Bob Dylan was this morning named winner of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Literature. The announcement said he was honored for "having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition." (The photo at left is of a performance in 1963.)
The notes on Dylan released by the Nobel committee state, "Besides his large production of albums, Dylan has published experimental work like Tarantula (1971) and the collection Writings and Drawings (1973). He has written the autobiography Chronicles (2004), which depicts memories from the early years in New York and which provides glimpses of his life at the center of popular culture. 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."
Among the university press books on Dylan, recommended by the Nobel committee, are:
- Bob Dylan: Like a Complete Unknown (Yale University Press, 2012), by David Yaffe, assistant professor of English at Syracuse University.
- Refractions of Bob Dylan: Cultural Appropriations of an American Icon (Manchester University Press, 2015), edited by Eugen Banauch, a literary and cultural studies scholar currently living and working in Vienna.
- The Cambridge Companion to Bob Dylan (Cambridge University Press, 2009), edited by Kevin J. H. Dettmar, chair of English at Pomona College.
Many other scholars have written about Dylan. A new center for Dylan Scholarship is likely to be the University of Tulsa, home of the Bob Dylan Archives. The university, along with the George Kaiser Family Foundation, purchased the materials that make up the archives, which include 6,000 items from 60 years in which Dylan has been writing.
Academics may also be interested in this interview with Eric Lott of the City University of New York Graduate Center about the relationship between one of his books and a Dylan album.
For years, Dylan's fans (some of them scholars) have pushed for him to win the Nobel. But as they have pushed the nominations, many have speculated that an American was unlikely to win or that Dylan shouldn't win. An article in The Atlantic in 2013 said, "What would awarding Dylan the Nobel Prize even accomplish, anyway? Draw some deserved attention to a woefully underrecognized artist? Feed his sorely battered ego? It's unclear what the end goal is here."
And The New Republic has the misfortune of having published this headline for an article last week:
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