Shakespeare, Bob Dylan, and The Bardic Tradition

deadline for submissions: 
June 23, 2023
full name / name of organization: 
Mark Bayer and Robert Sawyer
contact email: 

Shakespeare, Bob Dylan, and the Bardic Tradition

Proposed Essay Collection


A Dylan fan once proclaimed that “had Shakespeare never existed. . .then we would never have had Bob Dylan.”  Two enduring cultural icons that have transcended their own time and culture, Shakespeare and Bob Dylan invite numerous lines of comparison and demand critical attention for reasons that go well beyond their artistic works.  Both achieved notoriety by reinventing very public art forms; both began as popular artists whose work has permeated literary and academic discussions; both represent, comment on, and are enlisted in various rebellions, cultural revolutions, and protest movements; both are central to networks of fandom and celebrity culture; both are heralded as cultic and prophetic figures whose writings are often thought to have considerable purchase on the present and future; and perhaps most importantly, both are considered ‘bards’—individuals who purportedly channel both the wisdom of the past and the spirit of their age with remarkable and enduring clarity.   

Dylan’s writings are saturated with complex allusions to Shakespeare that are clearly and self-consciously designed to insert the songwriter and Nobel laureate into a classical literary tradition best exemplified by the playwright.  Placing these two writers in conversation allows for opportunities to reexamine literary topics concerning cultural transmission, longevity, and the anxiety of influence.  

Comparing Dylan and Shakespeare also allows us to consider the broader cultural and political issues that have become so closely associated with both artists, how Dylan’s allusions to and appropriations of Shakespeare show the changing relationships between literature and political questions concerning performance, race, gender, and class as both figures have become indispensable to current conversations surrounding social justice.  Our seminar seeks to explore the complex and intertwined legacy of these two figures renowned not just for their artistic achievements, but for their iconicity and the unique transferability of their immense cultural capital.  It also offers an opportunity to reconsider both figures as secular prophets, and how this moniker has shaped their legacies—for better and for worse.  

We invite abstracts on any point of intersection between Shakespeare, Bob Dylan, and the Bardic tradition they represent—especially ones that examine issues of race, social justice, iconicity, and the artist as a public and political figure.  


Please send abstracts of approximately 500 words by June 23, 2023.  


If selected, complete papers of approximately 7,000 will be due on December 31, 2023


Please send proposals or questions to Mark Bayer ( and Robert Sawyer (