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Nobel Prize for Bob Dylan? U of M experts say Dylan is among the greatest lyricists of all time in the English language

October 5, 2011

He was born in Hibbing, enrolled at the U of M in 1959 and is now a favorite for the Nobel Prize in Literature, according to news reports today. Bob Dylan unarguably is one of the state’s greatest sons. But what makes him a candidate for this esteemed prize? Two University of Minnesota experts who can provide perspective are:

Alex Lubet, professor of music, School of Music

Lubet teaches a class on Dylan’s music and says the singer/songwriter is liked for the Nobel because he is among the greatest lyricists of all time in the English language, particularly in terms of gravitas, wit, innovation and influence. “Dylan has also been extraordinarily prolific for five decades. His influence has transcended what is by far his most important idiom, songwriting, to include not only other media such as poetry, but also political and cultural life and even common parlance idioms in the English language.”

While Lubet is a great admirer of Dylan's work and hopes he wins, he does have doubts. “As a musician, I do empathize with those who argue that he's not a poet, but a songwriter, and that his accomplishments are ultimately musical. I wish there were a Nobel for music and that the judges would be open enough to consider work in all genres and media and from all traditions, such that it might be awarded to Dylan, but I don't see that.”

Thom Swiss, professor, College of Education and Human Development

Swiss is the author of the book “Highway 61 Revisited: Bob Dylan's Road from Minnesota to the World.” He says Dylan’s ongoing relationship with Minnesota and literature influenced by writers living along Highway 61, from Canada to the Gulf Coast, make him both an odd and compelling possibility for being awarded the prize. “For over 50 years, he has repeatedly put Minnesota, its cultures and subcultures, its politics and natural beauty in the public eye; winning the Nobel would bring even more attention to the Minnesota piece of his work. As well as his work's global reach.”

To interview Lubet or Swiss, contact Jeff Falk, University News Service, at (612) 626-1720 or

Expert Alert is a service provided by the University News Service. Delivered regularly, Expert Alert is designed to connect university experts to today's breaking news and current events. For an archive and other useful media services, visit Views expressed by experts do not represent the views of the University of Minnesota.

Tags: College of Liberal Arts, College of Education and Human Development

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