Bob Dylan : Stanford University To Hold Dylan Seminar

Bob Dylan

Stanford University To Hold Dylan Seminar

Professors and graduate students to study life, times and music of folk-rock poet.
by Addicted To Noise Senior Writer Gil Kaufman

Among topics of discussion will be comparisons of his work to the classics and analysis of his influence on and by the beatniks.

For 18-year-old Stanford University student Krista Glaser, the greatest lessons on Bob Dylan come directly from his songs.

But while the freshman said she'd rather hear the music of the folk-rock legend any day than "listen to professors and graduate students talking about his work," Glaser said the idea of an academic seminar on Dylan's work sounds intriguing. To satisfy that curiosity, she said she would consider attending the Dylan conference scheduled for Jan. 17 in the Kresge Auditorium on the campus of the Northern California university.

"Personally, I think it's a good idea," said Glaser, a contributing news reporter writing an article on the Dylan seminar for the campus newspaper, the Stanford Daily. "He's written a lot of great songs and his ability to write and sing his songs is really unique."

In less than two weeks, Dylan will go under the academic microscope when his musical career becomes the subject of the one-day conference organized by Tino Markworth, a Stanford doctoral student in humanities.

"I'm not necessarily a fan," said Markworth, 36, "but I'm fascinated by Dylan's work and I would like to be part of a movement to have his works declared part of the canon."

Markworth cited the gravelly voiced legend's nomination for a Nobel Prize and his honorary degree from Princeton as proof that this folk poet's work has finally been deemed worthy of serious academic study. "We want to deal with somebody who is popular but who also creates high-quality art, and to try and figure out how to deal with that academically," Markworth said.

The one-off 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. conference, open to the public and to students, will feature a number of different scholars speaking about a range of topics related to Dylan's 30-plus-year career. As part of the conference, Christopher Ricks, an English professor at Boston University who normally lectures on such authors as T.S. Eliot, will compare Dylan's work to classic texts; Stephen Scobie of the University of Victoria at Canada will discuss his books on the topic of Dylan's influence on and by the beatniks, including late poet Allen Ginsberg; and Paul Williams will speak on his book that looks at Dylan's performance presence, "Bob Dylan Performing Artist."

Also included in the program will be members of the Stanford faculty, who will discuss the religious aspects of Dylan's work, and music department faculty, who will discuss his recording style and the musical roots of his work. Stanford drama professor Rush Rehm will tackle the political aspects of Dylan's songs.

The event, which Markworth said is the first of its kind in the U.S., was inspired by a course that he developed along with Rehm, who has previously taught lessons on the topic for a continuing-studies program. Last semester, the University of California at Berkeley offered its own course for credit on the poetry of slain controversial gangsta-rapper Tupac Shakur. "We want to look at Dylan's work not just as poetry," Markworth said. "But also at his music and performance."

If you look at Dylan's lyrics alone, he said, it's hard to see the depth of his message. Rather, it is the way he performs his lyrics as songs that makes him a spokesman for this generation and a poet for all time, Markworth said. "If we looked at it in an ivory tower, strictly academic way, we would concentrate only on the lyrics, and it wouldn't have the same effect as an interdisciplinary conference like this," he said.

Despite a bout with health problems, including a potentially fatal heart ailment that sidelined him last summer, the past few months have brought a healthy dose of good news to the '60s icon. In December, he rubbed elbows with President Clinton as he received a lifetime achievement award at the Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, D.C. On Tuesday, he racked up three Grammy nominations, including album of the year for his critically acclaimed return-to-form, Time Out Of Mind.

While Markworth said he spoke with Dylan's management about having the artist perform around the time of the conference, no such arrangement could be made, as the event conflicts with a concert in New York with Northern Irish folk-rocker Van Morrison. No matter though, he added. "We didn't really want him at the conference," Markworth said. "We wanted him to perform during the week of it. It would be a strange situation for an artist to speak about his own work like this. He's a performer, not a critic or academic." [Thurs., Jan. 8, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]


[EDLIS Notes]

Here we have one of the many announcements in the media about the Stanford International Conference on Bob Dylan that Tino Markworth organized. Having gotten Professor Rush Rehm to sponsor a course on Dylan in the Winter 1997 Continuing Studies Program, he used the success of that course to win approval for the Stanford conference, an even more prestigious event with an outstanding cast of presenters.

