A Place That You Can Call Home

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Abstract:

The songwriter most closely connected with the lack of a “direction home” may best be understood by investigating what he means by “home.” In recent years, concepts of home and exile have come to the forefront of literary critical thought, as ecocritics and postcolonial critics seek to theorize space. To understand the psychological dimension of these theories, I look to Freud's oedipal struggle, amplified by Lacan and Kristeva. Kristeva names the place of preoedipal connection the chora. Often associated with the paradisal garden, in Dylan's work that place of womb-like safety is absent, and has been replaced by an emergence of something akin to Longfellow's forest primeval, a symbol that resonates more strongly with the American continent. This study begins by examining 1965's “Like a Rolling Stone” in which homelessness deprives one of the markers of identity—a state both terrifying and liberating. It continues with Frankie Lee's downfall two years later, precipitated by mistaking “paradise” for the “home down the road.” Whether it is a house or a home, or a brothel, the desire for stasis or shelter is a temptation to be fought. The gift of “Shelter from the Storm” is proffered but not actually received in 1975 and the desire comes to its climax in 1978's “We Better Talk this Over” where the narrator is “exiled,” though, for the song's addressee, there is still “a place that you can call home.” That place starts to come into focus in the dream-like experience of “Highlands,” in 1997, where the narrator wanders through the bizarre worlds of Boston and old age. The pull of the north and of a liminal border country remain mental constructs, and nine years later, the narrator is still “just walkin',” continuing the seemingly ceaseless movement through “this weary world of woe,” existing in a state of pure bodily action that counters the linguistic demands of originality. The chora remains compelling and repulsive—the source of impulse for both motion and song,

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/03007760802700761

Publication date: May 1, 2009

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