Dylan Symposium Presentation

Information about Dylan Symposium Presentation

Published on August 9, 2007

Author: VolteMort

Source: authorstream.com

Content

You Changed My Life::  You Changed My Life: The Influence of Bob Dylan’s Music on Fans’ Identity Development Stephen Dine Young, Ph.D. Department of Psychology Hanover College Hanover, Indiana (812)866-7319 [email protected] Summary: This presentation explores the personal significance that Bob Dylan’s music has had for some of his listeners. This approach applies particularly well to Dylan since, in his poem “Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie,” he essentially makes the claim that he himself finds hope in Guthrie’s music. Following Kenneth Burke’s assertion that literature should be understood as “equipment for living,” I argue that all art/popular culture, including Dylan’s music, can be studied in light of how audiences self-consciously apply symbolic media to their everyday lives. This approach is grounded in a view that the human mind is essentially symbolic and that symbols are the path toward deepening our understanding of our selves, our world and our relationships with other people. Symbols are organized in narrative form in order to bring coherence to our experience. The development psychologist Dan McAdams argues that our identities (i.e., our understanding of who we are) can be understood as our life stories. One of the areas in which we form our life stories is in our encounters with art, literature and music. In contrast to the historical and textual approaches that are typical of the Dylan Symposium, this presentation focuses on the experience of Dylan’s audience. A couple of years ago I placed a link on www.expectingrain.com to a questionnaire on Dylan’s impact. The core question was--“Please describe what Bob Dylan’s music has meant to you. In other words, in what ways has Dylan’s music been personally important to you?” Over 500 people responded from all over the world, and an additional survey was conducted for German-Speaking participants by my colleague Susanne Kristen. The analysis of this enormously rich material is in the early phases, but the current presentation focuses on what McAdams calls “imagoes”--the characters that dominate the stories that different individuals tell about their lives. These “characters” are manifested in the responses to the questionnaire. In particular, the characters of “The Sage,” “The Warrior,” and the “Lover” are identified using representative quotes by participants. The implications of these responses for identity development are discussed. In conclusion, I reiterate that the symbols we encounter in popular art can become part of our identity by becoming part of stories we tell about who we are and what we want to become. I also assert that certain artists like Bob Dylan can have a particularly powerful impact on people’s lives.:  Summary: This presentation explores the personal significance that Bob Dylan’s music has had for some of his listeners. This approach applies particularly well to Dylan since, in his poem 'Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie,' he essentially makes the claim that he himself finds hope in Guthrie’s music. Following Kenneth Burke’s assertion that literature should be understood as 'equipment for living,' I argue that all art/popular culture, including Dylan’s music, can be studied in light of how audiences self-consciously apply symbolic media to their everyday lives. This approach is grounded in a view that the human mind is essentially symbolic and that symbols are the path toward deepening our understanding of our selves, our world and our relationships with other people. Symbols are organized in narrative form in order to bring coherence to our experience. The development psychologist Dan McAdams argues that our identities (i.e., our understanding of who we are) can be understood as our life stories. One of the areas in which we form our life stories is in our encounters with art, literature and music. In contrast to the historical and textual approaches that are typical of the Dylan Symposium, this presentation focuses on the experience of Dylan’s audience. A couple of years ago I placed a link on www.expectingrain.com to a questionnaire on Dylan’s impact. The core question was--'Please describe what Bob Dylan’s music has meant to you. In other words, in what ways has Dylan’s music been personally important to you?' Over 500 people responded from all over the world, and an additional survey was conducted for German-Speaking participants by my colleague Susanne Kristen. The analysis of this enormously rich material is in the early phases, but the current presentation focuses on what McAdams calls 'imagoes'--the characters that dominate the