Brian Glaser is an assistant professor of English at Chapman University in Orange, California. His critical work focuses on environmental culture and American lyric poetry, often from a perspective informed by contemporary psychoanalytic theory. He has published in the European Journal of American Studies, Journal of Modern Literature, College Literature and other journals. He has also worked as a dramaturg for The Wooden Floor. Email:
Helen Vendler, the most influential critic of the American lyric, articulates in a 1995 book a distinction between fiction and poetry which emphasizes the freedom of the latter: “The lyric is the gesture of immortality and freedom; the novel is the gesture of the historical and of the spatial” (5). This freedom has both positive and negative dimensions, in that it is both a freedom to express certain moments of heightened experience and a freedom from a variety of more or less narrow self-understandings. The greater share of lyric freedom according to Vendler should be understood as freedom from conventional markers of identity and individuality: “The virtues of lyric . . . are all summoned to give a voice to the ‘soul’—the self when it is alone with itself, when its socially constructed characteristics (race, class, color, gender, sexuality) are felt to be in abeyance” (7). This conception of lyric freedom as an escape from apparent contingencies gained through isolation has a long history, with one point of origin identifiable in John Stuart Mill’s claim that poetry “is feeling confessing itself to itself, in moments of solitude” (348).
The paradigm for lyric freedom that Vendler articulates, which has been bolstered to a significant extent by New Critical tenets, has in recent years come under withering scrutiny. A recent collection of brief essays in PMLA contains a number of strongly argued pieces which seek either more thoroughly to contextualize the kind of freedom that Vendler attributes to the form or to do away with the assumption of it altogether. As Rei Terada argues in “After the Critique of Lyric:”
The longer story of postwar lyric studies in the United States is the story of coming to understand that lyricism’s specialness and its emptiness are the same. It seems special to the extent that no particular condition attends its effects of specialness, although each enigmatic case can be explained in dense historical terms. (197)
Terada’s conclusion is pragmatic but radical. In focusing on where lyric poems should appear in undergraduate curricula, she says, “Let’s let ‘lyric’ dissolve into literature and ‘literature’ into culture, using a minimalist definition of ‘culture’ from which no production or everyday experience can be excluded” (199). The freedom from transposition into socially constructed, reductively defining categories of identity assigned to the lyric speaker by virtue of the assumption that his or her utterance is autotelic is to be abandoned, and instead readers of the lyric should look at its continuities with other forms of culture and its participation in “everyday experience.”
Virginia Jackson’s 2005 study of Emily Dickinson, Dickinson’s Misery, is already considered by many—including a majority of the contributors to the PMLA collection on the lyric—to be the most significant work to resituate what is generally understood as the lyric in this way. Jackson claims that Dickinson may not have written lyric poems at all, since she
strenuously resists substituting the alienated lyric image of the human—the very image modern reading of the lyric has created—for the exchange between historical persons between whom the barriers of space and time had not fallen (117).
By focusing on the ways in which Dickinson wrote to particular readers, and with an appreciable and sometimes materialized interest in their responses to her writing, Jackson challenges the assumption that Dickinson’s work is best read “as discourse immediately and intimately addressed to the reader precisely because it is not addressed to anyone at all” (51). The larger ambition of Jackson’s book is to challenge the dominance of the model of lyric as silent speech overheard, addressed to all readers across the barriers of space and time, a conception that has lead to Dickinson’s being misread for so long.
Vendler’s conception of lyric freedom is in my opinion an important one to continue to articulate, if for no other reason than because the lyric is uniquely well suited to the kind of minimalist acts of self-definition she identifies. But I see the challenge that Terada, Jackson and others have quite successfully mounted to any form of privileging lyric autonomy to afford an opportunity for discussion of another form of freedom that is perhaps particular to the lyric, and one that Vendler’s argument can tend to obscure. For all of its potential for remove from social engagement—what Vendler calls its “abstraction from the heterogeneity of life”—the lyric is, as Jackson insists, a form that also participates in a considerable network of relationships (7). These relationships can be historical and extra-textual, as many of the ones discussed in Dickinson’s Misery are, or, to take a twentieth-century example, like the relationship of T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound that led to the definitive revisions of The Waste Land. But they can also be integral to, and even called into being by, the poems themselves—for instance, to anticipate the readings I will offer in this essay, the relationship between Whitman and his reader in Song of Myself, or of Langston Hughes’ college student and his instructor in “Theme for English B,” or Bob Dylan’s lyric self and his counterpart “Mr. Tambourine Man.”
