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The Poet Laureate of Rock and Roll: Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row”, Chronicles, Volume One

December 7, 2013

Rigorous seminars have been taught on Bob Dylan’s oeuvre at Princeton, Harvard, and other colleges and universities. However, Dylan’s lyrics aren’t frequently taught on a secondary school level. Included in The Oxford Book of American Poetry, “Desolation Row” has been praised by David Lehman, Allen Ginsberg, and Archibald MacLeish as a major American poem of the twentieth century, compared by some to “The Wasteland.” This workshop will explore the textual and musical sources behind this song, and its morphology in live performances since 1965. In addition to exploring the poem through institute writing prompts, time will be spent listening and writing in response to an array of live recordings. The workshop will explore how “Desolation Row” can be taught in a unit on American poetry. If time permits, additional attention will be given to the larger pedagogical value of teaching Bob Dylan in an American Literature class. 

Text: Bob Dylan, Chronicles, Volume One