People Think Bob Dylan Plagiarized His Nobel Lecture From SparkNotes

Like a trolling stone.

Remember when Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature last year and everyone lost it?

Well, earlier this month, he delivered an official Nobel lecture on a topic in literature of his choosing — a requirement for honorees before they can receive their $900,000 prize money.

View this video on YouTube

youtube.com

The lecture, about his relationship to literature and its power to distill the vast mysteries and complexities of life, was mostly well-received.

But this week, Slate's Andrea Pitzer noticed that a segment focused on Moby-Dick contains a lot of similarities to... SparkNotes.

Below are some similarities Pitzer identified. An example: Dylan: "There's a crazy prophet, Gabriel, on one of the vessels, and he predicts Ahab's doom." SparkNotes: "One of the ships ... carries Gabriel, a crazed prophet who predicts doom."

On social media, people debated if it was plagiarism and wondered what it might mean if the freshly minted recipient of the world's most prestigious literary prize cribbed from SparkNotes.

Point: Bob Dylan isn't guilty of plagiarism and it's silly to pretend he is. Counterpoint: That's completely true. https://t.co/BHAuXRxkHI

Husband finally conceding I was right about Bob Dylan and the Nobel Prize. #sparknotes

This is just plain depressing: looks like Bob Dylan cribbed from SparkNotes for his Nobel lecture. https://t.co/m4XD4zkqK3

Even SparkNotes itself joined the fray, reattributing a famous Dylan line to create its own mashup.

With no direction home / probably should have spent less time on Ogygia also. - Homer

In interviews with BuzzFeed News, two English professors who have studied Dylan agreed that there was little doubt he used SparkNotes as his source material...but neither was eager to call it plagiarism.

Gaines argued that it's wrong to judge Dylan's speech by the standards of a term paper.

Kevin Dettmar, chair of the English department at Pomona College, pointed out that Dylan has never been shy about borrowing from other works in his art.

Dettmar thinks Dylan might have appropriated from SparkNotes in order to make a point. "I kind of think he's doing it not to get away with it, but trying to provoke a conversation," he said.

Basically, then, it may just be Dylan being Dylan.