Borders and lines

seeing and imagining in Dylan


  • Robert McColl University of Ruhr



antitheses, borders, couplets, Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg, imagery, nation, orality


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.

Author Biography

Robert McColl, University of Ruhr

Dr Robert McColl received his PhD from the University of Liverpool in 2006, following a thesis on the historical romance in Byron and Scott. From 2008 to 2010, he was Assistant Professor of English Literature at Alfaisal University, Saudi Arabia. He is currently based in Ruhr University, Bochum, Germany, where he teaches a variety of courses while continuing to research Byron and Scott, with an eye to continuities between Augustan and Romantic poetry and fiction. He has further research interests in Bob Dylan, folk and blues, and is the author of an inexorable comic romance.


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How to Cite

McColl, R. (2014). Borders and lines: seeing and imagining in Dylan. Popular Music History, 8(2), 126–140.