will meet at The Institute of Fine Arts One East 78th Street

Friday, October 12, 2012 @ 6:30 PM

Thomas Palaima
will speak on

"Gold into silver? 65 years of Mycenaean Palaeography"


Senior Fellows Honors Program School of Communications  BMC 5.208  TUESDAY NOVEMBER 13 12:30-1-45

“Second Last Thoughts on Bob Dylan’s ‘Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie'”

A talk by Tom Palaima, professor of Classics, University of Texas at Austin

On Jan. 29, 1961, Bob Dylan, 19 years old, took a bus to Morris Plains, New Jersey, where he met for the first time his idol and inspiration Woody Guthrie, 48 years of age, who, almost five years before, in May, 1956, had been ‘involuntarily checked into’ Greystone Park Hospital with advanced Huntington’s Chorea.

On Feb. 14, 1961, Dylan wrote “Song for Woody” (SFW). Two years later, on April 12, 1963, at New York’s Town Hall, before 900 people, Dylan recited a poem of five pages, “Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie” ((LTOWG). Guthrie would live four and a half more years after Dylan had his “last thoughts.”

In this talk, professor Palaima will examine these two tributes, considering the following questions: What would Woody Guthrie’s condition have been when Dylan met him?  What impact might Dylan’s finding out at this time about the range of Guthrie’s genius have had on Dylan? What might Guthrie’s end condition have taught Dylan about what is important in life with regard to fame, music, personal choices, creativity, society and the human heart and soul? And how might this have affected, in large or small ways, where Dylan was heading with his life and his music?

Tom Palaima is Robert M. Armstrong Centennial Professor of Classics and has written commentaries, reviews and articles about musical figures like Pinetop Perkins, Jimmy LaFave, Woody Guthrie, Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan. He teaches and writes about war song and music as social commentary.

See, for example:  http://www.texasobserver.org/archives/item/15265-2665-alive-and-singing-the-truth  and



Contact: Dave Junker, junker@austin.utexas.edu, 512-773-0673

See for other senior fellows talks: http://communication.utexas.edu/senior-fellows/public-events-and-lectures-2012-13

Songs of Hard Travelers from Homer to Bob Dylan (and Dionysis Savvopoulos)

T. Palaima, “Songs of the ‘Hard Traveler’ from Odysseus to the Never-Ending Tourist,” Modern Greek Studies Yearbook 26/27 (2010/11) 189-206.

This article studies themes connected with traveling and existing away from home from the Iliad and Odyssey of Homer through the modern folk song tradition as performed and transformed by Bob Dylan, including songs by the Stanley Brothers, Charley Patton, Skip James, Muddy Waters, Stephen F. Foster, Martin Carthy and Dionysis Savvopoulos.

Access article here:
Songs of the ‘Hard Traveler’ from Odysseus to the Never-Ending Tourist

Palaima: Facing life’s end on the obituary pages

Find this article at:

Palaima: Facing life’s end on the obituary pages

Austin American-Statesman Thursday, January 5, 2012

‘I been meek
And hard like an oak
I seen pretty people disappear like smoke
Friends will arrive, friends will disappear.’

-Bob Dylan, ‘Buckets of Rain’

‘I see dead people. All the time. They’re everywhere.’

-Cole Sear, ‘The Sixth Sense’

In what we hope will be for us all a happy new year, more than 2 million Americans will die. The older we get, the more the odds turn against us of making it through another year. If we think about it, that’s the way we want the odds to work, even if we are beyond what used to be the standard retirement age of 55.

Human beings, since well before Herodotus reported the fateful death of the son of the Lydian king Croesus in early manhood, view the deaths of those who have not yet lived life fully as a tragic inversion of the natural order. But the deaths of those we know and love affect us deeply, no matter how old they are when they die.