Many lyric poems are first of all not the utterances of abstracted, removed or isolated speakers but rather are imaginatively embodied relational acts. And the freedoms that these poems propose for us is not autonomous distance from “socially constructed characteristics” but rather the freedom to be in a relationship in the way that their speakers are. Lyric freedom, understood outside of the provenance of aesthetic autonomy that has guarded it from questions of address and connection to other forms of cultural expression, can include the freedom to establish relationships, or act inside of already established relationships, in unfamiliar and liberating ways. This is the kind of lyric freedom I mean to explore, and give some substance to, in the essay that follows. There are a number of ways in which the speakers of lyrics frame and articulate their relationship with their intended reader or audience. I focus on one relatively tightly defined form of interaction in this essay—the one established by the poet’s conception of his lyric as a gift. The sort of relation enacted by the bestowing of a gift is particularly free and freeing in some general ways—it is free from the constraints of the marketplace in which value is assessed primarily in terms of exchange rather than intentions or symbolic significance, and it is freeing in that, while it might carry an expectation of reciprocation, it nevertheless does not obligate the recipient to respond to a specific demand for payment in return.
But the act of giving a lyric as a gift is also freeing in some more particular ways. For Whitman, the gesture of giving allows him to understand himself as having something of deep value to the nation that he wishes to celebrate. For Langston Hughes, the gift of a lyric is a chance to redefine a relationship in such a way that both participants have a clearer sense of how they are perceived by the other. And for Bob Dylan, the exchange of a piece of music as a gift works to create a community that restores him to a sense of energy and freedom from the burden of speaking as the conscience of a national community whose shortcomings and moral failings weigh heavily on him.
Whitman and the Gift
In an essay entitled “Reassessing Whitman’s Hegelian Affinities” I have outlined some of the reasons why I take Whitman’s offer of mutual belonging in the opening lines of Song of Myself—“For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you”—to mark an important shift from negative to positive paradigms of liberty in his work particularly and in American poetry in general (3). I will not repeat here the arguments of that essay, except to point out that there is no American poet for whom concerns of recognition and acknowledgement are as crucial as Whitman. This is not without its psychological and even perhaps ethical limitations, as Quentin Anderson most thoroughly demonstrated in The Imperial Self and others, including Philip Fisher and Kathryne V. Lindberg, have since corroborated. But it is part of the enduring appeal of Whitman that his interest in recognition does not have only an egotistical motive. In Song of Myself, he is as concerned to demonstrate that he recognizes the individuality of his reader as he is to demand recognition for himself.
Indeed the relationship that Whitman imagines himself to have with the reader is crucially enabling in the development of his persona as the imaginative body of his nation. The act of giving something to the reader is what allows Whitman to understand himself in the grandiose terms that allow him to connect his own poem to the inclusive ideals of American democracy. The poet Lewis Hyde articulates in a valuable 1979 book, The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, how and why the act of giving is central to Whitman’s most popular work:
The initial event of the poem, and of Whitman’s aesthetic, is the gratuitous, commanding, strange and satisfying entry into the self of something that was previously separate and distinct. The corresponding gesture on Whitman’s part is to give himself away. “Adorning myself to bestow myself on the first that will take me.” He “bequeath[s] Poems and Essays as nutriment” to the nation just as, at the end of his song, he bequeaths himself “to the dirt to grow from the grass [he] love[s].” These gestures—the inhalation and exhalation, the reception and bestowal—are the structuring elements of the poem, the passive and active phases of the self in the gifted state. (170-1)
Hyde’s argument is that Whitman’s poem demonstrates three experiences of sharing a gift—the initial given experience that inspires the poem, the gift of artistic labor to turn that inspiration into a work of art and, finally, the gift of the finished work of art. So crucial are gifts to the process of making the poem that it cannot, Hyde argues, be quite received properly in the terms most easily available to a culture where commodity exchange is the norm.
