The literary community is justifiably divided about Bob Dylan winning the 2016 Nobel Prize of Literature for ‘having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.’ We’ve all read many articles expressing diverse opinions on the matter on the screens of our smart-phones and other gadgets at this point. Such are our times – so radically different from the past – that our digital engagement has become an indispensable aspect of our modern lives. So it’s unsurprising that the sentiment of ‘times they are a changing’ has possessed our minds.
By awarding Dylan the prize, the Nobel Committee has not only raised the question of ‘what is literature’ but also expanded the meaning and relevance of the word. Many are sceptical about this expansion and have wondered whether screen-plays, stand-up comedy and even tweets can be considered literary. It has also left me wondering if the ‘performance’ aspect of an artist’s work has also become a factor for judging literary work in? Literary festivals are also performances – conversations held in public for the benefit of an audience. Shy authors who dislike public engagements are already on the decline. Most authors have to prepare how they will speak and how they will smile or frown in front of their mirrors before they head out to ‘perform’ at a literary panel. What will be said – the actual words – need to correspond with body language, gestures, dress code, tone, manner of speech and so on. The auditory and the visual aspects are as important as the words – image making is important, sometimes more so than the art. Read more