Bob Dylan And Roland Barthes

By Larry Fyffe

Friedrich Nietzsche expounds that we have killed God, He being found wanting as the author of all creation.

Rowland Barthes posits that modernists like Ezra Pound and TS Eliot, and subsequent poets, have killed off the writer (killed off William Blake, for example) as the creator of a piece of art.

Words have many meanings of their own over which creative authors have little control: “the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author” (Barthes).

French Symbolists, akin the Edgar Allan Poe, focus on the sounds of intertwined words; any meaning or message within the lyrics of a poem is left for its readers or listeners to dig up.

Seems they’re all struggling on dry land in the unconscious waves of a Jungian sea:

Here I was wandering, with my eyes 
Riveted to ancient cobble stones
When with sunshine in your hair, in the street
And in the night, you appeared to me, laughing
And I thought I saw the fairy with a hat of clarity
(Stephane Mallarme: Apparition ~ translated)

Could be said, an imaginative concept that’s not lost, but surfaces rather negatively in the sound of the song lyrics quoted beneath:

Sweat falling down, I'm staring at the floor
I'm thinking about that gal who won't be back no more
(Bob Dylan: 'Til I Fell In Love With You)

However, all in all, the tables are turned, upset on Roland.

Announced below is that the death of the author and his sentiment (“the light is never dying”) is greatly exaggerated; the over-optimism of Romantic God-pervading Transcendentalists, even of the mythological Elysian Field, not dead.

A Hamlet archetype he be; the author is a-gonna, at least figuratively, avenge his traditionalist father’s death; regrets leaving his true love hehind.

The author is revived:

I'm learning, still yearning
Thinking about that gal I left behind ....
As I walked out in the mystic garden
On a hot summer day, on a hot summer lawn
Excuse me ma'am, I beg your pardon
The gardener is gone
Ain't talking, just a-walking
Up the road around the bend
Heart burning, still yearning
In the last outback of the world
At the water's edge
(Bob Dylan: Ain't Talking)


  1. LaVette sings “Ain’t nobody here but me” strengthening the idea in the song that the author thereof is not dead more than Dylan does.

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