What such a culture can tend to miss about the kind of exchange that Whitman’s poetry models is the importance of the created work as a mediator or facilitator of relationships: “It is the cardinal difference between gift and commodity exchange that a gift establishes a feeling-bond between two people, while the sale of a commodity leaves no necessary connection” (56). Whitman expresses such a reservation about the paradigm of the commodity for understanding, and even appreciating the full efficacy of, his poem late in the work:
I do not say these things for a dollar, or to fill up the time while I wait for a boat;
It is you talking just as much as myself . . . . I act as the tongue of you,
It was tied in your mouth . . . . in mine it begins to be loosened. (84)
There are two aspects of this brief passage worth noticing. The first is that Whitman aims to identify the value of his work not in terms of cash but in terms of how representative, how much the “bard . . . commensurate with a people” as he puts it in the preface, the poem allows him to be (7). The connection established between the speaking self and the reader is therefore in part one of liberating identification, by means of which Whitman’s effusive and shape-shifting persona becomes “the age transfigured” and made concrete for each of his readers to find himself or herself within (23). The reciprocal relationship is one in which the poet stands at least potentially for each individual of his country, and his egotism becomes the body of a national consciousness to which readers are to be attracted and with which readers are to be able to identify: “The proof of a poet is that his country absorbs him as affectionately as he has absorbed it” (26). This conception of the poem leads Whitman to a number of the self-aggrandizing litanies of the work, including those beginning “I pass death with the dying” (32), “Through me many long dumb voices” (50) and “I find I incorporate gneiss and coal and long-threaded moss and fruits and grains and esculent roots” (57). Whitman celebrates himself so that his readers will assume the same magnification that his imagination and sympathy make him capable of. This is one way in which he can say that he does “act as the tongue of you.”
But there is another element of the relationship with the reader articulated in the lines above, and that can be seen by looking at the meaning of the transition from the first to the second lines of the quote. In the first line he disavows motives that might be attributed to him in writing his song—money or boredom. The implication is that he will clarify in the following lines what his motive actually is. Read in this light, the claim that “It is you talking just as much as myself” suggests that Whitman’s motivation is not simply the kind of self-aggrandizing display that much of the poem carries out. He is called to speak by the sense of the presence of a reader, an other, a you. The tied tongue of his reader is a goad to him to speak in a voice that can belong to both. The sense that he can give something to his reader is what allows him to give the considerable value that he does to his own work.
The self-aggrandizing impulse and the giving impulse in the work are not neatly distinguishable from each other, and they seem to depend on each other, at times alternating very quickly in their expression, as in these lines:
Man or woman! I might tell how I like you, but cannot,
And might tell what it is in me and what it is in you, but cannot,
And might tell the pinings I have . . . the pulse of my nights and days.
Behold I do not give lectures or a little charity,
What I give I give out of myself.
You there, impotent, loose in the knees, open your scarfed chops till I blow grit within you,
Spread your palms and lift the flaps of your pockets,
I am not to be denied . . . . I compel . . . . I have stores plenty and to spare,
And any thing I have I bestow.
I do not ask who you are . . . . that is not important to me,
You can do nothing and be nothing but what I will infold you. (72)
The distinction between giving lectures and charity on the one hand and giving “out of myself” on the other implies that Whitman is motivated by psychological need rather than principle in his posture of giving. And this passage casts some light on the freedom that giving offers to him: it makes what he has to offer—himself—more clearly defined and capable of articulation for him. At the beginning of this passage he is unable to declare himself, or even disentangle himself from a sense of enmeshment in the idea of the other, man or woman. But once he conceives of this other as someone to whom he has something to give—even if it only be a breath of inspiration—he finds himself able to “infold” this other and incorporate him or her into his inclusive persona. Once Whitman identifies the other as one to whom he can give, his own need for recognition and acknowledgement can take the form of the broadly representative self-staging that he carries out within the poem. The relationship of giving is what defines him enough for himself, at least at certain crucial moments in the poem, that he is able to experience himself in the way that he claims the great poet must: “the others are as good as he, only he sees it and they do not” (10).
This attitude towards giving informs other poems than Song of Myself, and it takes on a characteristically democratic coloring in the 1860 poem “To Rich Givers,” which goes in its entirety:
What you give me I cheerfully accept,
A little sustenance, a hut and garden, a little money, as I rendezvous with my poems,
A traveler’s lodging and breakfast as I journey through the States,—why should I be
ashamed to own such gifts? why to advertise for them?
For I myself am not one who bestows nothing upon man and woman,
For I bestow upon any man or woman the entrance to all the gifts of the universe. (411)
Whitman’s sense of himself as having something valuable to give allows him to stand in a relationship with “rich givers,” and even to subsume their riches into his own more expansive wealth to bestow. In contrast with the substantial but measured generosity of the givers (their “little sustenance,” their “little money”), Whitman not only gives through his poetry “entrance to all the gifts of the universe,” but he does this for “any man or woman.” His is the more substantial service to the “States” that he speaks for and to. There is no more liberating gift for America, in his judgment, than his own art—though as a gift it performs a service for his own project of self-understanding as well.
