In what The New York Times calls a redefinition of the boundaries of literature, Bob Dylan has been awarded the Nobel Prize. The prize comes with some controversy from critics who charge that Dylan isn’t writing “literature,” but he also has his supporters. The NYT reports:
Billy Collins, the former United States poet laureate, argued that Mr. Dylan deserved to be recognized not merely as a songwriter, but as a poet.
“Most song lyrics don’t really hold up without the music, and they aren’t supposed to,” Mr. Collins said in an interview. “Bob Dylan is in the 2 percent club of songwriters whose lyrics are interesting on the page even without the harmonica and the guitar and his very distinctive voice. I think he does qualify as poetry.”
In giving the literature prize to Mr. Dylan, the academy may also be recognizing that the gap has closed between high art and more commercial creative forms.
“It’s literature, but it’s music, it’s performance, it’s art, it’s also highly commercial,” said David Hajdu, a music critic for The Nation who has written extensively about Mr. Dylan and his contemporaries. “The old categories of high and low art, they’ve been collapsing for a long time, but this is it being made official.”