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The Laureation of Bob Dylan
Posted: 16 October 2016 02:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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Logophile - 15 October 2016 03:26 PM

That’s not very solid thinking and I think you didn’t read me carefully. My comment was specifically about a person’s likelihood of winning a NPIL.

In addition your comment said that the “likelihood of winning a NPIL is very strongly correlated to how close your birthplace is to Stockholm.” That is the comment I questioned and found it to be inexact, because I’m assuming that you implied the closer one’s country is to Stockholm the better the chances to winning a Nobel P. in literature. This doesn’t seem to be the case because the majority of those prizes were awarded to non-Nordic countries.

I think you don’t understand the meaning of my statement but I can’t think of anything further to add to the statistical proof in my previous post.

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Posted: 16 October 2016 07:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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I think you don’t understand the meaning of my statement but I can’t think of anything further to add to the statistical proof in my previous post.

I’m not disputing your statistics; I’m disputing the fact that the likelihood is not predetermined by statistics. I can also reverse those statistics in favor of non-Nordic countries.

I’ll use the Gambler’s fallacy:

“The history boards at roulette tables mean nothing. They’re just for show. Just because a red hasn’t come up in a while doesn’t mean the roulette wheel is due for a red soon. Each spin is independent of the spins that came before it.”

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Posted: 17 October 2016 02:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Well, after all that, I thought I’d actually read some of Dylan’s lyrics.  Here’s the first one I stumbled across:

“She’s No Good”

Well, I don’t know why I love you like I do
Nobody in the world can get along with you
You got the ways of a devil sleeping in a lion’s den
I come home last night you wouldn’t even let me in.

Oh sometimes you’re as sweet as anybody want to be
Oh when you get the crazy notion of jumping all over me
Well, you give me the blues, I guess you’re satisfied
When you give me the blues I wanna lay down and die.

I helped you when you had no shoes on your feet, pretty mama
I helped you when you had no food to eat
Now you’re the kind of woman that just don’t understand
You’re taking all my money and give it to another man.

Well, you’re that kind of woman makes a man lose his brains
You’re that kind of woman drives a man insane
Well, you give me the blues, I guess you’re satisfied
You give me the blues, I wanna lay down and die.

Here’s a better-known one:

“House Of The Risin’ Sun”

There is a house down in New Orleans they call the rising sun
And it’s been the ruin of many a poor girl and me, oh God, I’m one.

My mother was a tailor, she sewed these new blue jeans
My sweetheart was a gambler, Lord, down in New Orleans.

Now the only thing a gambler needs is a suitcase and a trunk
And the only time when he’s satisfied is when he’s on a drunk.

He fills his glasses up to the brim and he’ll pass the cards around
And the only pleasure he gets out of life is rambling from town to town.

Oh tell my baby sister not to do what I have done
But shun that house in New Orleans they call the rising sun.

Well with one foot on the platform and the other foot on the train
I’m going back to New Orleans to wear that ball and chain.

I’m going back to New Orleans, my race is almost run.
I’m going back to end my life down in the rising sun.

There is a house in New Orleans they call the rising sun
And it’s been the ruin of many a poor girl and me, oh God, I’m one.

Award-winning?

[ Edited: 17 October 2016 02:34 AM by ElizaD ]
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Posted: 17 October 2016 04:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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“House Of The Rising Sun” is not a Dylan lyric, he’s covering a very old song.  But I agree with Pullum that his own lyrics are not very good poetry, and if that’s the case, why is the Nobel in literature an appropriate award?

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Posted: 17 October 2016 04:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Agreed - on what basis was this award made? Is the panel trying to show how broad-minded they are by including song lyrics?  Are they just keeping the US sweet by honouring an American?  What are the criteria?

[ Edited: 17 October 2016 04:52 AM by ElizaD ]
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Posted: 17 October 2016 07:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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My problem with the Pullum piece is that it limits literature to the written word only. It disconnects the lyrics from the music and the performative qualities of the work. While that is certainly a legitimate and traditional way to define “literature,” it’s problematic in several respects. For one, you would also have to exclude drama, as the performative aspects of a play are central to that art. And I don’t think anyone would say that Hamlet or King Lear aren’t literature. The “Hush” episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was nominated for a best screenwriting Emmy despite it having no dialogue for the bulk of the episode, and it’s widely considered the best episode of that much lauded TV series. Or there’s this episode of The Wire that conveys an enormous amount of plot exposition by repeating “fuck” some forty-odd times. It’s the performativity that makes it a great dramatic scene. Would you also exclude illustrations? Where does that put something like Spiegelman’s Maus?

