Arts & Culture

Opinion: Keep music out of literature


Many Augsburg students may have been put under the impression that the Nobel Prize is only given out for peace, but there are prizes for physics, chemistry, medicine, economics and the only category that I really keep an eye on year to year, the literature award. Last year, the award became host to an unlikely recipient: musician Bob Dylan.

Winning for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition,” this decision left many, myself included, befuddled. However, nobody seemed more confused than Bob Dylan himself. For many weeks, he declined to travel to Stockholm to accept the award, and it was not until June that he gave his Nobel Lecture. “When I first received the Nobel Prize for Literature,” Dylan said in his speech, “I got to wondering exactly how my songs related to literature.”

Same, Bob. Same.

It’s not that I hate music. It’s not that I don’t believe that music lyrics have a poetic quality; they most certainly do. However, there is something sacred about the words on the page, the commitment to literature as an artform that Bob Dylan does not use. Music is art, and art is amazing, but music doesn’t fall under the category of literature.

There is some historical precedent for musicians winning the award. Among epic authors such as Toni Morrison, Ernest Hemingway and Sinclair Lewis, one other musician has won. Rabindranath Tagore won the Prize in 1914 “because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West.” Dylan and Tagore aren’t the only unusual winners. English Prime Minister Winston Churchill won in 1953 for “his mastery of historical and biographical description as well as for brilliant oratory in defending exalted human values.”

This year, the Prize returned to the hands of the creators of classic literature: Kazuo Ishiguro, author of “Never Let Me Go” and “The Buried Giant.” In the explanation for the award, the Nobel Committee wrote that Kazuo “in novels of great emotional force has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world.”

I’m happy that the the Nobel Prize for Literature was given to an author this year, and I’m glad that giving the award to Dylan was not an attempt to set a trend.

This article first appeared in the Friday, October 13, 2017, Edition of The Echo.