Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize, undermines the work of esteemed authors


Caroline Guthrie, Contributing Writer

The Swedish Academy surprised many on Oct. 13 with the announcement that Bob Dylan had won the Nobel Prize in Literature. As a well-known singer-songwriter, Dylan hardly counts as an author of literature. In my opinion, the value of novels and literary texts is much greater than the value of song lyrics.

The definition of literature, “written works, especially those considered of superior or lasting artistic merit,” or “books and writings published on a particular subject,” does not apply to lyrics of songs. Although sometimes insightful, songs do not compare to the complexity and longevity of books or literary texts. Literature is composed of themes and characters that allow readers to understand the world around them, relating them to ideas and people in their own lives. Although a song might accomplish the goal of relating to many people, it does not compare to the depth a book contains.

Dylan now sits alongside the other winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature, one of them being Toni Morrison. Known for her dense novels composed of epic themes and complex characters, Morrison has established herself as a revered writer. Her novel “Beloved” continues to be read and taught in high schools around the United States, and even became a movie in 1998. Her books exemplify the hard work of a writer who wants to share stories and teach lessons through books. Singer-songwriters, specifically Dylan, do not deserve to be categorized under the same award as writers such as Morrison.

Although Dylan wrote poetry and published a memoir, his song lyrics earned him his star status. The poems and memoir represent a subset of his singing career; his lyrics are the essence of his fame and writings. If the Nobel Prize in Literature rewards more music artists, the definition of literature would have to change. The work of singer-songwriters will never compare to the work of authors of books.

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