Bob Dylan Accused of Using SparkNotes for Nobel Lecture

Writer finds 20 strong similarities in Moby Dick portion
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 14, 2017 6:11 AM CDT

(Newser) – Bob Dylan delivered what was described as an "eloquent" lecture this month as part of his Nobel prize requirements—but one writer says he may have approached the task like a high school student with an overdue project. Dylan discussed three favorite works from childhood and Andrea Pitzer at Slate suspects the Nobel Prize winner for literature may have cribbed much of the Moby Dick portion from SparkNotes. She says at least 20 of the 78 sentences involved strongly resemble SparkNotes passages and compares several of them side by side. Multiple phrases, including "Ahab's lust for vengeance," appear both in SparkNotes and Dylan's talk, but not in Moby Dick itself. He had to give the talk to collect $922,000 in prize money.

"Some men who receive injuries are led to God, others are led to bitterness," a quote that one blogger thought Dylan had invented, appears to be based on SparkNotes. Pitzer suggests that Dylan donate some of the prize money to the SparkNotes writer, though others are more forgiving. University of Minnesota music professor Alex Lubet tells the Star-Tribune that Dylan's lecture shouldn't be treated like a classroom assignment. "His lecture is wild and strange," Lubet says. "It’s meant to be a post-modern work of art. Any kind of a collage technique is fair game." In a 2012 Rolling Stone interview, Dylan addressed claims he had lifted lyrics, saying that in songwriting, "You make everything yours. We all do it." (Read more Bob Dylan stories.)

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