Bob Dylan has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for 2016 “for having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”.
The announcement had the effect of a bombshell. Bob Dylan is the first musician to win the top literary honor, igniting both applause and a fierce debate.
To those who question the choice, Sara Danius of the Swedish Academy had a ready-made answer in announcing the award: “If you look far back, 2,500 years or so, you discover Homer and Sappho. They wrote poetic texts that were meant to be listened to and performed, often together with instruments, and it’s the same way for Bob Dylan.”
Many have also praised the bold choice as being richly deserved and overdue.
According to Steven Rings, music professor at the University of Chicago, “In our culture, and certainly the kind of elite culture that surrounds something like the Nobel Prize, we tend to separate out literature from performance. Literature is something that you read on the page. But there is, of course, an extremely long tradition of performed literature going all the way back to Homer.”