Desolation Road

Date of Award

January 2019

Degree Type

Closed Access Thesis

Document Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts (MFA)


English and Theatre

First Advisor

Julie Hensley

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre

Second Advisor

R. Dean Johnson

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre

Third Advisor

Young Smith

Department Affiliation

English and Theatre


Desolation Road is a novel-length, literary parody of “Desolation Row,” a song written and performed by Bob Dylan in 1965. Filled with surrealist imagery, historical and literary characters, as well as, graphic depictions of institutional decadence and decay, the haunting lyrics and rhythmic strum-pattern of Dylan’s composition echo the shattered world of Elliot’s Wasteland while incorporating the language and sound of the folk revival. Structurally, Desolation Road reinterprets Dylan’s song by transforming each of the ten verses into novel chapters. An obscure character from the first verse, Lady, becomes the principal character in the parody. As a thoroughly post-modern work, Desolation Road explores the audacity of the parodist who adapts a great work of literature. The novel, through the voice of its principal character Ms. Lady Jones, questions its own existence and its right to borrow the borrowed characters from Dylan’s song. A caricaturized version of Dylan functions as a character and central symbol for the parody. Lynched and hanged from a lamppost light in the center of Desolation Road, a fictional main street where the action of the narrative occurs, Dylan is forced to watch as the characters from his song take on lives of their own. The novel explores the role of the artist and imitator and questions the extent to which an artist can lay claim to their own work.

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