The TU Institute for Bob Dylan Studies hosted its first event on October 2nd at The University of Tulsa with a talk by popular music scholar Kevin Dettmar. In addition to his public lecture, Dettmar came to Tulsa as a consultant for the Institute, lending his expertise in the field of rock music. Dettmar’s mission was to help the Institute, as well as scholars, teachers, and members of the larger community begin thinking about how to take rock music more seriously (but not too seriously, of course!).
Dettmar is a leading rock scholar, author of Is Rock Dead?, editor of The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan, co-editor of Reading Rock & Roll: Authenticity, Appropriation, Aesthetics and Shake It Up: Great American Writing on Rock and Pop from Elvis to Jay Z, as well as an editor and contributing writer for the 33 1/3 series. He also holds the position of W. M. Keck Professor of English at Pomona College in California (where he is a colleague to fellow 33 1/3 writer and co-editor Jonathan Lethem).
His campus talk addressed a distinctive new branch of American letters that was beginning to bear fruit in the 1960’s: smart, sometimes funny, sometimes trenchant writing about rock & pop. Lillian Roxon and Jane Scott were at the forefront of this movement. Roxon was one of the first journalists to write extensively about the hippie movement in San Francisco and went on to write the cult classic Lillian Roxon’s Rock Encyclopedia. Scott was an influential rock critic for The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, Ohio and throughout her career she covered every major rock concert in Cleveland and was on a first-name basis with many stars. Though they never became household names, Lillian Roxon and Jane Scott taught Americans how to write about, and how to listen to, rock.
Dettmar’s talk served as a guidepost to the future of rock writing and scholarship, helping us to better understand how to recover lost voices, talk about rock in new and exciting ways, and think more deeply about American culture. This is exactly the kind of work the TU Institute for Bob Dylan Studies hopes to foster and support. For more information about the Institute and its activities, please contact us.