SANFORD - What do Harvard University and Central Carolina Community College have in common?
When the singer/songwriter Bob Dylan recently was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, instructors at both Harvard and CCCC are teaching courses about the body of his work.
According to The New York Times, Harvard classics professor Richard F. Thomas is teaching his freshman seminar for the fourth time "... to put the artist in context of not just popular culture of the last half-century, but the tradition of classical poets like Virgil and Homer."
Nearer home in Pittsboro, CCCC Creative Writing instructor Ralph Earle is doing exactly the same thing, exposing his students to Dylan's genius, offering even on Dylan's lesser known albums, gems like: "You can always come back, but you can't come back all the way" or "seemed like a long time ago, long before all the stars were torn down."
Dr. Earle's Continuing Education students at CCCC are re-living an intimate relationship many students have enjoyed for decades with Dylan's songs and his bardic voice, reaching back beyond Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly, even beyond Walt Whitman and Arthur Rimbaud, all the way back to our original bards, Virgil and Homer.
One student in the course, Nancy Bolish, poet and life-long devotee of Dylan's work, says, "It is fun to share him in a community who share a passion for him." Mary Barnard, another published poet who has earned the program's Creative Writing Certificate, says, "We are hearing about the sometimes little-known stories behind Dylan's songs, also the ambiguity in his lyrics."
Bonnie Korta, another published poet and holder of the Certificate, admires his "grittily real love songs," often about the down side of love, as in "It Ain't Me, Babe" and "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright." Judith Stanton, who teaches fiction and takes poetry courses in CCCC's Creative Writing curriculum, says, "I'm coming away with a renewed sense of the scope of Dylan's genius -- from folk singer to rapper to poet to bard."
Dr. Earle says. "I wanted to share the many ways Dylan has fused poetic technique with popular song. Any aspiring or practicing poet can learn from Dylan. The best part for me, as the instructor, is the opportunity to enjoy the songs together and talk about what they meant, and still mean, to us." Earle wholeheartedly endorses Dylan's own assessment of his work: "Popular songs are the only art form that describes the temper of the times. ... That's where people hang at."
"Bob Dylan as a Poet" is just one example of the courses offered at CCCC's Chatham Main Campus in the Continuing Education Creative Writing Program.
For future offerings in the CCCC Creative Writing Program, visit www.cccc.edu/creativewriting.
For more information on Central Carolina Community College, visit the website www.cccc.edu.