The first Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded in 1901 to a French poet named Sully Prudhomme. The Swedish Academy was moved by his “lofty idealism, artistic perfection and a rare combination of the qualities of both heart and intellect.”
Is it such a stretch of the imagination to believe, more than a century later, an American songwriter could receive the very same prize?
Sara Danius, the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, cited poets like Homer and Sappho as inspiration for expanding the prize’s definition of literature.
I find it ironic that we feel the need to bring up history to justify the present.
Music is in its own right poetry. Poems are stories with line breaks. You experience them just as you do a novel, a short story, even a work of history or philosophy.
The best songs tell stories. They evoke mood, emotion and imagery.
Poetry, whether you like it or not, is literature.
Danius referenced “Blonde on Blonde,” Bob Dylan’s seventh studio album, as a good starting point for listeners to hear the rhyme scheme and visualize the brilliant illustrative nature of his music.
As an artist who has been on the road for 54 years, Dylan has an impressive résumé that merits this award. His constant recreation of himself and his music have been an emblem of malleability for countless generations.
Initially, Dylan was the North Star for so many youths protesting against social injustices in the 1960s. Then, as Benjamin Hedin, author of “Studio A: The Bob Dylan Reader,” puts it, “The excited teenagers and college students who stayed up all night hoping to decipher ‘Maggie’s Farm’ became professors, journalists and other leaders of the educational hierarchy.”
Yes, this is true, but Dylan is not simply a teachable moment. He is an ever-changing whirlwind of literary mastery akin to all past Nobel Prize winners.
The Chronicle for Higher Education reported more than 1,000 books have been published on Dylan, the first one being Betsy Bowden’s “Performed Literature: Words and Music by Bob Dylan,” published by the IU Press. Additionally, Dylan is the most-cited songwriter in both judicial opinions and law-journal articles.
I only have one thing to say to the giant scholarly snobs who are maddened by the Academy’s audacity to grant Dylan this award: Get over it.
Although we’re all entitled to our own opinions, headlines like, “A world that gives Bob Dylan a Nobel Prize is a world that nominates Trump for president,” make me want to vomit all over that asshole of a human who chose to write that.
Literary scholar Christopher Ricks referenced Dylan as having “a Shakespearean width of appeal.”
The mass social media uproar that resulted from the announcement shows just how true Ricks’ comparison is — Dylan creates a conversation, whether you’re in support of it or not, which is exactly what Shakespeare did so many years ago.