This current semester, I have been teaching a seminar on the “Poetics of Bob Dylan” at a nearby Jesuit university. Okay, go ahead and laugh, but I did an informal tally of how many universities currently offer courses on Bob Dylan, and it’s over 300.
He’s an important literary and cultural figure even if you do just think most of his songs are about his dope dealer. My students and I usually do a quick cultural-historical overview of a time period or theme, and then I give them the lyrics to a Dylan song, and we listen and I point out some of what I think are the important themes.
The students in this course are bright and are by and large good writers, but they’re also college students, so they spend a lot of time staring at me blankly or texting in a manner they think is discreet.