Bob Dylan’s Folk Poetics in the Later Albums: Telling the Story of America in Ruins in Simple Poetic Language

Matt Shedd, University of Oregon, USA

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Bob Dylan’s recent albums have returned to a more basic sense of American vernacular and poetics, employing stock phrases that evoke a rural America of the past. However, the past does not provide any shelter from modern day angst and impending devastation. We see this particularly in the 2001’s Love and Theft, coincidentally released on the day of the Twin Towers attack. By foregoing concepts of radical artistic individuality, Dylan use more traditional folk poetics to provide a historical and communal account of the descent of the United States into what Dylan calls “an empire in ruins.”

“The Times They Are A-Changin’”: Bob Dylan and Urban Poetry

Sudev Pratim Basu, Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan

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To begin with, it is really a daunting task for someone to attempt to map, categorise and pin down Dylan’s poems and songs to any one particular socio-cultural matrix. The problem intensifies when one tries to separate his poems from his songs, and vice versa. They are symbiotic and we cannot ‘read’ one without reference to the other. Which one is the ‘center’ and which is the ‘periphery’ is difficult to ascertain, especially with such a chameleon-esque poet-singer-song-writer like Dylan. Throughout his career as a cult-guru of marginalised voices who ‘abandoned’ the purist path for the lure of ‘electronica’ and the mainstream, Dylan has continuously re-defined himself and his cultural alignments almost as if to challenge the Dylan-baiters; and, in the process, has achieved a near immortal ‘parallel’ status which is almost exclusively his own.

Over the years Dylan has tacitly encouraged myths and anecdotes about his unconventional lyrical style – of writing and singing – and at the same time, despite the almost hysterical fan following, he has remained an intensely private and insulated individual. Guarding his privacy and poetical/musical copyrights like the proverbial dragon, Dylan did not hesitate to grant others his ‘words’ when he thought it fit, the best examples being his songs “Blowin’ In The Wind”, “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”, and “All Along The Watchtower”, made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary (Peter, Paul & Mary), Eric Clapton (Clapton), and Jimi Hendrix (Hendrix) respectively. A shrewd businessman with an uncanny nose for the market and the marketable, Dylan has used this skill to promote the greatest eccentric poet-singer of our times – himself!

Performance as Protest: Thumri and Tawaif’s Quest for Artistic Autonomy

Shramana Das Purkayasth, Vijaygarh Jyotish Ray College, Kolkata, India

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Indian cultural history testifies to the intimate bond the tawaifs had for centuries with the performing arts. Be it the pre-Mughal folk culture of rural India or the highly sophisticated culture of classical music in the Mughal courts, the tawaifs had always remained at the focal point of it. However conservative social paradigm never allowed them to belong to the mainstream Indian society. Concepts of honour, chastity and occupational propriety, with which patriarchy regulates a woman’s individual choices, constrained the tawaif to inhabit a limited space, isolated and solitary, alluring, yet infamous. In the present paper, I propose to explore how thumri reflects the tawaif’s own consciousness of her contradictory status as an outcast as well as an artist, indispensable to India’s musical heritage. Through a detailed structural analysis of the genre, I would discuss how the textual world of thumri with its distinctive formal and performative peculiarities supplies the tawaif with a potentially subversive “action repertoire”, enabling the nautch-girl to voice her desperate demand for autonomy.

Cities of Struggle and Resistance: The Image of the Palestinian City in Modern Arabic Poetry

Saddik M.Gohar, UAE University, UAE

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This paper aesthetically articulates the representation of the Palestinian city in modern Arabic poetry in order to argue that while Arab -and non-Arab poets-incorporate  variety of attitudes toward the city ,  the presentation of the Palestinian city reveals a radical difference from the rest of Arabic and non-Arabic poetry  due to the peculiar history of struggle, resistance and victimization characterizing life in the Palestinian metropolis.  To the Palestinian poets, in particular, the city is part of a homeland they have lost or a refugee camp that has been resisting the invaders for decades.  Contrary to western cities  inhabited by alien residents such as Eliot’s Prufrock, or Arab cities populated by strangers, outsiders, whores, outcasts and political prisoners  as in the literary  cities of Badr Shaker Al-Sayyab  and Ahmed Abdul-Muti  Hejazi , the Palestinian city is inhabited by heroes and martyrs.  These heroes who appear in contemporary Palestinian poetry and take different shapes personify the struggle and resistance of a nation that has frequently refused to surrender at times of crisis.  Representing the spirit of the Palestinian people confronting  a world replete with  treachery and hypocrisy,  the Palestinian city and its nameless heroes , in contemporary Arabic  poetry, is an embodiment of  an eternal and unlimited Palestinian dream , the dream of return, rebirth and liberation.  In this context, the paper affirms that unlike Arab cities which are associated with decadence, corruption, exploitation and moral bankruptcy, the Palestinian city,  due to the Palestinian history of exile, resistance, victimization and pain, is viewed in Arabic/Palestinian poetry as a location of heroism,  struggle, defiance and martyrdom.

Rabindrasangeet Today: a Sociological Approach

Saurav Dasthakur, Visva-Bharati, Santiniketan, India

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Through a cursory discussion of the history of production, dissemination and reception of Rabindrasangeet since the early twentieth century till date, this article tries to question the dominant (middle class) notion of traditional wide Bengali “popularity” of Rabindrasangeet and a gradual “decline” in its culture in recent times. In the process it attempts a brief exploration of the complex relationship of Tagore’s music with the tradition of north Indian classical music and local “folk” musical traditions on the one hand and the larger logic of aggressive, Eurocentric, hegemonic and homogenising colonial modernity on the other. The dual role of technological modernity in strengthening as well as weakening the tradition of rendition and reception of Rabindrasangeet in this context makes any simplistic perception of the relationship of music and modernity banal. Tagore’s music, thus, the article argues, constructs a space of “alternative modernity” that has conspicuous affinity with his “non-modern” ideas of education and social development. So far as Rabindrasangeet holds an element of critique of and “protest” against the cultural logic of capitalism, despite its unavoidable participation in the market-dynamics today, it will remain close to the heart of those still on the lookout for a cultural space outside the Hollywood-spawned “culture industry.”

The Essentials of Indianness: Tolerance and Sacrifice in Indian Partition Fiction in English and in English Translation

Basudeb Chakraborti, University of Kalyani


Indian Partition fiction, on the one hand, records man’s bestiality and savagery and on the other, attests to the fact that man is essentially sincere, committed to upholding humanity to survive and sustain itself.  The paper contends to examine the fundamental goodness of some characters, which the Indian tradition underlines. By analyzing certain characters from Chaman Nahal’s Azadi, Khuswant Singh’s Train to Pakistan, Bapsi Sidhwa’s Ice-Candy-Man, Bhisham Sahni’s Tamas, Saadat Hasan Manto’s short stories and two Indian films, Mr. and Mrs. Iyar, directed by Aparna Sen and Meghe Dhaka Tara by Ritwik Ghatak, the writer tries to bring home the truth that frenzy of insanity is not final and amidst the pall of darkness and threats of insanity, there is a ray of hope.