The Philosophy of Modern Song and the Ambi-Modernist Impulse
A panel from the World of Bob Dylan, June 2, 2023, Tulsa, OK
- Court Carney (chair),‘The Laws of Time Didn’t Apply to You’: The Philosophy of Modern Song and the Zeitgeist of the Discontent
- Erin C. Callahan, ‘Lame as Hell and a Big Trick’: Dylan’s Comment on the Commodification of Art in The Philosophy of Modern Song
- Jim Salvucci, ‘The Future for Me is Already a Thing of the Past’: The Seeming Nostalgia of The Philosophy of Modern Song
The publication of Bob Dylan’s The Philosophy of Modern Song in 2022 has elicited much commentary related to song selection, the question of breadth, and the notion of a central philosophy tying it all together. What this panel suggests is that this book contains thematic threads beyond the songs themselves that comment on Dylan’s relationship with the past and the contemporary moment.
Erin Callahan’s paper explores Dylan’s comments on and critique of the fraught relationship and tensions between artistic creation and the commodification of art consumed as entertainment that leads to its dilution or sanitization.
Court Carney’s paper looks to contextualize Dylan’s book within the contemporary moment of cultural discontent. Connecting the book to recent films (Nope, for example) and an avalanche of newspaper articles commenting on Generation Z’s collective turning away from the accepted forms of social media and digital culture, Carney seeks to situate Dylan’s book within this age of discontent.
Jim Salvucci’s paper focuses on nostalgia and sees within Dylan’s book a philosophy centered on what we can preserve from the past while always looking for the next thing. The tension, then, between nostalgia and optimism (and Dylan is undoubtedly an optimist) helps define the themes within The Philosophy of Modern Song. Together these papers help craft a dialogue centered on the way Bob Dylan uses the past to comment on the present.
Erin Callahan lives in the Houston, Texas, area where she teaches English at San Jacinto College. She has presented and published on Dylan and is currently co-editing a volume with Court Carney on interpretations of Dylan’s setlists for Routledge.
Court Carney is a Professor of History at Stephen F. Austin State University where he teaches courses on Cultural History and Black History. He is currently writing a book on the cultural significance and memory of Nathan Bedford Forrest.
Jim Salvucci, an English professor by training, is a recovering academic. He has presented on Bob Dylan at the first World of Bob Dylan conference as well as in such exotic locales as France and India and taught a course on Dylan for many years. He has published on Dylan in 21st-Century Dylan and The Bob Dylan Review and is the founder and keeper of The Dylantantes.
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