Within six months of receiving a Nobel Prize, winners are supposed to submit their Nobel lecture, upon failure of which, the prize money is rescinded. Bob Dylan, world famous writer, and painter, secured his nine hundred grand barely a week before the deadline with his 4000-word lecture, with which, the “Dylan Adventure” finally drew to a close. Except, people still can’t seem to stop talking about his lecture – which on scrutiny has been revealed to have been ‘plagiarized’ from a number of Sparknote entries.
Bob Dylan receiving the Nobel Prize had already faced its fair share of backlash from the literature community six months ago, with big names like Irvine Welsh and Jodi Picoult speaking out quite publicly against the nomination. Dylan’s Nobel lecture, followed by him receiving the prize money was supposed to close the chapter once and for all, but unfortunately, the poet has been subjected to yet another round of mockery.
The discovery stemmed from a line in which Dylan directly quoted a line from Moby Dick. “A Quaker pacifist priest, who is actually a bloodthirsty businessman, tells Flask, ‘Some men who receive injuries are led to God, others are led to bitterness,’” said Dylan. The catch: the line never appeared in the book.
After writer Ben Greenman pointed out this little detail on his blog, Andrea Pitzer, a writer for Slate delved deeper into the lecture, ultimately taking down the line as being very similar to a line from Moby Dick’s SparkNotes summary. 20 such examples were found throughout the Moby Dick portion of the recording, such as:
— Dylan: “Some men who receive injuries are led to God, others are led to bitterness”
— SparkNotes: “someone whose trials have led him toward God rather than bitterness.”
— Dylan: “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: “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.”
— Dylan: “The ship’s crew is made up of men of different races.”
— SparkNotes: “...a crew made up of men from many different countries and races.”
The cases Pitzer found are not blatant or explicit — there are no verbatim sentences, only identical phrases, and similar phrasing. But, when teachers and professors were asked if their students would be nailed for similar actions, Joseph Vasquez, English teacher at Rosemead High School in California said, “A high school student would get nailed, since she should have done the reading, and the closeness of text suggests she didn’t read the text but rather the SparkNotes.”
Dylan has previously been accused of plagiarizing from older artists for his songs in the past, but those cases were written off by fans as simply taking inspiration from iconic literary works, something a lot of other artists have also been known to do. The problem with this case, however, is that the inspiration this time was that rather than borrowing from classic literature, Mr. Dylan took his ‘inspiration’ this time from crib notes.