1791 POETRY, PERFORMANCE, PILGRIMAGE: LEONARD COHEN AND BOB DYLAN
Associate Professor Lesley Marx, Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town
Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan tower over most (Western) singer/songwriters and have created very partisan followers. Inevitably, heated debates followed Dylan’s Nobel Prize for literature. Should the award not have gone to Cohen? The question gained immeasurably in poignancy when the brilliant troubadour died, especially given that, even in failing health, he produced one of his most stunning albums, You Want It Darker. These two lectures are not concerned with value judgements, but to explore what Cohen and Dylan share, notably the wide range of literary, musical and cultural reference in their lyrics and their extraordinary capacity for marrying the sacred with the profane, invoking the ceremonies of eroticism and spirituality. Despite these similarities, there are significant differences in their approach to common themes of death, desire and the divine that emerge not only in their lyrics but in their performance styles and the personas that they adopt. In order to manage the vast amount of material available, the lectures will focus in detail on selected songs and the ways in which they have been interpreted.
1. ‘Who by fire?’: Leonard Cohen (Saturday 5 August, 10.00 am–12.00 pm)
2. ‘Blood on the tracks’: Bob Dylan (Saturday 12 August, 10.00 am–12.00 pm)