Race and the Gift of a Page
In an essay entitled “The Social Psychology of the Gift,” Barry Schwartz states directly what we have seen the act of giving performs for Whitman in Song of Myself: “The gift imposes an identity upon the giver” (2). The act of giving allows Whitman to define himself in relation to an other as having something valuable to share, and so enlarge himself in his imagination as a site for identification. This kind of freedom works particularly well for a poet writing under the influence of Emerson’s celebration of the idea of a poet of the national character, who is capable of representing or speaking for the whole of his country. But for a poet writing with a sense of what W.E.B. Du Bois called “double consciousness,” a sense that one’s identity as an American and one’s identity as an African-American are in an indissoluble tension, the same gesture of giving to the reader can result in something other than a posture of enabling identification (11). For a speaker like that of Langston Hughes’ “Theme for English B,” the act of giving is an opportunity to free himself from an instructor-student relationship in which important differences in self-understanding are apparently overlooked and his own experience is minimized, and to model another way of relating in which the dynamics of power within a relationship are clearly and honestly recognized.
The poem transforms the college writing assignment of a short personal essay (“Go home and write / a page tonight. / And let that page come out of you— / Then, it will be true” (2-5)) which the speaker questions (“I wonder if it’s that simple” (6)) into an analysis of the relationship between the white instructor who has given the assignment and his black pupil:
Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that’s true! (34-6)
Hughes’ speaker has redefined what counts as true. It will not be an act of self-expression that is innocent of a sense of the rhetorical situation of the writing, of the relationship between author and reader, as the instructor asked for. What is true will instead be his own reflections on that relationship. He does not write the short essay as it was assigned. And yet his closing line—“This is my page for English B”—declares what he has written as of value to the instructor, though supplemental to the kind of exchange that characterizes their formal relationship. It is not a letter of complaint or protest against the assignment, and it does carry a significant amount of self-disclosure. It is an act of sharing. Instead of a completed assignment he gives the instructor a gift.
As with Whitman, Hughes’ speaker seems to experience the act of giving as empowering. But instead of enabling a widely inclusive self-staging, the giving in “Theme for English B” allows the young student to articulate the impact of racial difference on his experience of the relationship between himself and his instructor:
So will my page be colored that I write?
Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white—
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that’s true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me—
although you’re older—and white—
and somewhat more free. (27-40)
A further comment from Schwartz’s article on the social psychology of the gift can help to heighten a sense of what is going on in this passage. For the gift does not only help the giver to define his own identity, Schwartz points out. Gifts also, he points out, “reveal an important secret: the idea which the recipient evokes in the imagination of the giver” (2). Gift giving itself, according to Schwartz, “is a way of free associating about the recipient in his presence” (2). The speaker of this poem is not declaring his own identity as a young black man. He is reflecting on his experience of the relationship between himself and a white instructor, and in doing that he is conveying his own sense of who that instructor is.
Some of what he says he believes about the instructor could be inferred from the very act of giving him a gift of a page of writing that is in part about himself—that the instructor is a part of him in some way, and that he learns from him. Despite the condescending writing prompt, the student imagines the instructor as invested in establishing the kind of relationship that is in some way substantial. This relationship is complicated by racial difference, which the speaker says makes them at times averse to being “a part of” the other. Yet at the same time their relationship is facilitated by a shared national identity, which frames their racial differences in such a way that they are, as a white and a black, a part of each other. This is the relationship as the student believes they both understand it.
But the crucially liberating aspect of what he presents to the instructor comes in the final lines of the passage. For the instructor also needs to be told something that he apparently does not perceive the full significance of—that he is “somewhat more free.” The assumption of equality that guides the instructor’s attitude towards composition—the notion that each student can write out of a sense of self that is not impacted by the relationship between himself and the instructor—does not comport with the experience of the black student. He is aware of his racial identity (“Being me, it will not be white”) in a situation where the white instructor is blind to the role of race in shaping the exchange between them. It is in precisely this way that the instructor is more free.
