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Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize for Literature: Deserved or Not?

by Margaret Bruna


November 17, 2016 | Arts and Culture

via Michael Kovac

Bob Dylan has been known for his countercultural music since the 1960s. This year, the Nobel Academy has chosen to award him the Nobel Prize for Literature, which has sparked an ongoing debate.

Dylan’s lyrics are recognized for covering a vast array of topics such as love, social rights, biblical scripture, and politics. His poetic words and melodies have continuously influenced popular culture, with The Beatles crediting him as one of their influences. His musical style has veered between jazz, rock, and folk throughout his career. Many feel his talent is deserving of the award.

Yet as the winner of 13 Grammys, a Golden Globe, and as a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, Dylan may have had all the recognition he deserves. According to The Washington Post, the percentage of adults who read literature is on the decline. some feel the award should be given to a novelist.

Lou Raskin, a former student at Dawson who studied Liberal Arts and a Bob Dylan fan, said, “When I first heard I was like, wow, it must be a really slow year for literature,” adding, “Maybe there are some unsung heroes out there.”

George Slobodzian, an English teacher at Dawson, disagrees with this. He argues,

“It’s not an industry award- it’s an award for cultural achievement.”  

He added that it’s not the Nobel Prize committee’s job to promote novels or authors. Many would agree with him, believing that the Academy strategically chose Dylan to expand what we culturally define as literature.  Slobodzian said, “The logic that it’s exclusive to books would exclude Shakespeare from a Nobel Prize.”

Indeed, Dylan and Shakespeare are both stage writers who address the average enjoyer. According to the Nobel Committee, Dylan has been given the award “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

Recently Dylan has been criticized for his lack of acknowledgement of the award. Many believe it truly exposes his character. and that his silence is obnoxious.

Others argue it’s true to Dylan form, as he’s been known as a protester of establishment. “I think he might be a bit embarrassed,” said Slobodzian. He added, “The Nobel Prize tarnishes Bob Dylan more than Bob Dylan tarnishes the Nobel.”

As long as Dylan doesn’t officially refuse the award, the Academy will honour him on Dec 10. While the debate continues, some remain unaffected by Dylan’s win. Slater Covenden, a student in his fifth semester of the Mechanical Engineering Technology program said, “Could not care less, if he doesn’t respond give the award to someone else.”

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