Another paper for the Dylan Course

She's Your Lover Now
Reviewed by Ron Chester

This Bob Dylan song was recorded in 1966 during the Blonde on Blonde period (my first-love Dylan album) and it shares its unique sound, which Dylan described in his January 1978 Playboy interview:

"The closest I ever got to the sound I hear in my mind was on individual bands in the Blonde on Blonde album. It's that thin, that wild mercury sound. It's metallic and bright gold, with whatever that conjures up. That's my particular sound. I haven't been able to succeed in getting it all the time. Mostly I've been driving at a combination of guitar, harmonica and organ, but now I find myself going into territory that has more percussion in it and rhythms of the soul."

The song chronicles the aftermath of a stormy love affair, with three characters appearing in the song; Dylan, his former lover, and her new lover. Dylan alternately addresses the woman, and then the other man, while trying not to be adversely affected by his new relationship with the woman. This could be the recounting of an actual incident in which Dylan finds himself in a bar with the two others. Or it could be Dylan's musings about such a possible meeting.

In spite of being a favorite of many Dylan fans, there are only two Dylan performances of the song in circulation, both from the studio, as he has never performed it to an audience. There have been two cover versions of the song: by The Original Marauders in 1977 and Luxuria in 1988. Perhaps a study of this rarity would prove interesting.

[EDLIS Notes]

Here we have the second paper we are featuring that was submitted to Professor Rehm by one of the students in his Dylan course. It, too, can be read in full on the website of the writer. Professor Rehm awarded it a grade of A, suggesting that the writer should see about getting it published. Perhaps he would consider this has now been done, with its inclusion in this blog.

Paper for Dylan Course

Dylan's Song Sequencing in Albums and Concerts

Andy Hertzfeld 3/11/97
Music 47

I received my grade on 4/22/97: A-


The song sequencing of an album or concert can have a major effect on the overall perception and impact of the work. It is also an interesting window into the artistic values of the creator. This paper will examine Bob Dylan's typically idiosyncratic use of song sequencing in both his albums and concerts to help break free from the burden of his audience's expections. It will also discuss a number of other persistent trends.

While Dylan was evolving rapidly in the early stages of his career, each album was a distinct watershed and unique statement that showcased a new style and worldview. The first song on each album was usually an anthemic announcement of his current stance while the last song of the album tended to be a song of farewell and transition, pushing back against the expectations of his audience while freeing himself to move on to his next stage of growth.

As Dylan's evolution inevitably slowed as he matured, he no longer had the same need to use the last song to make space for radical changes ahead. He began to use the last song differently, often setting it apart from the rest of the album to enrichen the work by reflecting upon it from a different angle.

When performing in concert, Dylan likes to suprise his audience. He has a tendency to choose a relatively obscure song for the opening number, often with some special significance to the occasion of the performance. He also tends to structure his sets flexibly in a well-defined framework; some song slots are almost always the same each night while others are constantly changing. There is almost always an acoustic mini-set toward the middle of the concert, a kind of show within the show with a different emotional feel from the main portion.


[EDLIS Notes]

While we do not intend to make a habit of posting individual academic studies of Dylan's music on this blog, we decided to include just two of the papers that were submitted to Professor Rehm by students on the course. This paper can be read in full on the website of the student who wrote it.

Winter courses in Continuing Studies Program (12/96)

Stanford University

News Service




CONTACT: Stanford University News Service (415) 723-2558

Winter courses in Continuing Studies Program

From the art circles that linked Paris and New York in the opening decades of this century to everyday life in the Third Reich, to the "nervous splendor" that was Vienna at the turn of the century, almost 50 classes are being offered by the Continuing Studies Program.

Registration began Dec. 2 for the winter quarter, which begins Jan. 6.

University employees who work 50 percent time or more are eligible for a tuition discount of up to $140 per quarter. That assistance is not the same as STAP funds, and does not preclude an employee from using STAP funds for other job-related courses.