It’s also a very nineteenth-century view. We’re entering into an age when the written word is being combined with audio and video in ways that we’re only just beginning to understand and come to grips with. (Nor is the idea of musicality of poetry a new idea. It’s called lyric poetry for a reason.)

I’m not really that enthused about defending the decision to give Dylan the Nobel. Were I on the committee, I’m certain I would have voted for someone else. But I don’t think it’s a bad decision, and it does have merit, such as getting people to talk about what “literature” is.

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Posted: 17 October 2016 08:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Leonard Cohen in line for the next? Actually I have no feelings either way about the prize going to Dylan. As Dave, I find these awards pretty meaningless anyway. Posterity decides these things, not the writer’s contemporaries. How many Nobel prize winners for Literature will be read or even remembered a couple of centuries down the line? Time is a tough critic.

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Posted: 17 October 2016 02:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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My problem with the Pullum piece is that it limits literature to the written word only.

But Literature is precisely about only the written word. 

OED:

Etymology: < classical Latin litterātūra (also literātūra) use of letters, writing, system of letters, alphabet, instruction in reading and writing, writings, scholarship
1.  “Familiarity with letters or books; knowledge acquired from reading or studying books, esp. the principal classical texts associated with humane learning…

2.The action or process of writing a book or literary work; literary ability or output; the activity or profession of an author or scholar; the realm of letters or books.

3.a.The result or product of literary activity; written works considered collectively; a body of literary works produced in a particular country or period, or of a particular genre. Also: such a body of works as a subject of study or examination (freq. with modifying word specifying the language, period, etc., of literature studied).

It disconnects the lyrics from the music and the performative qualities of the work. While that is certainly a legitimate and traditional way to define “literature,” it’s problematic in several respects. For one, you would also have to exclude drama, as the performative aspects of a play are central to that art. And I don’t think anyone would say that Hamlet or King Lear aren’t literature.

That’s a faulty comparison. Playwrights are awarded the Nobel Prize for literature based on their writing, not on an actor’s performance on stage. The works of George Bernard Shaw, William Shakespeare, et al., stand alone for their literary expression and read for precisely that reason. We don’t read Dylan; we listen to his music, and that’s the difference.

The “Hush” episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer was nominated for a best screenwriting Emmy despite it having no dialogue for the bulk of the episode, and it’s widely considered the best episode of that much lauded TV series. Or there’s this episode of The Wire that conveys an enormous amount of plot exposition by repeating “fuck” some forty-odd times. It’s the performativity that makes it a great dramatic scene.

That’s true, but it’s also television where the visuals play an important role. I don’t watch these shows, but I don’t believe they belong in the same category as the Nobel laureates of literature.

It’s also a very nineteenth-century view. We’re entering into an age when the written word is being combined with audio and video in ways that we’re only just beginning to understand and come to grips with. (Nor is the idea of musicality of poetry a new idea. It’s called lyric poetry for a reason.)

I agree; nevertheless, literature is about the written word not about audio or videos. In my opinion it’s a lowering of standards.

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Posted: 17 October 2016 07:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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In his enigmatic way, he has refused to respond to --what you are calling--the laureation. From

According to the Guardian, Sara Danius—the academy’s permanent secretary—has essentially given up trying to contact Dylan after days of attempts.

Dylan was named the prize-winner on Thursday, and performed a concert in Las Vegas later that night without any mention of the honor. The committee’s invitation to attend and speak at the Nobel Prize winners’ banquet on Dec. 10 remains open but unanswered, according to Danius—though she expects him to make an appearance. “I am not at all worried,” she said. “I think he will show up.”

he may well agree with the rest of us, that this award is of no consequence to him or litereature in general.

[ Edited: 17 October 2016 08:07 PM by Oecolampadius ]
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Posted: 17 October 2016 09:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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Oecolampadius - 17 October 2016 07:50 PM

In his enigmatic way, he has refused to respond to --what you are calling--the laureation. From

According to the Guardian, Sara Danius—the academy’s permanent secretary—has essentially given up trying to contact Dylan after days of attempts.

Dylan was named the prize-winner on Thursday, and performed a concert in Las Vegas later that night without any mention of the honor. The committee’s invitation to attend and speak at the Nobel Prize winners’ banquet on Dec. 10 remains open but unanswered, according to Danius—though she expects him to make an appearance. “I am not at all worried,” she said. “I think he will show up.”

he may well agree with the rest of us, that this award is of no consequence to him or litereature in general.

He will be in good company with Jean Paul Sartre and Boris Pasternak.

