Archive for the ‘Sin categoría’ Category


The University of Jaén, cathedral city in the heartland of Spain’s olive grove country, was host on 29 and 30 September 2022 to the First International Conference on Popular Culture, an initiative conceived within the University’s English Department and the brainchild of the department’s chair, Jesús López-Peláez Casellas.

This conference had a two-strand structure. One strand comprised panels and papers on multiple different aspects of popular culture (or low culture, or mass culture); the other consisted of three plenary lectures and various papers on the work of one major artist emanating from popular culture but not confined to it, namely Bob Dylan.

The three plenary addresses on Dylan all took a holistic approach to Dylan’s work, with the emphasis on the literary and musical intertextualities that make his songwriting a culturally complex phenomenon, remembering that his hybrid art won him the Nobel prize for Literature in 2016. The plenary speakers were: Antonio Ballesteros of the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (open university, Madrid); the prestigious poet and novelist Benjamín Prado, an avid Dylan fan who affirms that every one of his books contains a Dylan reference; and independent scholar and Dylan critic Christopher Rollason (myself). 

The briefer papers on Dylan covered a range of more particular facets of the artist – his relation to television advertising (Jiri Mesic), his cultivation of insult compared to Shakespeare’s (Nadia López-Peláez Akalay), and his anti-war stance (Ishan Alwan Muhsin Al-Sweidi).

The remaining papers explored the most varied topics – Spanish stereotypes in British TV comedy (José Ruiz Mas), rock poet Patti Smith’s memoirs (Pilar Sánchez Calle), TV and film franchises and intralingual dubbing (Lucas Baeyens), awakening of minds through different musical genres (Ana Valverde González), and Batman as ‘American hero’ (Benjamín Carrascal Meneses).

The qualitative standard of the contributions was high and the atmosphere was fully propitious to debate. This event demonstrated the importance of intellectual rigour in the study of popular culture, which in our times is something not to be ignored by academia. The appellation ‘first conference’ throws out the promise of more to come, a prospect which, it is to be hoped, will come to fruition following in the steps of this highly successful inaugural event.

For fellow Dylanites: My lecture was entitled ‘Relationships of ownership: Bob Dylan and his sources’, and focused on three songs (‘Ballad of Hollis Brown’, ‘With God On Our Side’ and ‘I Dreamed I Saw Saint Augustine’) and the older songs that lie behind them.


La Universidad de Jaén, ciudad catedralicia en el corazón de las tierras de olivares de España, acogió en los 29 y 30 de septiembre de 2022 el Primer Congreso Internacional de Culture Popular, iniciativa del Departamento de Filología Inglesa de la Universidad concebida por su catedrático, Jesús López-Peláez Casellas.

Este congreso tuvo una estructura dividida en dos hileras. Una comprendía paneles y ponencias sobre múltiples y diversos aspectos de cultura popular (o cultura baja, o cultura de masas); la otra consistía en tres conferencias plenarias y varias ponencias acerca de la obra de un artista mayor cuya producción emana de la cultura popular sin ser limitada por ella, o sea Bob Dylan.

Las tres conferencias plenarias adoptaron un acercamiento holístico a la obra dylaniana, con el énfasis en las intertextualidades literarias y musicales que hacen de su producción un fenómeno culturalmente complejo, recordando que su arte híbrida le valió el Premio Nobel de Literatura en 2016. Los oradores plenarios fueron: Antonio Ballesteros, de la Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (Madrid); el prestigioso poeta y novelista Benjamín Prado, fan acérrimo de Dylan que afirma que cada uno de sus libros tiene alguna referencia a Dylan; y el estudioso independiente y crítico dylaniano Christopher Rollason (yo). 

Las intervenciones más breves sobre Dylan abarcaron una gama de facetas más particulares del artista – su vínculo con la publicidad televisiva (Jiri Mesic), su cultivo del insulto comparado con el mismo fenómeno en Shakespeare (Nadia López-Peláez Akalay), y sus posicionamientos antibelicistas (Ishan Alwan Muhsin Al-Sweidi).