But remarking this, and sharing it with the instructor, is a kind of freedom for the student as well. He has become another authority, an authority on freedom, redefining it not as a kind of universally available naïve self-expression but as a relative and relational concept. “Somewhat more free”: the lesson that the student has to teach is not only that he is less free than the instructor, but also that various kinds and degrees of freedom are discernible, and that they are impacted by race. They will mean different things by the word freedom. This is what the student’s gift to the instructor insists upon, a gift which presents to him a different kind of writing than what he expected, one that challenges him to see himself as another sees him, across a racial divide. The closing line of the poem—“This is my page for English B”—conveys a sense of the freedom that the student has come to by giving his instructor a piece of writing that is different, and indeed more, than what was assigned. He has become capable of redefining his status in a relationship so that his sense of the truth of his own perceptions has to be acknowledged.
The Song of “Mr. Tambourine Man” and a Moral Community
For both Whitman and Hughes, America is the name of a community that the poet can’t help but belong to—in the case of Whitman out of zealous belief in the promise of American democracy, and in the case of Hughes out of a kind of fatalism, one that leaves room for him to notice both the binding and the disempowering aspects of national identity as a black American. One alternative to this sense of confining implication in the community of America is expatriation, a strategy that many modernist poets turned to in the first half of the twentieth century, choosing to adopt European or cosmopolitan identities. For the generation of American lyric artists who came of age in during the Cold War, however, this alternative came to seem less liberating, as both the United States and the Soviet Union seemed to cast a long shadow across the ideology and culture of much of the globe. For many of the artists of that era who become uncomfortable with a sense of identity as Americans, the challenge became not to escape American culture but to define a sense of community that could be a viable counter-model to that of the nation.
There were a variety of motives for this redefinition—classism and materialism, fanatical anti-communism, a culture of conformity, racism, militarism and foreign wars among them. Among the lyric artists who have protested against these strains in American culture, Bob Dylan is remarkable for having touched memorably on all of them. “Maggie’s Farm,” “Talkin’ John Birch Paranoid Blues,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “The Death of Emmett Till” and “With God on Our Side” register sometimes wounded, sometimes scathing complaints against and laments about these aspects of American culture respectively. Despite the indisputable significance of his shift from folk-style acoustical instrumentation to electric guitar in the mid-1960’s—the shift that famously earned him the sobriquet “Judas” from an irate concertgoer—and his own disavowal of “preaching” in a 1964 album, Dylan continued in the mid-1960s to be inspired in his lyric writing by a sense of the moral failings of America. But he also began more and more to write from the need for an alternative moral community which he could describe and even celebrate.
As those who followed Dylan’s career with interest know, for a time Christianity offered him this community. But there were other alternatives as well. Mike Marqusee, in an authoritative study of the political dimensions of Dylan’s work in the 1960’s, calls the Dylan song that gives his study its title, “Chimes of Freedom,” “Dylan’s most sweeping vision of solidarity with all those marginalized by a monolithic society” (105). The communitarian impulse in that song is strong, as the singer listens at the end of the song to bells ringing through a storm that sound for
the aching ones whose wounds cannot be nursed
For the countless confused, accused, misused, strung-out ones an’ worse
An’ for every hung-up person in the whole wide universe (117).
Lawrence Wilde has called this lyric “a departure from the issue-based protest song” and remarked that “the intensity of the images couched in the simple form of a folk song amounts to a genuine cry for humanity, and in this single instance it is an uplifting, ecstatic cry” (91). Dylan’s impulse to imagine himself as participating in a community that would give him a sense of belonging and at the same time not compel him to the stance of protest began to deepen in the mid-1960s, and “Chimes of Freedom” is one dimension of that communitarian drive. The freedom that song celebrates is a freedom to belong to a community that is largely unfortunate but moral, one that doesn’t need a voice of conscience to hector it.
But moral freedom for Dylan means more than a sense of belonging among those he calls in the song “the refugees on the unarmed road of flight” and “each an’ ev’ry underdog soldier in the night” (116). Dylan is an individualist, and an explorer of internal, introspective states of mind and mood. Alongside the large-tent vision of “Chimes of Freedom” there is another, more intimate dimension to his experience of moral community, one that is captured in “Mr. Tambourine Man.” The song’s closing lines,
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free,
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep within the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow, (153)
have been called by Marqusee “naïve, even narcissistic” (132). The song does participate in a narcotic spirit of escapism that blunts the political urgency of much of Dylan’s work, early and late, but particularly his mid-career work. Still Marqusee misses the point of the singer’s “one hand waving free” by saying that “Dylan is imagining himself, as so many young people have, as the last man, the only man, and nature’s child” (133). For “Mr. Tambourine Man” is a song in which Dylan makes claims for the power of song to establish a moral community on a scale that political themes can dwarf—in the relationship between two people.