We also feel the loss of public figures in many different arenas of our human experience. In 2011, we lamented the passing of actor Harry Morgan (96), movie star Elizabeth Taylor (79), literary critic and political commentator Christopher Hitchens (62), boxer “Smokin’_” Joe Frazier (67), television journalist Andy Rooney (92), computer visionary Steve Jobs (56), assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian (83), and blues musicians David “Honeyboy” Edwards (96) and Joe Willie “Pinetop” Perkins (97). We may have noted wryly that living the blues can, if one is lucky, lead to a ripe old age. Even the deaths of infamous bogeymen like Osama bin Laden (54), Moammar Gadhafi (69) and Kim Jong Il (69) get us to reflect on the nature of our times here on Earth.

As we get older, we experience at a predictably increasing rate the loss of human beings who have intersected with our own lives enough to make us stop and take notice.

In 2011, my 60th year, I helped write memorial notices in January for my closest male friend in Austin and in December for a good friend from graduate school days whom I visited in October and my graduate school mentor and a kind of second father for 38 years, Emmett L. Bennett Jr. Emmett’s life achievements merited a half-page obituary in The New York Times on Jan. 1, 2012. These people were inextricably bound to my own life. Now they have disappeared. Yet they are still here as ghosts. They still affect me. They have magical powers to bring to life the person I was when I knew them.

If the deaths of young people are heart-breaking because of our need to have had a longer time with them, the loss of older friends makes us see who we were at different points in our lives and how we have come to be who we are now. Have you ever wondered where your life has gone while you have been living it?

I asked my friend Margalit Fox, an obituary writer since 2004 for The New York Times, how she deals with the daily task of making sense of death. She explained that it was something that had worried her when she took the position. But after seven years she sees professional obituary writing as crafting stories about how the recently deceased got from point A to point B in their lives and accomplished things worth the telling. She believes there is no better medium than the obituary for talking about what it means to be alive.

As Marilyn Johnson writes in her best seller about obituaries, The Dead Beat, “Obituaries are history as it is happening. Was he a success or a failure, lucky or doomed, older than I am or younger? Did she know how to live? I shake out the pages. Tell me the secret of a good life!”

That is what it comes down to: the secret of a good life. Obituaries are like prompts for essay questions about those who have died. Did she or he lead a “good life”? Why? Why not?

And the ghosts of the departed make sure we ask the same questions again and again about our own lives before we, too, become ghosts.

Not a bad New Year’s resolution for us all.

Palaima is professor of classics at the University of Texas at Austin: tpalaima@sbcglobal.net.

REPLY by classicist James Tatum

Letters Austin American-Statesman on-line January 9 print January 10, 2012

http://www.statesman.com/opinion/details-of-major-issues-teens-shooting-death-coal-2091780.html go to page 2

Memory of the dead

Re: Jan. 5 Tom Palaima commentary, “Facing life’s end on the obituary pages.”

I like Tom Palaima’s columns and his latest one especially. It made me remember a little epitaph that my grandmother Laura Frankie Harvey was fond of repeating to me. She was born in Paris, Texas, in December 1888, conceived, evidently, during the famous Blizzard of ’88, when it was said you could walk on the frozen bodies of cattle from Fort Worth to Kansas City.

Remember man that passeth by
As thou art now so once was I
As I am now so thou must be
Prepare thyself to follow me.

To which some wag appended,

To follow thee’s not my intent
Unless I know which way thee went.

Jim Tatum
Norwich, Vt.

March 17, 2011

University of Missouri St. Louis
Center for International Studies


ORGANIZED BY Prof. Michael Cosmopoulos,
with the assistance of Terry Marshall, Richard Thomas and Tom Palaima

For those of you who are Bob Dylan fans and are in the major St. Louis area, please consider joining us for the following conference:

“Bob Dylan at 70: Immigrants, Wanderers, Exiles, and Hard Travelers in the poetry, music, and culture of Ancient Greece and Modern America”

Saturday, March 19, 10 am-5 pm, Century Room A, MSC.

Free and Open to the Public. Lunch provided.