Las restantes ponencias exploraron temas de los más variados – estereotipos españoles en comedias televisivas británicas (José Ruiz Mas), las memorias de Patti Smith, diva de la poesía rock (Pilar Sánchez Calle), franquicias de televisión o cine y doblaje intralingual (Lucas Baeyens), el despertar de la conciencia por medio de diversos géneros musicales (Ana Valverde González), y Batman como ‘American hero’ (Benjamín Carrascal Meneses).

El nivel cualitativo de las contribuciones fue alto, y la atmosfera fue plenamente propicio al debate. Este evento demostró la importancia del rigor intelectual en el estudio de la cultura popular, la cual en nuestros tiempos no es algo que debe ser marginado por el mundo académico. La denominación ‘primer congreso’ lanza una promesa de que habrá más, perspectiva que, con suerte, fructificará siguiendo los pasos de este muy exitoso evento inaugural.

Para dylanitas: Mi conferencia tuvo como título ‘Relationships of ownership: Bob Dylan and his sources’, centrándose en tres canciones de Dylan (‘Ballad of Hollis Brown’, ‘With God On Our Side’ and ‘I Dreamed I Saw Saint Augustine’) y las canciones más antiguas que les subyacen. .   

India Day in Esch-sur-Alzette (Luxembourg)

Yesterday, Saturday 17 September 2022, the main square of Luxembourg’s second city, Esch-sur-Alzette, where I live, was animated by a fine display of Indian culture.

17 September is India Day and this year marks the 75th anniversary of India’s independence. The event also dovetailed with the status of Esch as European Capital of Culture 2022. The programme offered the most varied and colourful manifestations of Indian dance, as well as sacred song (bhajans). There was official recognition via the presence of India’s Ambassador and Esch’s Mayor..

More can be found at:

It is a pleasure and an enrichment for the inhabitants of Esch to have our main square become a showcase for the vibrancy of a different culture, and the organisers, the Indian Association Luxembourg, are to be praised for making it possible! Namaste and thanks to all involved!

Sculpture in the street – Esch-sur-Alzette, European Capital of Culture 2022

As European Capital of Culture 2022, Esch-sur-Alzette in Luxembourg, where I live, has brought the art of sculpture to the street in the form of ‘Nothing Is Permanent’ (title in English), a set of sculptures placed strategically around the ‘Metropolis of Iron’. There are 23 works, each by a different international artist. A map in the main square locates them all. See also:

This initiative is much to be commended. Indeed nothing is permanent in this life, but these sculptures will be here for a while. Here are two: ‘Heimatlos’ (in German, ‘Without a Homeland’) by Barthélémy Toguo, outside the Palace of Justice;

and ‘Points of View’ by Tony Cragg, right at the centre of things in the main square!


Dear Salman, as you lie on life support after a horrendous and base attack, please accept these words sent out to the world in deep solidarity and sympathy with you,

For years you have been an icon of free speech, in your writings but also in your activities in defence of beleaguered authors with the International Parliament of Writers and PEN America. You are Indian, British and a US citizen, but first and foremost you are the perfect citizen of the world. You have enriched the English language with the creative multiplicity of styles and registers in your novels and essays: novels such as Midnight’s Children, Shalimar the Clown and The Golden House are unforgettable. I believe you are one of the finest of living writers and deserve every award you have received. In the wake of the fatwa I vowed I would read your writings as they came out, and publish on them, and I have kept my promise.

Despite the fatwa and those who defend it, over the years you have bravely refused to give up or give in. What they can never kill will go on and your struggle will never die, for others will take it up. 

May the Universe be with you in your hour of need,

I sign this letter with hope for you here and now and admiration for all your work and commitment over so many years,

Your loyal reader, 

Christopher Rollason

Note: This piece was published one day after the attack on Rushdie in New York on 12 August 2022. Various texts on Rushdie can be found on this blog.

