Everyone seems to have something to say in response to the announcement that Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.
After weeks of no response, Dylan finally commented on his award in an interview with The Telegraph saying that the honor is “Amazing, incredible. Whoever dreams about something like that?” He also confirmed that he intends to attend the Nobel Prize Gala in Stockholm, Sweden on Dec. 10 “if it’s at all possible.”
While Dylan kept his reactions low-key, many individuals in literature and musical communities reacted strongly to the announcement. Some showed support for the legendary songwriter, while others criticized the prize being granted to such a well established song writer.
Within the literary communities at Penn, the reactions are no less diverse.
Many professors showed support for the literature award being given to a song writer, especially one as influential as Dylan.
“As a literary figure, I think without question, he deserves it,” English professor and contributing editor at Rolling Stone Anthony DeCurtis said. “The first time Allen Ginsberg heard Dylan he wept because he [Ginsburg] thought that ‘I’m irrelevant,’ because this is where poetry is going.”
Others lamented the timing of the award.
“The only complaint I would have is why didn’t they do it ten years ago? I’ve been listening to Dylan my whole adult life,” English professor Paul Hendrickson said. Since seeing Dylan as a youth in 1974 at the University of Michigan, he noted that it’s “better late than never – I’ve been waiting on it all these years.”
Some criticized the Nobel Prize as a whole.
“I think the Nobel Prize is overrated,” English professor and poet Charles Bernstein said. “I think the literary awards are not that credible in my view. And so, the idea that there is this much tension focused on this award, it seems to be mostly kind of silly.”
Bernstein also noted the discrepancy between Dylan and the typical recipients of the award.
“He’s certainly not a poet, not a novelist, he is a wonderful songwriter. And there are many great songwriters, there are many great film makers, there are many great composers, none of whom are generally awarded this particular prize.”
But no matter their view on the institution as a whole, most seemed to have a personal appreciation for Dylan’s work.
“The words are the words are the words — it’s where you can find them and if they move you,” said Hendrickson. “I’ve often said to my writing students that if I can find literature on a bathroom wall, I’ll read it if it moves me. And I think I’ve been moved by Dylan my entire life.”
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.