Dreams and Dialogues in Dylan’s "Time Out of Mind"

Dreams and Dialogues in Dylan’s "Time Out of Mind"

By Graley Herren

Anthem Studies in Theatre and Performance

This book studies Bob Dylan’s album Time Out of Mind as a series of dreams. These dreams work on three distinct levels: as murder ballads about a killer awaiting execution, as religious allegory about a protagonist torn between salvation and damnation, and as meditation on race and music in America.

Paperback, 186 Pages


July 2022

£23.99, $29.95

  • About This Book
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About This Book

Time Out of Mind is one of the most ambitious, complex, and provocative albums of Bob Dylan’s artistic career. This album marks the culmination of several recurring themes that have preoccupied Dylan for decades, and it serves as a pivotal turning point toward his late renaissance in terms of both subject matter and intertextual approach. Despite winning a number of accolades, Time Out of Mind has been largely misunderstood and underestimated. This book seeks to remedy that by excavating three distinct levels of meaning at work in the songs recorded for the album. On one level, Time Out of Mind is Dylan’s intimate portrait of a killer, a series of murder ballads drawn from the memories, dreams, and fantasies of a condemned man awaiting execution for killing his lover. On another level, the album is a religious allegory, dramatizing the protagonist’s relentless struggles with his lover as a battle between spirit and flesh, earth and heaven, salvation and damnation. On still another level, Time Out of Mind is a meditation on American slavery and racism, Dylan’s most personal encounter with the subject, but one tangled up in the minstrelsy tradition and other white appropriations of black experiences. 

Time Out of Mind is an innovative and rigorously researched book, geared toward inspiring future scholarship. The three distinct but intertwined interpretations of the songs recorded for the album—as murder ballads, as religious allegory, and as “race record”—are highly original and provocative. The arguments put forth in the book will fundamentally alter our understanding of Time Out of Mind.


"Under Graley Herren's expert analyses, the songs on Time Out Of Mind do not stand as merely timeless, but drenched in time, echoing against one another to reveal their resilience and profound timeliness. Multifaceted, this brilliant study shines a much-needed light on Dylan's prismatic, hybrid late style. Truly provocative." — Dr. Robert Reginio, Professor, Division of English, Alfred University, US

"Graley Herren delves into Bob Dylan’s Time Out of Mind, an album whose songs are made up of dreamscapes. His journey into the lyrical genius of Dylan brings to the surface thoughtful and cultural relevant dialogues around violence, race and the liminal space between salvation and damnation." — Katherine Weiss, Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Letters, California State University, Los Angeles, US

"Almost every Dylan album deserves its own book. Time Out of Mind deserves several, though it’s hard to imagine a better one than this, a work of serious literary criticism illuminating a seminal album— Dylan 'getting back in and fighting [his] way out of a corner' as he put it—from perhaps the richest vein of the artist’s work, his brilliant and often neglected or shortchanged work from the past 25 years." — Kevin Barents, Professor, Arts and Sciences Writing Program, Boston University, US

"Any one curious as to why Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature is well advised to read Graley Herren’s indispensable guide to Dylan’s 1997 album Time Out of Mind. In Herren’s hands, the record provides a panoramic view of the entirety of Dylan’s musical career and lifelong religious quest. — Barry Faulk, Professor, The English Department, Florida State University, US

Author Information

Graley Herren is a professor of english at Xavier University in Cincinnati. He has authored books on Samuel Beckett and Don DeLillo, and he is the editor of five volumes of the Text & Presentation book series.


Anthem Studies in Theatre and Performance

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments; 1. Dreams and Dialogues; 2. Murder Ballads; 3. Religious Allegory; 4. Race in America; Notes; Bibliography; Index.


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