"Am I Mixed Up Too Much, Am I Mixed Up Too Hard?" Collage in Bob Dylan's Lyrics

Cook, Torian, English, University of Virginia
Wall, Cynthia, AS-English-Eng Lit Ops, University of Virginia

Bob Dylan’s writing walks the line between poetry and song. I argue that the best way into Dylan is to read him as a collage artist. This thesis is the first work of scholarship to close-read songs from Dylan’s most recent album, Rough and Rowdy Ways, putting them in conversation with his previous works and uniting them under the literary technique of collage. Dylan’s collage involves taking existing fragments and carefully combining them in order to shift their meanings. In the songs “Visions of Johanna” and “Gates of Eden,” Dylan chooses fragments from other poets, like Edgar Allan Poe and William Blake. In the process, their styles also become part of his collage. In the songs “Desolation Row”, “Tangled Up in Blue”, and “I Contain Multitudes,” the material he chooses to “cut and paste” into songs varies widely, from historical figures and fictional characters to narratives described in his own earlier work. By constantly revising his lyrics, Dylan collages himself. Collage is also a path towards creating a legacy, and in “My Own Version of You” the speaker uses collage to create his own person and challenge linear time. Using a visual term like collage to describe music is especially fitting right now, in a moment when we cannot easily divide media into auditory and visual categories. Art is art and pieces come from other pieces, which is what collage is all about.

BA (Bachelor of Arts)
Bob Dylan, Edgar Allan Poe, William Blake, collage, lyrics, Tangled Up In Blue
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