Popular Music History, Vol 8, No 2 (2013)

Borders and lines: seeing and imagining in Dylan

Robert McColl
Issued Date: 20 May 2014


In ‘Borders and lines: seeing and imaging in Dylan’, I expound on a contrast in Dylan’s work between a passive, static imaging, and an active, ephemeral seeing. Drawing on three examples, ‘Idiot Wind’, ‘Girl from the North Country’ and ‘Down the Highway’, I show that, while each song is wary of the encapsulation of image, ‘Idiot Wind’ attempts, in Ginsberg’s terms, to ‘exorcise’ it, while the earlier songs favour discontinuation, hence their economy. This also has ramifications for how Dylan depicts America. Relating the enclosure of the page to the enclosure of nation (‘Borders and Lines’), I argue that Dylan typically resists such prescriptions, via an emphasis on seeing out, rather than in or over.

Download Media

PDF (Price: £17.50 ) HTML (Price: £17.50 )

DOI: 10.1558/pomh.v8i2.126


Cott, J., ed. 2006. Dylan on Dylan. London: Hodder & Stoughton.
Dylan, B. 1994. Lyrics 1962–1985. London: Harper Collins.
—2004a. Chronicles Volume One. London: Simon and Schuster.
—2004b. Lyrics 1962–2001. London: Simon & Schuster.
Gilmore, M. 2012. ‘Bob Dylan Unleashed: A Wild Ride on his New LP and Striking Back at Critics’. Rolling Stone 1166, 29 September. http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/bob-dylan-unleashed-a-wild-ride-on-his-new-lp-and-striking-back-at-critics-20120927?page=6 (accessed 3 April 2014).
Ginsberg A. 1976. Liner notes to Desire, by Bob Dylan. Columbia Records.
—1992. Interview, ‘Bob Dylan and Renaldo and Clara’. In Wanted Man: In Search of Bob Dylan, ed. J. Bauldie, 117–37. London: Penguin.
Ginsberg A., and P. B. Chowka. 1976. ‘This is Allen Ginsberg? Peter Chowka interviewing for NAJ’. In New Age Journal 12. Available at ‘Online Interviews with Allen Ginsberg’, Modern American Poetry, http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/g_l/ginsberg/interviews.html (accessed 11 January 2013).
Hazlitt, W. 1998. ‘Mr Wordsworth’. In Selected Writings, ed. J. Cook, 347–58. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Johnson, S. 1984. Samuel Johnson: A Critical Edition of the Major Works, ed. D. Greene. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Karlin, D. 2013. ‘Columbia Recording Artist Bob Dylan’. In The Figure of the Singer, 183–204. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
McColl, R. Forthcoming. ‘Surplus and Demand, or, Too Much To Ask: Inappropriating Dylan’. In Refractions of Bob Dylan. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Poe, E. A. 1914. ‘Eureka’. In The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, vol. 9, 5–169. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
Ricks, C. 2003. Dylan’s Visions of Sin. London: Penguin.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Equinox Publishing Ltd - 415 The Workstation 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, S1 2BX United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)114 221-0285 - Email: info@equinoxpub.com

Privacy Policy