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Academic Interpretations (Bob Dylan and the Literary World)

What about Bob? (Makes Him a Nobel Laureate)

An opinion essay in four parts, by Gerard Regan, Connelly Library, La Salle University

Part I

Since the announcement by the Nobel committee that Bob Dylan would be awarded the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition,” there has been much discussion concerning whether it is appropriate to give him such an honor. Such deliberation is nothing new. Bob Dylan has elicited discussion about the merit of his accolades since he emerged on the popular music scene in 1962. Generally speaking, negative criticism of Bob Dylan is largely critical of his voice, or his style, or his persona. On the other hand, few are critical of his song writing ability. And without a doubt Bob Dylan has made outstanding contributions to the field of song writing. It seems that this most recent controversy concerning the Swedish Academy’s awarding him the Nobel Prize in literature might be more a commentary on whether songs can be considered literature. Dylan, in the acceptance speech he wrote for the award ceremony, said he himself had never taken the time to consider whether his songs were literature and that he was grateful to the Swedish Academy for doing so and for “providing such a wonderful answer.” Maybe the Academy understands better than Bob himself what he did to keep poetry alive…or maybe they just needed some publicity.