Alfred University News

English Professor Rob Reginio brings love of Dylan to his scholarship and classroom

When it comes to the international community of Bob Dylan scholars, Alfred University English Professor Rob Reginio is finding himself in good company.

Reginio, who currently teaches the English class “Bob Dylan and American History and Memory,” is one of three international Dylan scholars whose work has been gathered in the new issue of Aktualitet: Litteratur, Kultur of Medier, an international journal of literature, culture and media, published by the University of Southern Denmark.

His essay, “Oh Help Me in My Weakness: Entreaties and the Dissolution of Communal Time in John Wesley Harding,” joins essays by Dylan scholars Nina Goss and Anne-Marie Mai – “two of the most provocative, engaging Dylan scholars in the world,” Reginio says.

Reginio plans to add another brick soon to the edifice of Dylan scholarship, when he completes his book, Outside the Law: The Poetics of John Wesley Harding. Reginio says he finds Dylan’s John Wesley Harding album so compelling because it seems to have sprung from Dylan’s consciousness with little to no preparatory collaboration with other musicians. Reginio notes the 1967 John Wesley Harding was recorded in only three sessions during the period when Dylan was living in Woodstock, NY in the aftermath of a serious motorcycle accident.

While Reginio works on his Dylan scholarship, his students encounter a musician older than most of their grandparents, but whose music nevertheless reaches out and takes hold. For many students, the 82-year-old Dylan is a fresh voice on their musical landscapes.

Deni Heath, a fourth-year student from Brooklyn, NY, says she had never heard of Dylan before she began studying with Reginio. Now she describes Dylan as “a pretty fun dude,” and she admires Dylan’s independent, no-compromise personality.

“I gravitate more towards rock and roll,” she says. “But Dylan has an attitude: I’m not going to take any BS from anyone. I just found him such an interesting person. I wonder how a person like that wakes up and says, ‘I’m gonna do this now.’ He’s kind of an inspiration."

Like Health, fourth-year student Monica Nowik says she had never encountered a Dylan song before taking Reginio’s class. “Heard about him, never listened to him,” she says. “Now I’m always happy to sit and talk about Bob Dylan.”

She also has tickets to watch Dylan in concert later this month. Her favorite Dylan song? “Maybe ‘Like a Rolling Stone.’ I mean, ‘How do you feel?’ It’s a question you feel called upon to answer, but you can’t just do that. Not easily.”

Reginio himself says teaching Dylan with this group of Alfred University students is especially rewarding because of the students' fresh perspectives on the music and lyrics. “Their insights are brilliant, and I get to see Dylan’s songs in new lights. It’s so hard to talk about this music, because it hits you in a visceral way, but these students are succeeding. They’re finding ways of putting their fresh experience of Dylan into words, and that makes being in their company, in a classroom, really rewarding.”