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Song lyrics as literary art the focus of conference

by Stephanie Kang

This week marks the launch of The Song is You, a five-day conference that examines song lyrics as literary art, including panel discussions on topics that include opera, Bob Dylan and The Band, hip-hop, genre and method, politics, and more.

Musical entertainers will complement the various academic talks. The conference features talks by English and music professors from all three U of T campuses. Many faculty members are also musical performers — including English professor Garry Leonard, who will be playing guitar and singing Bob Dylan songs on Thursday Nov. 22 from 2:30 to 4 p.m. at Bluff’s restaurant. English professor Rob Carson, a member of the band Rock Plaza Central, is also scheduled to speak during that event.

Professional opera singer Lawrence J. Wilford is scheduled to speak on Thursday in the session from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in AA 209, where he will discuss opera from a singer’s perspective.

On Friday, Nov. 23, the focus will be on Masia One, a talented U of T architecture graduate turned rapper, in a session from 3 to 4 p.m. in MW 130.

The organizer of this unique conference is Professor Andrew DuBois of English. He lists his favorite singer as Bing Crosby, lyricist is Bob Dylan, and favorite writers are John Ashbery, John Keats, and James Joyce, among others.

DuBois said he really wanted the conference to appeal to the masses. “U of T Scarborough doesn’t have a lot of conferences directed towards undergraduates, so I thought this would be a good chance to throw an academic event on a topic of general interest — it’s not arcane or specialized, since everybody likes songs!”

The conference is the first he has organized, but DuBois has been interested in music since he was a child. Like many people, he said he wanted to be a musician growing up, but unfortunately he said he felt he was not very talented. “I was in a few little punk rock bands and played the saxophone in high school, but no more,” he said with a chuckle.

DuBois’ teaching and research focus on 20th Century poetry and American literature. He said he views musical lyrics as a form of poetry, noting that “a lot of the poets we study like T.S. Eliot and Langston Hughes integrated popular forms into their poems, so there is a lot of overlap.”

DuBois is currently teaching a course on Rap Poetics, whose material may seem similar to that covered in Monday evening’s panel on hip-hop poetics by Adam Bradley. Next semester Dubois is scheduled to teach ENGC15, Concepts in Literary Criticism.

Whether you are an English or music student, or just enjoy music in general, come out and attend a session or two of the conference—there are still many to choose from.

For the full schedule, visit the events section of the U of T Scarborough web site at, or click on this link: For more information, contact Prof. DuBois at

Stephanie Kang is a third-year English student at U of T Scarborough. She is currently working as a co-op student in Marketing & Communications.

© University of Toronto Scarborough