Lit Hum Study Guide: A Semester In Song
Written by Bwog Staff
Freshpeople, Bwog can’t believe you kids are already studying for your Lit Hum final! It seems like just yesterday when you were loading taxidermy rodents into your blue bins. In honor of the big test, we’re recycling this gem of a post, and adding a few updates. Below, Bwog presents a playlist of songs with references to glorious works of our literary past from the second semester of the Lit Hum syllabus. ‘Njoy!
The Beatles, “I Am the Walrus“
This Beatles classic sparked the “Paul is dead” rumor about whether John was grieving over Paul’s death. Some claim John purposely packed nonsensical images into “I am the Walrus” to confuse those who dissected every Beatles’ lyric so seriously. Still, this hasn’t deterred die-hard fans from looking for “Paul is dead” clues. (People have actually written books about this. For serious.) As the song fades out, you can faintly hear the following recorded lines of Shakespeare’s King Lear:
Slave, thou hast slain me: villain, take my purse:
If ever you wilt thrive, bury my body;
And give the letters thou find’st about me
To Edmund Earl of Gloucester, seek him out
Among the British part: O, untimely death.
Is this “matter and impertinency mixed” or “reason in madness?” Well, for the record, Paul is still alive and kickin’
The Mountain Goats, “Love Love Love”
The Mountain Goats’ “superman” lyricist, John Darnielle, weaves dozens of random references into this gentle and nostalgic track, conveying the difficulty of coping with conflicting emotions. One lyric even features Crime and Punishments’ Raskolnikov: “Raskolnikov felt sick, but he couldn’t say why, when he saw his face reflected in his victim’s twinkling eye.”
Radiohead, “Pyramid Song”
Lead singer Thom Yorke often cites Dante as a tremendous influence. The lyric, “and we all went to heaven in a little row boat,” refers to Charon ferrying our favorite voyager across the river Styx.” The song also appropriately mentions the “black-eyed angels” and “a moon full of stars.”
Bob Dylan, “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine”
Factually correct? Not so much. Augustine wasn’t “put out to death;” he died of illness. But Dylan has said that he heard voices. Maybe a neighboring child chanted to him too. Or perhaps, as one Dylan defender pointed out last year, he’s referring to Jesus’ death. “Dylan, confronted by Augustine, feels that he is guilty of the ultimate basis of all sin, the death of christ. He dreamed he was among the ones who put Him out to death.”
And here are a few less intentional references:
After the jump, special contributor Gareth Williams, Chair of Literature Humanities, suggests some tunes (marked with asterisks). Who knew the composed gentleman who resisted the urge to eviscerate Miss “the Iliad is like gangster rap” also had such good music taste?
The Smiths, Girlfriend in a Coma** for Aeneid
Soft Cell, Tainted Love** for Aeneid
James Brown, This is a Man’s World** for Aeneid
David Bowie, Changes** for Metamorphoses
Usher, Confessions Part II for Confessions. Both involve pregnancies… spiritual, literal whatevs.
Jimi Hendrix, Are you Experienced? for Essays
Tallest Man on Earth, King of Spain for Don Quixote…close enough
Lil’ Wayne, Got Money for Pride and Prejudice
Joanna Newsom, Peach, Plum, Pear for Confessions.
Metallica, Trapped Under Ice for The Inferno
The Rolling Stones, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” for The Decameron