Dylan and the Nobel


This article argues for Bob Dylan’s nomination for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Traditional criteria for the award include outstanding idealism and work that benefits mankind, criteria that are easily met in Dylan’s case, given his activism in early 1960s civil rights, antiwar compositions, and beyond. Yet questions have been raised concerning Dylan’s eligibility for such an award. Can a literary prize go to a writer of song? Past Nobels in Literature display a breadth that admits such a lineage, however, and the connections between music and poetry have been noted by Laureates Rabindranath Tagore and W. B. Yeats. The Literature Prize has gone to historians and philosophers as well. Moreover, a close examination of selections from Dylan’s lyrics shows that as texts on the page, they compare favorably with literary masters such as Chekhov, Faulkner, and Rimbaud; that they resist many scholarly attempts at schematization testifies to their power as poetry. In terms of global appreciation, Dylan’s work has not merely survived but triumphed. From whatever standpoint Dylan’s work is viewed, this article argues that it deserves consideration for literature’s highest prize.

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