Looking Back on Four Decades of Teaching Dylan

In Lou Renza’s course, students considered the musician’s lyrics to be modern poetry.

Read the full story by Karen Endicott, published in the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine.

Surprised that Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature? Professor emeritus of English—and self-identified “Dylanologist”—Lou Renza has explored the songwriter’s literary merits in his courses at Dartmouth for 40 years.

“Dylan has composed a body of work that can sustain critical attention like any other modern poet,” says Renza. “He poses provocative themes that require probing.”

Take a look back in the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine archive as Renza talks about Dylan and his class, “English 73: Lyrics of Bob Dylan,” in a story from the magazine’s January/February 2001 issue.

“What I like about teaching Dylan to undergraduates is that the songs have meaning to their stage of life. To question life and death—that’s why I came to literature. Students haven’t professionalized themselves yet. They’re still forming their visions. Dylan questions life, too. He keeps questioning what he’s doing. That’s as legitimate as anything Emerson or any other writer in American literature has done,” Renza says.