Bob Dylan: Nobel Laureate

Ain’t no use

…to sit and wonder why Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature yesterday. In the words of Sara Danius, Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, he is honored for having “created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”

Timothy Hampton, author of  “Absolutely Modern” Dylan, Rimbaud, and Visionary Song” (Representations 132, Fall 2015), would certainly agree. As Hampton shows in this recent essay, the new Nobel Laureate is not just an American bard but also a modernist visionary. “Dylan’s work during the mid-1960s,” writes Hampton, “might be seen as a search for a set of forms that would keep faith with Rimbaud’s famous axiom, ‘One must be absolutely modern.’…Dylan’s version of Rimbaud’s modernism involves processing an entire phantasmagoria of raw material previously unexplored in American songwriting—movies, history, literature, legend, travel, exotica, cartoons, and so on. And Dylan’s self-creation in music includes the struggle to marshal this material. Thus we might posit Dylan, not as some mere ‘genius’ who simply outpaces the competition (though he certainly does that), but as a kind of site at which a newly complex image world is engaged and managed” (2-3).

Read more about this essay here.