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Published: 2017/06/14

Bob Dylan Accused of Plagiarizing Portions of Nobel Prize Lecture

Earlier this month, Bob Dylan finally offered up his Nobel Lecture in Literature, a requirement for Nobel Prize winners to receive their monetary winnings, featuring his thoughts on a few books that were especially important and influential to his own writings, Moby-Dick, The Odyssey and All Quiet on the Western Front. Now, the legendary songwriter is being accused of stealing portions of the speech from SparkNotes an online study guide that helps students with summaries and explanations of literature.

Slate’s Andrea Pitzer notes that the similarities were first noticed by writer Ben Greenman when he heard Dylan apparently recite a quote from Moby-Dick that doesn’t appear in the actual text but does bear a resemblance to a passage in the SparkNotes entry for the iconic book. Dylan’s quote was supposedly from a priest in the book, to whom Dylan attributes the words “Some men who receive injuries are led to God, others are led to bitterness.” SparkNotes similarly calls the priest “someone whose trials have led him toward God rather than bitterness.”

Pitzer goes on to list more findings of apparent plagiarism, noting that at least 20 selections from Dylan’s speech seem taken from the SparkNotes version. See a sampling of those instances in the graphic below, via Pitzer and Slate.

The article also notes that Dylan is no stranger to appropriation, as many of his songs take from various sources, and much of his early material consisted of covers of past artists whom he admired, along with his recent albums of covers. Pitzer notes that she reached out to some academics for their thoughts on the possibility of Dylan’s plagiarisms, with Northwestern University’s Juan Martinez saying matter-of-factly, “If Dylan was in my class and he submitted an essay with these plagiarized bits, I’d fail him.”

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