreme Court to the street corner, nobody doesn’t know Dylan songs. Yet there is surprising little writing that addresses exactly how the songs speak to us and weave themselves into the web of American language. Timothy Hampton’s Bob Dylan’s Poetics: How the Songs Work is a rigorous model for how this kind of critical analysis can be done. Hampton’s well-written book is the first one I would recommend to someone fascinated and mystified by Dylan’s half a century of ranging among the things that songs can articulate.”– Charles O. Hartman, Poet in Residence at Connecticut College

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Cost: FREE
Categories: Literature
Address: 261 Columbus Avenue, San Francisco, CA

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