Tradition and the individual talents : Dylan, Eliot, and DeLillo
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Drawing from a variety of multimedia and archival materials, my dissertation involves a three-figure examination of Bob Dylan, T.S. Eliot, and Don DeLillo. These three figures are linked, (as some other critics have noted) through scattered intertextual allusions. But I argue that a more telling correlation exists in the manner in which all three managed to rise to the apex of their respective fields. I examine this phenomenon and in so doing, my project seeks out a composite theoretical model, better suited to explain the multiform artistry of Dylan and to account for the related transformative cultural navigation of Eliot and DeLillo at key points their careers. My dissertation sheds light on these authors drawing on Bourdieu’s model of “the field of cultural production” and Bolter and Grusin’s concept of “remediation:” how print, photography film, and other media appropriate, influence, and reconstitute each other. I reconfigure their concept to focus on individual agency and situate these three as consummate remediators of their own and each other’s work, their individual legacies, and ultimately the very “field of cultural production” itself. This reading recasts our understanding of each author: I position Dylan as a major contemporary literary figure; Eliot as a consummate public performer and recording artist; and DeLillo as a visionary cultural remixer. This analysis provides fresh perspectives on the idea of authorship, canonicity and textuality, as it suggests that a vigorous literary analysis requires us to move beyond a specific medium associated with an author toward a dynamic field of multimodal intertextuality. Literary research and pedagogy in the media-saturated 21st century classroom demand a canon unbound. Such a canon, I argue, should include figures like Dylan, as it should also provoke a fuller, more vital engagement with “the literary tradition” within which we place figures like Eliot and DeLillo. My work, situated at the crossroads between American literature, cultural studies, and the emerging field of the digital humanities, thus produces a more nuanced understanding of the authors in question, the canonical heritage to which they contribute, and the scholarly methods by which we appraise and teach their works.