For the full program please visit www.umsl.edu/~cosmopoulosm/Dylanprogram.pdf

There is a newsroom item on it at:

Bob Dylan at 70

Michael Cosmopoulos, UM-St. Louis
Welcoming Remarks

Barry Powell, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Freewheelin With Bob Dylan

Richard Thomas, Harvard University
Must be the Jack of Hearts in the Great North Woods




13:30-14:15 PM
John Foley, University of Missouri (Columbia)
In Search of Penelope: Dylan as Wanderer

14:15-15:00 PM
Thomas G. Palaima, University of Texas-Austin
Songs of the ‘Hard Traveler’ from Odysseus to the Never-Ending Tourist


15:30-16:15 PM
Stephen Scobie, University of Victoria
‘And Forget My Name’ – A Reading And Commentary

Videos of Bob Dylan performing — Discussion

Songs of the ‘Hard Traveler’ from Odysseus to the Never-Ending Tourist

The traveler is a familiar figure in ancient Greek song and in the 20th-century American popular and folk song tradition. For emigrant and immigrant nations like Greece and the United States, songs about hard lives away from home and home communities are fundamental as ways of learning modes of behavior and expressing shared feelings about common experiences. These songs may express the thrill of adventure, the loneliness and sorrow of an unsettled and essentially friendless life,, the dangers of travel, longing for security, and the joy of finally reaching a permanent destination and setting down roots again. All of these, of course, are found in Homer’s “Odyssey,” the supreme distillation of ancient Greek, traveling-man songs. We will here examine Dylan’s own songs and his performance repertory in order to trace these same themes.


Added Palaima editorials:
“Closing doors to the future”
“Budget woes and our misguided priorities”
“No more excuses for UT’s excesses”
“Key to the present lies in the past”
“Let’s make this our 9-28”
“U.S. gun laws allow normal day at UT to take a scary turn”
“Game over: Helping teens deal with violence”
“Redirect UT’s resources”
“Obama’s rah-rah speech ignored sobering reality”
“Wake-up call on homelessness”

Added Palaima reviews:
A New History of the Peloponnesian War

African American Writers and Classical Tradition

May 16, 2010

Bob Dylan – Our Homer
Recording Date 2010-05-05


This is a studio version of the lecture and the music for the Poetry on the Plaza presentation that I gave on March 1, 2006 at the Humanities Research Center (HRC = Harry Ransom Center, too). It had the title “Bob Dylan: Our Homer”.

I discussed and illustrated in recordings, as I repeat here with clear audio, the art of Bob Dylan as an oral poet and songster.

This covers his career from the very early 1960’s until 2006.

Dylan and his music are parts of a rich tradition going back to Homer and in the modern period reaching back to the 17th century in folk ballads.

Here I selectively play and discuss mainly live concert recordings and the recordings of singers (Martin Carthy, Charlie Patton, the Stanley Brothers, all the way to Warren Zevon) who inspired Dylan’s own songs or were singled out by Dylan himself in his concerts as special.

I hope you enjoy these masterworks and my commentary on them.

On December 1, 2010, I will give a second Poetry on the Plaza on Bob Dylan.

The topic will be “Harmonica Bob: The Ineffable Poetry of Bob Dylan.”

In it, I will discuss Dylan’s use of harmonica (an instrument that is very important in folk and blues traditions) in order to express meanings and feelings that cannot be said or to emphasize or create a tone for what has been said in sung words.


Dylan Song Poems 1963 through 2009
Recording Date 2010-05-14

Bob Dylan has been ‘accused’ of abandoning concerns about the ills and problems of society when he made the shift around 1965 from the traditional folk music scene to writing and performing his own at times deeply personal music.

There is also a controversy over whether Dylan’s lyrics can stand alone on their own as poetry.

Here I read the lyrics of selected Dylan songs from 1963 right up to the present. I provide minimal commentary aimed a contextualizing more than advancing any arguments.

These song poems include: “Ballad of Hollis Brown,” “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine,” “Señor,” “Blind Willie McTell,” “Foot of Pride,” “What Was It You Wanted,” “Love Henry,” “Not Dark Yet,” “Mississippi,” “Ain’t Talkin’,” and “Forgetful Heart.”

All of them reflect Dylan’s continuing and keen interest in the human condition, the human spirit and the human heart.


My thanks to Michael Heidenreich and the UT Austin College of Liberal Arts Instructional Technology Services for producing these audio files in connection with my honors seminars on war and violence and on the history of song as social commentary.