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Bob Dylan awarded Nobel Prize and changes the Literary world forever

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Dylan was called 'a great poet in the English-speaking tradition.'

In 1993, author Toni Morrison received the Nobel Prize in Literature. Since then, no American has been awarded the honor - until now.

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10/13/2016 (7 years ago)

Published in Music

Keywords: Bob Dylan, Nobel Prize, Literature, award

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Famous singer and songwriter Bob Dylan is known as one of the world's most influential musicians.

Songs such as "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" were instant classics - but songwriting isn't exactly why he won the award.

At 75-years-old, Dylan has not once been considered an author. Poet, perhaps, but his works fail to fit within the confines of the exclusive "literature" genre.

Many scholars have long argued what separates an average story from a piece of literature and the simplest explanation they agree upon remains controversial.

A mainstream novel serves the purpose all books should - it is entertaining, well-written and need not be either fiction or nonfiction.

Literature is also exempt from limiting itself to either fiction or nonfiction; however, these works offer deliberate parallels to larger social, political, existential or individual issues. What differentiates a work of literature from mainstream novels is the exploration of some part of the human condition.

Of course, whether a book can be considered literature remains subjective, which brings us back to Bob Dylan.

Three years ago a journalist for The New York Times argued: "Mr. Dylan's work remains utterly lacking in conventionality, moral sleight of hand, pop pabulum or sops to his audience.

"His lyricism is exquisite; his concerns and subjects are demonstrably timeless; and few poets of any era have seen their work bear more influence."

Sara Danius, a literary scholar and the permanent secretary of the Swedish Academy, which awards the prize, agrees Dylan is "a great poet in the English-speaking tradition."

She compared him to Homer and Sappho, both of whom remain famous storytellers and poets, whose works were delivered both orally and in print.

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When asked if the decision to award a musician with the Nobel Prize in Literature is an indication the term "literature" is broadening, she jokingly replied, "The times they are a changing, perhaps," in reference to one of Dylan's songs.

The Swedish Academy said, in a biographical note released with the announcement of his award, described Dylan's albums had "a tremendous impact on popular music...Dylan has recorded a large number of albums revolving around topics like the social conditions of man, religion, politics and love.

"The lyrics have continuously been published in new editions, under the title 'Lyrics.' As an artist, he is strikingly versatile; he has been active as painter, actor and scriptwriter.

"Since the late 1980s, Bob Dylan has toured persistently, an undertaking called the 'Never-Ending Tour.' Dylan has the status of an icon. his influence on contemporary music is profound, and he is the object of a steady stream of secondary literature."

Many, including David Hajdu, a music critic for The Nation agree with the Swedish Academy and believe the prize for Dylan is long overdue.

In an interview Thursday, Hajdu stated: "It's partly a recognition of the whole tradition that Bob Dylan represents, so it's partly a retroactive award for Robert Johnson and Hank Williams and Smokey Robinson and the Beatles.

"It should have been taken seriously as an art form a long time ago...It's literature but it's music, it's performance, it's art, it's also highly commercial. The old categories of high and low art, they've been collapsing for a long time, but this is it being made official."


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