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Posted: 17 October 2016 10:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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Maybe it won’t be profitable enough? Or maybe he just doesn’t give a [insert word of choice] about awards, particularly literary ones? Or maybe he’s so overcome with humility that he feels he shouldn’t have been nominated? Or maybe he isn’t aware of the (sadly diminishing) importance of the award? We’ll never know.

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Posted: 18 October 2016 04:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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I agree; nevertheless, literature is about the written word not about audio or videos. In my opinion it’s a lowering of standards.

That’s precisely the snobbish attitude that needs to be eradicated. Restricting the award to writing alone isn’t a lowering of standards, it’s simply an arbitrary decision to exclude certain genres. It may be reasonable arbitrariness, but it has nothing to do with standards or quality.

Playwrights are awarded the Nobel Prize for literature based on their writing, not on an actor’s performance on stage. The works of George Bernard Shaw, William Shakespeare, et al., stand alone for their literary expression and read for precisely that reason. We don’t read Dylan; we listen to his music, and that’s the difference.

I would say the opposite. We read these plays because until the twentieth century there was no way to record the other aspects of the performance. I don’t know a single Shakespeare scholar today who would teach the plays without taking performance into account. A formalist would have defined literature as works that foreground language, which does not mean that visual and aural elements are excluded from consideration. Now the formalists were full of it in many respects, but if even they have a definition expansive enough to take in song lyrics, that says something about what can be considered to be “literature.” And the course requirements for the intro to literature course I’m teaching next semester includes film, television, and graphic novels as genres that can be taught. We’re moving away from the written-text-only idea.

He will be in good company with Jean Paul Sartre and Boris Pasternak.

Sartre, yes, but Pasternak didn’t exactly refuse voluntarily. He was told that if he accepted the prize, he would be exiled (or possibly worse). Pasternak’s awarding of the prize is classic Cold War stuff. The CIA engaged in a major propaganda/lobbying campaign to get Pasternak considered. They may have also provided the Nobel committee with the Russian-language version of Dr. Zhivago, which had not been published. The novel won the prize within two years of its publication (in Italian), which may be unprecedented speed. The award came before practically anyone had read the book (the English version wasn’t published until 1958, the year the prize was awarded). Only a handful of Russians had read the samizdat Russian version. I’m not saying Pasternak didn’t deserve the prize, but its awarding to him was highly irregular, to say the least.

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Posted: 18 October 2016 04:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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I agree with everything Logophile wrote except the phrase “lowering of standards,” which does sound snobbish.  It may be arbitrary to say the literature award should be restricted to literature as traditionally understood, but it’s a necessary arbitrariness.  Should they have given the award to Picasso because his paintings occasionally included words?  If you’re willing to be all hip and modern and disruptive—“Ha, ha, those old fogies think the literature award should be restricted to literature, we’ll show them!”—you’re going to wind up giving it to anybody who produces anything that a sufficient number of committee members think is “important” in some way.  Épater le bourgeois, baby!  But then the award is meaningless (except for the money, of course).

I’m not saying Pasternak didn’t deserve the prize, but its awarding to him was highly irregular, to say the least.

He didn’t deserve it for the novel, but he did for his poetry, which is among the greatest of the century; it’s a happy coincidence that cold war politics happened to reward the right guy for the wrong reason.

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Posted: 18 October 2016 08:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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his poetry, which is among the greatest of the century;

You, I presume, have read it in the original Russian.  How about English translations, if you can speak to that?

I’ll use the Gambler’s fallacy:

“The history boards at roulette tables mean nothing. They’re just for show. Just because a red hasn’t come up in a while doesn’t mean the roulette wheel is due for a red soon. Each spin is independent of the spins that came before it.”

The Gambler’s Fallacy is fallacious only for random events, like the fall of dice or the bouncing of a roulette ball.  The decisions of individuals or groups are reasonably presumed to be influenced by past decisions, although it can go either way: “The committee historically favors authors from Germanic-speaking countries, therefore the odds are better for future nominees from such countries.” or “The committee historically avoids giving repeated awards to authors from the same country, so if they just gave one to someone from country X, it will probably be a while before they give another.” Neither argument is an example of the Gambler’s Fallacy.

[ Edited: 18 October 2016 12:00 PM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 18 October 2016 10:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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I’ve been trying without success to establish on what criteria awards, or even nominations, are made.  So far I’ve found this Nobel page which discusses the nomination and selection process only, not the criteria on which the award is made.  From that link, it seems as if the decision process is pretty arbitrary, unless the committee fears that criticism will follow revelation of whatever criteria are set. They hopefully have some criteria, even very broad ones - surely?

I’m disillusioned, as I often sadly find myself these days.

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