The contemporary rhapsode : a dialogical approach to the work of Jackson Browne

This thesis is a dialogical approach to the work of Jackson Browne, who is a popular and politically active singer and songwriter. The purpose of the study is to reach a better understanding of the text, its relationship to the world around it, and its place in a continuing oral tradition of song poets. Browne can be thought of as a contemporary rhapsode, a twentieth-century version of the musically performing poets represented by Hesiod and Homer in preliterate Greece. Browne's work, like that of the early rhapsodes, is not strictly entertainment, but rather is a populist poetry which addresses central concerns of its audience. The work shows an ongoing persona, growing and changing from album to album, embodying an "everyman" ideal. Mikhail Bakhtin's notion of the chronotope as a unit of analysis shows Browne as an existential hero whose journey is one towards a threshold of understanding. The sincerity which marks Browne's confessional work has helped him to establish a credibility with his audience. This sincerity seems responsible for any rhetorical effectiveness Browne may have in causing an audience to consider the questions he poses in his work.