Wed. January 07.1998 11:53 PM EST
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]
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.