The Dylan Review 4.1

Now released is Volume 4, issue 1 (Spring/Summer 2022) of The Dylan Review, the online journal devoted to the serious academic study of the work of Nobel laureate, songwriter and multitalented artist Bob Dylan. This issue maintains the existing high standard and covers a remarkably wide range of aspects. I enjoyed in particular: the review by Karl Gustel Wärnberg of a study by Sara Danius of the Swedish Academy; an in-depth interview with Scott Warmuth, inveterate explorer of Dylan sources; Bob Russell’s explication of Dylan’s musical relationship with bluegrass heroes the Stanley Brothers; and a close analysis of ‘Jokerman’ by Walter Raubicheck, relating this major song to both Judaism and Christianity. And there is much more!

The Dylan Review is at:


The fame of John Constable (1776-1837) is assured in his country of birth as one of the greatest landscape painters of the British school, but his remarkable body of work remains less well-known outside the UK than that of his contemporary J.M.W. Turner, this no doubt because most of his artistic production is held in England: the bulk of Constable’s work is divided between London’s National Gallery and Tate Gallery.

At this moment the Tate is making a generous loan from its Constable holdings to the Musée d’Art de la Ville de Luxembourg, also known as the Villa Vauban. From 2 July to 9 October 2022, in an exhibition entitled ‘John Constable’s English Landscapes: Masterpieces from the Tate Collection’, a good fourscore of Constable’s works are on display, as well as some by his contemporaries (including Turner).

A particularly noteworthy presence is that of one of Constable’s most famous paintings, ‘Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows’. The works on view testify to the artist’s deep love of nature, as well as his particular interest in painting clouds and trees. Those familiar with the English countryside will appreciate the depiction of its light and shades through the master’s brushstrokes. The coast is not neglected, in views of Brighton and Great Yarmouth (the latter suggesting by anticipation the maritime mood of Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield). Also represented are Constable’s occasional forays into other genres, as in the monumental ‘The Opening of Waterloo Bridge’. 

The sharing for three months of such an important heritage is an artistic event to be deeply valued, and the Tate and the Villa Vauban are to be congratulated on this bold initiative. Constable’s work deserves to be better known in mainland Europe, and this event is a major step in that direction. If you live in or near Luxembourg and wish to feel the healing power of nature, go to the Villa Vauban to catch this exhibition while it’s there! Your effort will be amply rewarded!

The official site of the exhibition is at:


Wiltz, a small municipality in Luxembourg, has won a name for itself in recent years with its summer music festival, and 2022 was special indeed with the festival’s concluding event, a concert with no less an act than the Gipsy Kings! The rumba-rock-flamenco (or more technically rumba flamenca) ensemble, currently numbering eleven performers and despite singing mostly in Spanish in fact originating from southern France, are known for their infectious songs with chantlike refrains, and for their remarkably danceable guitar- and percussion-based arrangements.

On the balmy summer’s night of 16 July, the Gipsy Kings regaled the Luxembourg audience with some of their best-known titles, including ‘Djobi Djoba’, ‘Bamboleo’, ‘Báilame‘ and ‘Bem, Bem, Maria’, not forgetting their two famous excursions into Spanish-language covering of Anglophone material in the form of their transformations of ‘My Way’ (as ‘A Mi Manera’) and ‘Hotel  California’. The amphitheatre was packed and a goodly proportion of the audience were visibly familiar with the songs. It was a seated concert in theory, but the Gipsy Kings soon had what felt like all of Wiltz and more dancing in the seats and aisles! In short, this was an unforgettable evening with a unique group of musicians, festively able to set their public alight!


Wiltz, un pequeño municipio ubicado en Luxemburgo, se ha ganado cierto renombre en los últimos tiempos con su festival de música de verano, y 2022 se ha revelado como año especial con el último espectáculo del festival, un concierto con nadie menos que los Gipsy Kings! Estos músicos de rumba-rock-flamenco (o más técnicamente rumba flamenca), actualmente contando con once elementos y, a pesar de cantar principalmente en lengua española, en realidad oriundos del sur de Francia, son conocidos por sus infecciosas canciones con refranes cantables, y por sus arreglos con base de guitarra y batería, eminentemente bailables.

