What We Are Reading Today; Bob Dylan: How the Songs Work by Timothy Hampton

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Updated 10 September 2020

What We Are Reading Today; Bob Dylan: How the Songs Work by Timothy Hampton

Bob Dylan’s reception of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature has elevated him beyond the world of popular music, establishing him as a major modern artist. However, until now, no study of his career has focused on the details and nuances of the songs, showing how they work as artistic statements designed to create meaning and elicit emotion. 

Bob Dylan: How the Songs Work (originally published as Bob Dylan’s Poetics) is the first comprehensive book on both the poetics and politics of Dylan’s compositions. It studies Dylan, not as a pop hero, but as an artist, as a maker of songs. Focusing on the interplay of music and lyric, it traces Dylan’s innovative use of musical form, his complex manipulation of poetic diction, and his dialogues with other artists, from Woody Guthrie to Arthur Rimbaud. 

Moving from Dylan’s earliest experiments with the blues, through his mastery of rock and country, up to his densely allusive recent recordings, Timothy Hampton offers a detailed account of Dylan’s achievement. 

Locating Dylan in the long history of artistic modernism, the book studies the relationship between form, genre, and the political and social themes that crisscross Dylan’s work. Bob Dylan: How the Songs Work offers both a nuanced engagement with the work of a major artist and a meditation on the contribution of song at times of political and social change.


What We Are Reading Today: The Riddle of the Rosetta

Updated 18 September 2020

What We Are Reading Today: The Riddle of the Rosetta

Authors: Jed Z. Buchwald and Diane Greco Josefowicz

 

In 1799, a French Army officer was rebuilding the defenses of a fort on the banks of the Nile when he discovered an ancient stele fragment bearing a decree inscribed in three different scripts. So begins one of the most familiar tales in Egyptology — that of the Rosetta Stone and the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs. 

This book draws on fresh archival evidence to provide a major new account of how the English polymath Thomas Young and the French philologist Jean-François Champollion vied to be the first to solve the riddle of the Rosetta.

Jed Buchwald and Diane Greco Josefowicz bring to life a bygone age of intellectual adventure. Much more than a decoding exercise centered on a single artifact, the race to decipher the Rosetta Stone reflected broader disputes about language, historical evidence, biblical truth, and the value of classical learning. Buchwald and Josefowicz paint compelling portraits of Young and Champollion, two gifted intellects with altogether different motivations. Young disdained Egyptian culture and saw Egyptian writing as a means to greater knowledge about Greco-Roman antiquity. Champollion, swept up in the political chaos of Restoration France and fiercely opposed to the scholars aligned with throne and altar, admired ancient Egypt and was prepared to upend conventional wisdom to solve the mystery of the hieroglyphs.

Taking readers from the hushed lecture rooms of the Institut de France to the windswept monuments of the Valley of the Kings, The Riddle of the Rosetta reveals the untold story behind one of the nineteenth century’s most thrilling discoveries.