I am America singing : Bob Dylan's identity unified through linguistic performance.

Date of Award


Document Type



Caspersen School of Graduate Studies

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Focus on his biography and his performance in the media has long been the basis of interpretation of Bob Dylan's identity. This has resulted in the accepted critical theory of Dylan's identity as mercurial and lacking a central ipseity. However, as Michael Strachan argues, rock biography is an unstable genre because it treats its subjects as mysteries that require solving, placing the biographer as the protagonist who can decode the riddle. This is compounded by rock and roll journalism's function in maintaining the standard in the canon of rock and roll. For this reason, these are inadequate media through which to analyze contemporary subjectivity or identity, especially one that has been historically treated as complex like Bob Dylan's has. In I Am America Singing, I argue that, because of his distrust of the media, Dylan's performance is a deliberate ruse of word games, shifts, and inconsistencies, and that the examination of the basic speech patterns the personae use provides a clearer understanding of his identity. It is through this focus that the shifts in voices and personae point to an identity unified through linguistic patterns common to American speech.