Courses include the following:


Advanced Fiction Writing, with Nancy Packer, professor emerita of English. 6-9 p.m.

Beginning Drawing, with Larry Lippold, lecturer in art. 1:30-4:30 p.m. at the Senior Center, 450 Bryant St., Palo Alto.

Essence of Italian Culture II, with Annamaria De Nicolais Napolitano, senior lecturer in Italian. 7-8:50 p.m. at Il Fornaio restaurant, 327 Lorton Ave., Burlingame. Five-week course.

Poetry Workshop, with Sheila Donohue, Jones Lecturer in poetry, Creative Writing Program. 6-9 p.m.

Quantum Mechanics, with Kathleen Thompson, physicist, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center. 7-8:50 p.m. Five-week course.

The Renaissance: Discovery, Rediscovery, and Change, with Larry Ryan, professor emeritus of humanities and English. 7-9 p.m.

Russian: Beginning Language and Culture II, with Serafima Radivilova, lecturer in Slavic languages. 7-9 p.m.

Screenwriting, with Cammie McGovern, Wallace Stegner Fellow in fiction writing. 6-9 p.m.

Short Story Workshop, with Laine Snowman, Jones Lecturer in creative writing. 6-9 p.m.

In the Swastika's Shadow: Everyday Life in Hitler's Third Reich, with G. Robert Hamrdla, assistant to the president, emeritus. 7-9 p.m.


Advanced Improvisation, with Patricia Ryan, senior lecturer in drama. 7-8:50 p.m.

The Brain: Chemistry and Behavior, with Karl Obrietan, research scientist, Department of Biological Sciences. 7-8:50 p.m.

The Classic Concerto, with Leonard Ratner, professor emeritus of music. 7-8:50 p.m.

Gothic Cathedrals and Great Churches of England, with Robert Scott, associate director, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. 7-9 p.m.

How to Read an American Masterpiece, with Donald Bacon, lecturer in English. 7-8:50 p.m. at the Stratford, 601 Laurel Ave., San Mateo.

Intermediate German, with William Petig, senior lecturer in German studies. 7-8:50 p.m.

International Political Hotspots, with Gerald Dorfman, associate director and senior fellow of the Hoover Institution. 7-8:50 p.m.

Introduction to Cultural Georgraphy: People and Places, with Galen Martin, alumni association travel/study program. 7-8:50 p.m.

The Life and Music of Bob Dylan, with Rush Rehm, associate professor of drama and classics. 7-8:50 p.m. Five-week course.

Paris and New York in the Early Twentieth Century, with Wanda Corn, professor of art. 7-9:15 p.m.

Women in Popular Music, with Maria Johnson, visiting assistant professor of music. 7-8:50 p.m. Five-week course.


Beginning Improvisation, with Patricia Ryan, senior lecturer in drama. 7-8:50 p.m.

Beginning Italian II, with Maria Devine, senior lecturer in Italian. 7-8:50 p.m.

Beginning Spanish II, with Alice Miano, lecturer in Spanish. 7-8:50 p.m.

Challenging Assumptions, with Jeffrey Wildfogel, consulting professor of psychology. 7-8:50 p.m.

A Fiery Shorthand: Twentieth Century Irish Literature, with Eavan Boland, professor of English. 7-8:50 p.m.

History of Jazz II, with Grover Sales, lecturer in music. 7-8:50 p.m. at the Sequoias, 501 Portola Road, Portola Valley. Five-week course.

Short Story Workshop, with David Vann, Jones Lecturer in creative writing. 6-8:45 p.m.

Virginia Woolf's Foremothers: The Development of a British Women's Novel, with Linda Paulson, lecturer in English. 7-8:50 p.m.

Why Can't a Woman Be More Like a Man? with Sherri Matteo, visiting scholar, office of the dean of research. 7-8:50 p.m. Five-week course.

Wise Use Movement, with Radford Hall, lecturer in urban studies. 7-8:50 p.m. Five-week course.


Antonioni: About Nothing ­ With Precision, with Leda Mussio, senior lecturer emerita, French and Italian. 7-8:50 p.m. Five-week course.

