Reviewed: The World of Bob Dylan, edited by Sean Latham

Published in the latest volume of the Dylan Review (3.1, Summer 2021, pp. 37-47) is my review of:

Sean Latham (ed.), The World of Bob Dylan, Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2021, xix + 349 pp., ISBN 978-1-108-49951-4

The review can be found online at: For DR 3.1 as a whole, see my note on this blog (today’s date).

A extract from the review and summary of the book chapters follow.


The volume under review is a multi-author study of the figure and work of Bob Dylan from an extremely wide range of points of view. It is edited by Sean Latham, Walter Professor of English and Director of the Institute for Bob Dylan Studies at the University of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Tulsa – also home to the Bob Dylan Archive and the Woody Guthrie Center – hosted the major conference held from 30 May to 2 June 2019 under the title ‘The World of Bob Dylan’ (in which this reviewer was a participant), although it should be stressed that this volume, despite the shared name, is not the proceedings of that conference. It may also be useful here to distinguish between: the Institute for Bob Dylan Studies (an academic research cell); the Bob Dylan Archive (a collection of over 100,000 objects for consultation on appointment, purchased in 2016 by Tulsa’s George Kaiser Family Foundation in partnership with the University of Tulsa, and held at the city’s Gilcrease Museum); and the Bob Dylan Center (to be the public face of Dylan in Tulsa, scheduled for opening to the general public in 2022).

The World of Bob Dylan is presented as ‘the first published project to emerge from the Institute for Bob Dylan Studies’. It brings together 28 texts (introduction, chronology and 26 chapters proper) by a total of 26 contributors, the editor included. 18 are male and 8 female, while 22 are described as based in the US, one in Canada, two in the UK and one in Denmark. Most chapters appear to have been purpose-written for the volume. Two at least, however, originate in the 2019 Tulsa conference. The chapter by Greil Marcus is explicitly credited to his Tulsa keynote speech; that by Ann Powers, another keynoter, reads as if the publication of her text from the event; and there may be more. The role of the archive as a new determinant in Dylan studies is reflected in the fact that two of the contributors quote and formally credit material retrieved via their personal research activities there (…)


Introduction – Sean Latham

A Chronology of Bob Dylan’s life – Kevin Dettmar and Sean Latham

The Biographies – Andrew Muir

Songwriting – Sean Latham

The Singles: A playlist for framing Dylan’s recording art – Keith Negus

Folk Music – Ronald D. Cohen

The Blues: ‘Kill Everybody Ever Done Me Wrong’ – Greil Marcus

Gospel Music – Gayle Wald

Country Music: Dylan, Cash and the projection of authenticity – Leigh H. Edwards

Rock Music – Ira Wells

Roots Music: Born in a basement – Kim Ruehl

The Great American Songbook – Larry Starr

American Literature – Florence Dore

World Literature – Anne-Marie Mai

The Beats – Steven Belletto

Theatre – Damian A. Carpenter

Visual Arts: Goya’s Kiss – Raphael Falco

Borrowing – Kevin Dettmar

Judaism: Saturnine Melancholy and Dylan’s Jewish Gnosis – Elliot R. Wolfson

Christianity: An exegesis of ‘Modern Times’ – Andrew McCarron

The Civil Rights Movement – Will Kaufman

The Counterculture – Michael J. Kramer

Gender and Sexuality: Bob Dylan’s Body – Ann Powers

Justice – Lisa O’Neill-Sanders

The Bob Dylan Brand – Devon Powers

The Nobel Prize: The Dramaturgy of Consecration – James F. English

Dylan: Stardom and Freedom – Donald R. Shumway

The Bob Dylan Archive – Mark A. Davidson

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: