Bob Dylan in the cross-hairs – Sean Wilentz and Christopher Ricks take sides – Part 2
By Stephen Pate – Second in a series. Dylan historian Sean Wilentz and Dylan poetry critic Christopher Ricks squared off at a symposium. It was the historian versus the poetry scholar. What they agreed and disagreed upon makes interesting reading. The first article in the series is Bob Dylan Innovator or Historian.
Bob Dylan – is he religious or just expressing religiosity?
Christopher Ricks – I’m not mystical religious in any respect. It’s one of the things I enjoy and admire in him (Bob Dylan), is that he is.
I can go back to the idea that we have works of art, among other things, in order to show us ways of looking at the world that are not our own.
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There’s been a bad move in that, in the last 20 or 30 years, where more and more art has been valued because it endorses what you believe. The idea that it’s valuable because it introduces you sympathetically to things that you don’t believe, that has taken a second place.
I’m not a Christian. I think his Christian songs are simply wonderful, and if I were ever to become a Christian again, it would be because of “What Can I Do For You”, as it would be because of poems by George Herbert, but that is gone.
The key thing, I think, is that the invention … I don’t think it’s from whole cloth or anything quite, but I think there is a different tone, and the White Knight is wrong to say, “It’s my own invention.”
Lewis Carroll knows that way, madness lies. If you really think things are your own invention, they’re not just that.
Remember, Blake says, “Though they are not mine, I call them mine,” about things he created.
That’s a wonderful, wonderful sense. It’s not my sense of life, but I think it’s really thrilling to think if you’re Blake, and you’re only calling them yours; where do they come from? They’re inspiration. I think we agree.