En la amena noche veraniega del 16 de julio, los Gipsy Kings regalaron al público luxemburgués con algunos de sus más conocidos títulos, entre otros ‘Djobi Djoba’, ‘Bamboleo’, ‘Báilame‘ y ‘Bem, Bem, Maria’, sin olvidar sus famosas incursiones en versiones hispanohablantes de material anglófono, así como manifestadas en sus transformaciones de ‘My Way’ (como ‘A Mi Manera’) y ‘Hotel  California’. El anfiteatro estaba abarrotado y un buen porcentaje del público conocía visiblemente las canciones. Era en teoría un concierto de plazas sentadas, pero los Gipsy Kings pronto hicieron a lo que parecía todo Wiltz y más bailar en los asientos y pasillos! En breve, fue una noche inolvidable con un conjunto único de músicos ávidos de alumbrar a su audiencia!


Released in print and electronic form is the latest issue (Vol. 12, No. 2, July 2002), of the International Journal On Multicultural Literature, edited from Thodupuzha (Kerala, India)  by Professor K.V. Dominic. The journal’s general site is at:

The varied contents of this issue include tribute articles in memory of the recently deceased poet Stephen Gill, as well as creative writing (short stories and poets’ corner) and studies of, inter alia, R.K. Narayan (Annu Sara Jose), Vivek Shraya (Isabella Vincent), Manas Bakshi (D.C. Chambial), translation of South Asian writers (Aditha Dissanayake)  and ‘pandemic literature’ (K. Balachandran).

The issue also includes my review of Salman Rushdie’s volume of essays The Languages of Truth: Essays 2003-2020 (pp. 143-146). This review was previously published on my blog on 1 July 2001 and was updated for IJML. It can be found online at:

The Bob Dylan Center: Dedicated Museum opens in Tulsa, 10 May 2022

In what is beyond doubt one of the United States’ major cultural events of 2022, 10 May saw the opening in Tulsa, Oklahoma, of the Bob Dylan Center, a multimedia, interactive museum dedicated to the life and work of the singer-songwriter considered by many to be one of the greatest artists of modern times. The new Center, located next door to the Woody Guthrie Center that celebrates the young folk singer’s first mentor, will also house the Bob Dylan Archive, already functioning elsewhere, and will thus have two faces, orientated respectively to bona fide researchers and to the general public.

Multiple articles, many of them lengthy, on this ambitious venture have appeared in various online sources, and here are links to three:


The Black Wall Street Times 10 May 2022

Bob Dylan Center Opens in Tulsa Honoring Civil Rights Musician

by Deon Osborne


Hot Press, 9 May 2022

Take Me Back to Tulsa: the Bob Dylan Archive is Open May 2022

by Anne Margaret Daniel


Forward, 3 May 2022

Why are Bob Dylan’s archives in Tulsa?

by Seth Rogovoy


Bob Dylan’s followers will already know that 1 November 2022 will see the publication of a brand new book from the songwriter’s hand (his third extended prose work), entitled ‘The Philosophy of Modern Song’. The pre-publication blurb at calls the volume a ‘momentous artistic achievement’, offering a ‘master class on the art and craft of songwriting’ and featuring in-depth analyses of over 60 songs by the likes of Stephen Foster, Hank Williams, Nina Simone, Elvis Costello and many more.

Even before seeing the book, a thought occurs to me about the title. Bob Dylan is known to be an admirer of the work of Edgar Allan Poe (even naming him on his most recent album, 2020’s ‘Rough and Rowdy Ways’) – in the corpus of whose essays may be found the titles ‘Philosophy of Furniture’, from 1840 and, famously and from 1846, ‘The Philosophy of Composition’, Poe’s oft-cited account of how he wrote his best-known poem, ‘The Raven’.

Could Dylan’s arresting title (‘philosophy’ might seem a surprising lexical choice for a book on song) be a conscious harkback to Edgar Allan Poe? More will be revealed in November!