stories that different individuals tell about their lives. These 'characters' are manifested in the responses to the questionnaire. In particular, the characters of 'The Sage,' 'The Warrior,' and the 'Lover' are identified using representative quotes by participants. The implications of these responses for identity development are discussed. In conclusion, I reiterate that the symbols we encounter in popular art can become part of our identity by becoming part of stories we tell about who we are and what we want to become. I also assert that certain artists like Bob Dylan can have a particularly powerful impact on people’s lives. Woody Guthrie’s Influence on Dylan:  Woody Guthrie’s Influence on Dylan And where do you look for this hope that yer seekin‘? . . . .You can either go to the church of your choice Or you can go to Brooklyn State Hospital You'll find God in the church of your choice You'll find Woody Guthrie in Brooklyn State Hospital And though it's only my opinion I may be right or wrong You'll find them both In the Grand Canyon At sundown (Bob Dylan, 'Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie', 1963) Equipment for Living:  Equipment for Living Inspired by Kenneth Burke (1937/1967) Proverbs as Equipment for Living 'The higher the ape goes, the more he shows his tail' (p. 294) Literature as Equipment for Living Literature = 'Proverbs writ large' (p.296) '[Burke’s method] would derive its relevance from the fact that it should apply both to works of art and to social situations outside of art . . . Art forms like ‘tragedy’ or ‘comedy’ or ‘satire’ would be treated as equipments for living, that size up situations in various ways and in keeping with correspondingly various attitudes' (pp. 303-304) Equipment for Living (cont.):  Equipment for Living (cont.) Art/Music/Movies/Popular Culture as Equipment for Living (Dine Young, 2000) The self-conscious application of symbolic media to the activities of everyday life Dylan as Equipment for Living (Dine Young, 2005) The Power of Symbols:  The Power of Symbols Symbols as paths to our potential '[Symbolic] interpretation enriches the poverty of consciousness so that it learns to understand again the forgotten language of the instincts' (Jung, 1964) Symbolic richness in Dylan Folk tradition (Marcus, 1997; Gray, 2003) Poetic tradition (Ricks, 2004) Stories and Identity:  Stories and Identity The uses of symbols: Make meaning Tell stories Identity as a life story (McAdams, 1993) 'A life story is a personal myth that an individual begins working on in late adolescence and young adulthood in order to provide his or her life with unity or purpose and in order to articulate a meaningful niche in the psychosocial world.' (p. 5) Identity Development Through Popular Culture:  Identity Development Through Popular Culture We learn: Symbols from symbols Stories from stories Identity development through symbols and stories we encounter i.e., Art as equipment for living i.e., Dylan as equipment for living Different Approaches:  Different Approaches Historical Approaches Textual Approaches Social Scientific Approaches 'The effects of ‘Rainy Day Women, #12 andamp; 35’ on the consumption of marijuana among adolescents' Reception Approaches --Romance novel readers (Radway, 1991) --Springsteen fans (Cavicchi, 2002) The Dylan Survey:  The Dylan Survey Link placed on www.expectingrain.com in 2004 (many thanks to Karl-Erik Andersen) Core Research Question: 'Please describe what Bob Dylan’s music has meant to you. In other words, in what ways has Dylan’s music been personally important to you?' 509 responses (many several pages) 42 additional responses to German language version created by Susanne Kristen Developmental “Characters”:  Developmental 'Characters' Characters = archetypes (Jung) Characters help us make sense of experience Characters = imagoes (McAdams) Certain characters are special to certain individuals Characters in Respondent’s Stories:  Characters in Respondent’s Stories 'Special characters' are manifested in questionnaire responses The Sage The Warrior The Lover The Sage:  The Sage Dylan opened my mind after the Beatles freed it. [24 y.o., male, Canada] I think what I responded to initially was that in the young Dylan . . . was that here was a guy with the energy and anger of Johnny Rotten and his words were really cool . . . However that was the hook only. Dylan is one of those artists whose immense body of work pays greater dividends the more you explore it. Tom Waits once said that Dylan's body of work is a 'planet to be explored.'