Architectural Design and Theory, with Patti Walters, lecturer in urban studies. 7-8:50 p.m.

Beginning German II, with William Petig, senior lecturer in German studies. 7-8:50 p.m.

Couple Dancing in the '90s, with Richard Powers, lecturer in dance. 7-8:50 p.m. Five-week course.

Dance Making, with Tony Kramer, lecturer in dance. 7-8:50 p.m. Five-week course.

Households in Early America: History and Art, with Edith Gelles, senior scholar at the Institute for Research on Women and Gender, and Diana Strazdes, curator of American art, Stanford Museum of Art. 7-8:50 p.m. Five-week course.

Human Space Exploration, with Michael Tauber, consulting professor of aeronautics and astronautics. 7-8:50 p.m. Five-week course.

The Nervous Splendor: Vienna at the Turn of the Century, with Van Harvey, professor emeritus of religious studies. 7-8:50 p.m.

Roman Art and Archaeology, with Patrick Hunt, lecturer in classics. 7-8:50 p.m.

Understanding History, with Richard Terdiman, professor of literature and the history of consciousness, University of California-Santa Cruz. 7-8:50 p.m.

Writing After Proust: The French Novel Since the 1930s, with Marc Bertrand, professor of French. 7-8:50 p.m.



[EDLIS Notes]

This simple announcement, though we didn't know it at the time, was the first step in the eventual acceptance of Bob Dylan as a legitimate subject of study in mainstream academia. A five week course on Bob Dylan was offered in this Stanford Continuing Studies Program, in the winter 1997 term by Rush Rehm, associate professor of drama and classics. None of these courses were offered as credit courses for those working on their undergraduate degrees. Instead they were open to anyone who wanted to attend and was willing to pay the fee, including those living in the community nearby.

The driving force behind this was Tino Markworth, a Stanford grad student who was working on his doctoral dissertation in German studies at the time. It was his idea that Stanford should be offering a course on Dylan. It had been over 26 years since Dylan had been given his honorary degree from Princeton, and there had been many students from around the country who had done papers, master's theses, and doctoral dissertations on Dylan subjects, but Dylan did not appear in the catalog of courses in higher education. And in keeping with this, Markworth was not able to find any department at Stanford that was willing to sponsor a full credit course on Dylan. But it was time to get a foot in the door and he found Professor Rush Rehm, who was willing to sponsor this five-week course, open to the general public.

The course quickly filled up with many who knew and loved Dylan's work. The tone was set on the very first night when Rehm was making introductory comments about how he envisioned the studies would proceed, that is with an academic examination of his work, not simply praise lavished on the star by Dylan fanatics. Near the back of the room, a hand shot up from one of the students. In fact, this student was a star in his own right in Silicon Valley, as he had been the one many years before who had written much of the code for the very first Mac operating system, including late nights on no sleep for days to meet the production deadline. Rehm nodded to the student with the outstretched arm and Andy Hertzfeld stood up to address the professor.

"Sir, while it might be more acceptable to be considered a fan of an artist, the word "fan" is just a shortening of the word "fanatic," which refers to someone who is extremely enthusiastic about the subject of his/her interest. I find nothing wrong with that. I am a Bob Dylan fanatic. I am quite proud of the fact that I am a Bob Dylan fanatic!"

The enthusiastic fan went on to explain that he would often check on the Internet for the Dylan setlist from the night before and would get tapes of the shows and listen to them as often as he could. He then concluded by saying, "I love his music and take it quite seriously. Far better that I be extremely interested in such worthy art, rather than have just a passing lukewarm interest in its study. Thank you very much, sir."

Andy Hertzfeld sat down, as applause erupted in the classroom from the other students, along with shouts of "Yes, right on!" and such from some. If he didn't already know it, it was at that moment that Professor Rehm might have realized that the classroom was full of people who were going to take these studies seriously, and as we all discovered, there were some in that classroom who knew a whole lot more about Bob Dylan and his music than the teacher did. Rehm did a fine job of teaching the class and drawing out the knowledge of all those around him, but there was no more mention of any fanatics.