Like a researched tome: Musician Chris LeDrew to present paper at Bob Dylan conference

Chris LeDrew is preparing to present an academic paper at the World of Bob Dylan conference from May 30 to June 2 in Tulsa, Okla.

LeDrew will be a presenter at an international Dylan symposium in Tulsa

Chris LeDrew is a musician who has an academic interest in the work of Bob Dylan. (Courtesy Chris LeDrew)

"I've got a lot of work to do," says musician and English literature scholar Chris LeDrew.

"They've got pretty much every Dylan scholar in the world coming to this thing."

LeDrew is preparing for the first ever World of Bob Dylan conference from May 30 to June 2 at the University of Tulsa's Institute for Bob Dylan Studies.

An increasing number of academics are studying the work of Bob Dylan. (Sony Music)

Musician and academic

LeDrew is probably best known known locally as a singer/songwriter and as a photographer.

However, he also holds a BA and an MA in English from Memorial University, and works as a technical writing instructor at Memorial's Marine Institute.

A longtime fan of the songs and music of Bob Dylan, LeDrew recently saw an online call for papers for the conference.

Remembering the 40-page paper he wrote for his undergraduate honours degree about a decade ago, he sent an abstract of it to the conference's organizer.  

A couple of weeks later, LeDrew received an invitation to present his paper at the conference and participate in a couple of panels.

Dylan and the Bible

Ledrew's paper is called "Scriptural Symbolism: The Presence of the Bible in Blonde on Blonde."

He said he was interested in academically delving into Dylan's sixth studio album because on the surface, he detected relatively few religious references in the work.

"This album is almost suspiciously secular,"  said LeDrew.

"I know for a fact that in his [Dylan's] house in Woodstock, he had a King James Bible on a pedestal and he would refer to it daily as he wrote."

Hear Chris LeDrew dig into Biblical references in Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde

Singer/songwriter Chris LeDrew is presenting a paper at an academic conference on Bob Dylan, Two CBCers have just returned from Come From Away's London West End Premiere, and we'll learn about the very old, very small, Mosquito School House. 36:00

Skeptics

LeDrew said back in the day, his proposal for the paper raised a few eyebrows at Memorial's English department.

"I went to a couple of professors who thought it was a preposterous idea to spend that much time talking about Dylan," said LeDrew.   

"And then I went to [Memorial University English professor] Don Nichols' office and he said 'Come in Chris, let's talk!'"

LeDrew said Nichols, and Michael Shute, a professor at Memorial's Department of Religious Studies, wound up supervising his honours thesis.  

"He [Shute] is pretty much a Dylanologist," said LeDrew.

Dylanology

LeDrew is far from alone in his academic interest in Bob Dylan. An increasingly large number of scholars are studying Dylan`s life and work.

"We tend to think that Keats and Shelley and Yeats and all of the greats were superior somehow," said LeDrew.  

"And that's just not true."

"I do consider Dylan to be literature." 

I do consider Dylan to be literature.- Chris LeDrew

So does the Swedish Academy, which awarded Bob Dylan the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2016.  

Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize acceptance lecture has been published as a book. (Fred Tanneau/AFP/Getty Images/Simon & Schuster)

Updates and extra research

LeDrew is busy updating his paper to include new research and findings on his topic.

However, on this trip, he plans to leave his guitar at home.

"My primary role is to go down as a member of the faculty of the Marine Institute, to present my paper and to explore other elements of the conference," said LeDrew.  

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Heather Barrett

CBC

Heather Barrett is the host and producer of Weekend AM on CBC Radio One in Newfoundland and Labrador.