...every album was a revelation of new ideas and attitudes with a reassuring consistency underneath it all...you knew the same guy was creating this material. [30 y.o, male, USA] The Sage and the Humanist:  The Sage and the Humanist Bob's music kept me grounded and sane and got me through the deepest grief I could have ever imagined. He gave me a 'window' to look out of. To this day Love Minus Zero No Limits is my most favorite song in the universe. I wanted so much to become the woman he paints in that fabulous song. It was a map of the soul of a gracious profound and inspiring woman who transmitted knowledge and goodness. I have always aspired to manifest those qualities. [56 y.o., female, USA] The Warrior:  The Warrior Dylan and his music means A LOT to me and has done so since I was 15. It all started as part of a liberating process from a very authoritarian father and a gloomy past. [42 y.o., male Norway] I was about 13 years old . . . growing up as a white South African in the turbulent last decade of apartheid. The voice and words [of The Times They Are a’Changin’] cut like a double-sided sword. It accused and inspired at the same time. I can remember feeling as if we were doing something unlawful. (A lot of music was banned at that time although not this) I know that most of my teachers and family (though not parents) would have been appalled at the implication of the meaning of the song. It expressed all the unease my generation felt about apartheid. [36 y.o., male, South Africa] The Lover:  The Lover Dylan's music has for better or for worse heavily influenced at least two of my recent relationships. If I can identify with A Simple Twist of Fate's protagonist for instance surely I take at least some of that into a relationship of my own . . . . My girlfriend bought us tickets [to a concert] but before we got to go she broke up with me. We agreed to go nonetheless but it was a terrible experience. I guess that's the way it goes; something that you've looked forward to ever since you first heard Girl from the North Country could turn into a nightmare. But it was exhilarating and self-affirming at the same time. Perhaps as with Dylan's work things aren't always black and white. [22 YO Male, UK] Conclusion: Dylan as Equipment for Living:  Conclusion: Dylan as Equipment for Living The symbols we encounter in popular art can become part of our identity; they become part of stories we tell about who we are and what we want to become Some artists—like Dylan—are exceptional References:  References Burke, K. (1967). The philosophy of literary form: Studies in symbolic action (2nd Ed.). Baton Rouge, LA: Louisiana State University Press. Cavicchi, D. (2002). Tramps like us: Music and meaning among Springsteen fans. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Dine Young, S. (2000). Movies as equipment for living: A developmental analysis of the importance of film in everyday life. Critical Studies in Media Communication, 17(4), 447-468. Dine Young, S. (2005). Bob Dylan, popular music and life stories. Impuls, 59(2), 87-90. Gray, M. (2003). Song and Dance Man 3: The Art of Bob Dylan. Continuum International Jung, C. (1964). Man and his symbols. New York: Dell Publishing. Marcus, G. (1997). Invisible republic: Bob Dylan’s Basement Tapes. New York: Holt andamp; Co. McAdams, D.P. (1993). The stories we live by: Personal myths and the making of the self. New York: Guilford Press. Radway, J. (1991). Reading the romance: Women, patriarchy and popular literature (2nd edition). Chapel Hill, NC: North Carolina Press Ricks, C. (2004). Dylan’s visions of sin. New York: Ecco Press. Demographics (Appendix 1):  Demographics (Appendix 1) 509 Total Respondents Nationality Women = 12% U.S. = 53% Men = 88% U.K = 18% Canada = 6% Age of Respondents Other = 23% Teens = 3% 20s = 19% 30s = 19% 40s = 30% 50s = 25% 60s = 2% Age & Time of Influence (Appendix 2):  Age andamp; Time of Influence (Appendix 2) Age Most Influential Decade Most Influential Teens 27% 1960s 18% 20s 42% 1970s 24% 30s 16% 1980s 10% 40s 7% 1990s 23% 50s 3% 2000s 20% 60s 1% N/A 4% N/A 4% Favorite Other Musicians (Appendix 3):  Favorite Other Musicians (Appendix 3) Musical Act % Respondents Mentioning Beatles 29 Neil Young 21 Rolling Stones 15 Van Morrison 11 Bruce Springsteen 11 Leonard Cohen 11 Johnny Cash 11 Tom Waits 9 The Grateful Dead 9 The Band 9 Favorite Songs (Appendix 4):  Favorite Songs (Appendix 4) Song % Respondent Mentioning Like a Rolling Stone 21 Visions of Johanna 20 Desolation Row 18 Tangled Up In Blue 18 Idiot Wind 15 It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) 14 Every Grain of Sand 14 Not Dark Yet 13 Mr. Tambourine Man 11 Blind Willie McTell 9 Favorite Albums (Appendix 5):  Favorite Albums (Appendix 5) Album % Respondents Mentioning Blood on the Tracks 65 Blonde on Blonde 49 Highway 61 Revisited 42 Time Out of Mind 41 Love andamp; theft 28 Bringing It All Back Home 25 Desire 20 Oh Mercy 18 Freewheelin’ 17 John Wesley Harding 14

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