The Streets of Rome: The Classical Dylan


One of the preoccupations of Dylan scholarship has had to do with his intertexts, where his songs come from, and what meanings they derive from their places of origin, be they textual or musical, secular or religious, ancient or modern. In this article, Thomas explores Dylan’s contact with the ancient worlds of Greece and Rome, evident in particular in the Dylan of the last decade—that is, on the last three albums and in his “autobiography,” Chronicles: Volume One. This article counters the attacks of those who cannot distinguish plagiarism—a charge also leveled against the poet Virgil in antiquity—from creative reuse. Thomas discusses Dylan’s reperformance and lyrical renovation and variation from the perspective of the Homeric rhapsode, who like Dylan himself varies his initial text in performance, so creating constant shifts in meaning and emphasis.

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