Bob Dylan has been accused of plagiarism in his recent lecture for his Nobel Prize in literature. Apparently, the rock legend lifted some lines from no other than SparkNotes.
Bob Dylan is definitely the king of trolling. Last week, he delivered his highly anticipated Nobel lecture. He spoke for almost half-an-hour over a cheesy cocktail piano playing and dedicated great part of his speech to the musician and classic books that had influenced him. Only to make his point right at the end, for about 3 minutes: songs are not literature.
But something, let’s say, “funny,” surfaced they day after Dylan delivered his lecture. During his speech, he talked about three literary works that marked him as a child: ‘The Odyssey,’ ‘All Quiet on the Western Front,’ and ‘Moby Dick.’ Writer Ben Greenman found that Dylan seemed to have invented a quote from ‘Moby-Dick.’
“Some men who receive injuries are led to God, others are led to bitterness,” Dylan quoted in his speech. Greenman, who claims he hadn’t read the book for some time, didn’t recall that phrase from the book. Actually, he searched for it in many ways but found nothing. Nonetheless, he romanticized the idea of making up a quote from a book and affirmed Dylan had “absorbed and transformed” the novel.
The made-up quote was just the tip of the iceberg
After reading Greenman’s post, Slate’s writer Andrea Pitzer discovered that the quote Dylan dream about could actually be some rephrasing of the website SparkNotes.
“Theft in the name of art is an ancient tradition, and Dylan has been a magpie since the 1960s,” Pitzer writes. She, along with other observers – including folk singer Joni Mitchell – recall that Dylan has been accused several times of taking phrases from American poetry and literature and to put them in his songs.
Now, Pitzer says that after taking a look at Dylan’s speech, you can find a number of phrases resembling ones found on SparkNotes – a literary summary site that students use when they haven’t read a book and need a little help.
After learning that the phrase Greenman emphasized wasn’t in the novel but in the SparkNotes summary, she took a closer look at Dylan’s text with the SparkNotes text aside and found twenty other phrases that are either identical or similar to the website. Later, the Associated Press confirmed them themselves.
Here are some of the phrases Dylan probably took from SparkNotes
While Dylan says: “Moby attacks one more time, ramming the Pequod and sinking it. Ahab gets tangled up in the harpoon lines and is thrown out of his boat into a watery grave,” SparkNotes reads: “Moby Dick rams the Pequod and sinks it. Ahab is then caught in a harpoon line and hurled out of his harpoon boat to his death.”
In another part of the lecture, the singer-songwriter says: “The ship’s crew is made up of men of different races,” and SparkNotes says: “…a crew made up of men from many different countries and races.”
“Moby attacks one more time, ramming the Pequod and sinking it. Ahab gets tangled up in the harpoon lines and is thrown out of his boat into a watery grave,” Dylan said, while in SparkNotes it’s written: “Moby Dick rams the Pequod and sinks it. Ahab is then caught in a harpoon line and hurled out of his harpoon boat to his death.”
There are about 15 more of these, and –oh, surprise! – Dylan hasn’t said a word about this.
As Pitzer said, the dude is old. He probably read ‘Moby Dick’ about a century ago so he needed to refresh the story in his mind, and mistakenly read them out loud during his lecture. Nevertheless, Dylan has taken all the Nobel situation in a pretty irreverent way. It took him weeks to acknowledge the prize, didn’t attend the official ceremony and waited until the last minute to deliver his lecture. So, probably, he’s just trolling every one of us. And it’s O.K., because, in the end, he’s still Bob Dylan.