Did Bob Dylan Lift His Nobel Lecture from SparkNotes?

Lawrence Kim
June 26, 2017

Even before the ceremony rolled around, however, Dylan's Nobel Prize win was mired in controversy.

Dylan and a spokesman for the Swedish Academy which hands out the award weren't immediately available for comment.

In the recorded lecture on June 4, Dylan described the influence of three literary works on his childhood. He was awarded the prize in October and put off accepting for months.

Except he apparently didn't.

Dylan discussed the books that had the biggest impact on him in his speech and Slate Magazine uncovered several similarities between the musician's speech and the entry on the site.

The phrase "Embodiment Of Evil" does not feature in the original text at all.

Author Andrea Pitzer, writing on Slate.com on Tuesday, listed some 20 sentences from the portion of Dylan's lecture on "Moby Dick" that closely resembled phrases or ideas on the SparkNotes website on the book.

Greenman highlighted Dylan's supposed Moby-Dick excerpt: "Some men who receive injuries are led to God, others are led to bitterness", noting that the quotation is apocryphal, never actually appearing in the novel's text. That line, however, doesn't exist in Herman Melville's novel.

As Dylan fans and critics chewed over the singer-songwriter's phrasing, something about his Moby Dick reflections struck Pitzer and American music writer Ben Greenman as amiss. Dylan's version reads, "There's a insane prophet, Gabriel, on one of the vessels, and he predicts Ahab's doom".

Dylan was also criticized for his painting exhibit titled "The Asia Series" in 2011, as many pointed out that his works were similar to that of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Léon Busy. Early in his career, he used the melody of the slave song "No More Auction Block for Me" for his protest classic "Blowin' in the Wind". Apparently, parts of Dylan's speechbear striking resemblances to similar passages in the SparkNotes-that's the online equivalent of Cliff's Notes, for those of us who haven't written a paper in the last decade or so-summary of Moby-Dick. Pitzer notes that she reached out to some academics for their thoughts on the possibility of Dylan's plagiarisms, with Northwestern University's Juan Martinez saying matter-of-factly, "If Dylan was in my class and he submitted an essay with these plagiarized bits, I'd fail him".

In response to those accusations, Dylan told Rolling Stone in 2012 that "I'm working within my art form", he said.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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