The song begins with a request for a gift:
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey! Mr. Tambourine Man play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come following you. (152)
What the Tambourine Man will get as compensation for his song is not payment but a companion, a follower, a community. The meaningfulness of this community for Dylan himself becomes clear as the song continues, and the language of large political gatherings—“evenin’s empire” and “my own parade”—gives way to the dream of a single “ragged clown behind” the musician who goes “disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind . . . to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free.” The community that is inaugurated by the gift of the song is small, but it is efficacious—it establishes a new energy and sense of purpose for the singer that he is lacking as the song begins, and it gives him an experience of freedom in the dancing that it incites. Unlike the chimes of freedom, which gather the many into a community with which Dylan can comfortably identify, the Tambourine Man’s gift of a song grants him freedom to enjoy the liberating effects of a community created by lyric art.
To emphasize the significance of the gift from the Tambourine Man in establishing a freedom for the persona in Dylan’s song, the central thesis of David Cheal’s The Gift Economy is useful: gifts, as Cheal defines them, do not in the modern world “have as their principle purpose the redistribution of resources” (16). Rather, Cheal says, they are “for the most part, redundant transactions that are used in the ritual construction of small social worlds” (16). The persistence of gift-giving in modern societies, despite the inefficiency of this kind of transaction as a way of distributing resources, can be understood as a response to the effects alienation that living in a mass society produces:
In mass societies it is often the case that difficulty in trusting others, or an absence of trust, is felt to be an acute problem. The responses of others are often unpredictable, because their motives are unknown . . . In a moral economy, [on the other hand] trust is generated as a result of members sharing a common way of life. Individuals’ commitments to fulfill their customary obligations to others make their actions predictable, and thus keep the complexity of the social environment at a low level. As Alvin Gouldner has argued (1973: 260-99), norms of beneficence resolve interaction ambiguities and thereby increase the stability of systems of relations. (15-6)
Gift giving, according to Cheal’s argument, helps to solidify a moral economy in which the various members of a community come to rely on the other members of that community to behave in predictable and beneficent ways. Gift giving establishes a community that functions to free its members from a constraining distrust of and even alienation from the members of their society at large.
Gift giving in modern life often works like the song of the Tambourine Man does for Dylan’s self, who otherwise has no place that he’s going to. He shifts in the course of the song from exhaustion and loneliness to freedom and energy. The song that the singer asks for might be in part a symbol of his own understanding of what he does as a musician and lyricist—the freedom he achieves at the end of the song might stand for what he can give as an artist. But it is important to notice that this effect happens on a personal, even intimate scale, one in which the Tambourine Man provides a sense of community that sets the singer free, first to follow and then to dance on his own.
- Anderson, Quentin. The Imperial Self: An essay in American literary and cultural history. New York: Knopf, 1971.
- Cheal, David. The Gift Economy. London: Routledge, 1988.
- Du Bois, W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folk. New York: Norton, 1999.
- Dylan, Bob. Lyrics 1962-2001. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.
- Glaser, Brian. “Reassessing Whitman’s Hegelian Affinities.” Walt Whitman Quarterly Review 29.1 (2011): 19-31.
- Hyde, Lewis. The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property. New York: Random House, 1979.
- Hughes, Langston. “Theme for English B.” The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. New York: Vintage Books, 1995. 409-10.
- Jackson, Virginia. Dickinson’s Misery: A Theory of Lyric Reading. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2005.
- Marqusee, Mike. Chimes of Freedom: Bob Dylan and the 60s. Calcutta: Seagull Books, 2005.
- Mill, John Stuart. “Thoughts on Poetry and Its Varieties.” In Autobiography and Literary Essays. Vol. 1 of The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1981.
- Ricks, Christopher. Dylan’s Visions of Sin. New York: Ecco, 2003.
- Schwartz, Barry. “The Social Psychology of the Gift.” The American Journal of Sociology 73.1 (1967): 1-11.
- Terada, Rei. “After the Critique of Lyric.” PMLA 123.1 (2008): 195-200.
- Vendler, Helen. Soul Says: On Recent Poetry. Harvard UP, 1995.
- Whitman, Walt. “Song of Myself.” Leaves of Grass. New York: Library of America, 1992. 5-88.
- - – -. “To Rich Givers.” Leaves of Grass. New York: Library of America, 1992. 411.
- Wilde, Lawrence. “The Cry of Humanity.” The Political Art of Bob Dylan. Eds. David Boucher and Gary Browning. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. 79-104.