Tuesday, August 01, 2017

More on Dylan, the Nobel lecture, and Herman Melville

Grant Shreve has a post about the Dylan/Nobel matter titled WHAT HERMAN MELVILLE CAN TEACH BOB DYLAN ABOUT PLAGIARISM

Within, he describes some writing Melville was doing

In the essay [ “Hawthorne and his Mosses" ], Melville wrestles with two opposing models of literary propriety. The first, “literary brotherhood,” is what Weinauer describes as a communal fraternity of authors and thinkers across time in which “a spirit of ownership and accumulation does not preside.” The second is that of the sovereign author who is the indisputable proprietor of his or her creations.

Never an adherent of the second model, Dylan actually posits something like the first in his Nobel lecture. Contrary to how many have read the piece, Dylan seems less interested in defending songs as literature than he does in using their ephemerality and promiscuity to redraw the borders of literary ownership. All creative work, he suggests, exists to be borrowed, because it all draws from the same storehouse of themes, ideas, and images.

The "communal fraternity" model is still with us. See Techdirt.

Shreve notes

This author [of the Sparknotes piece] (perhaps a graduate student who some years ago took this assignment to earn a few extra bucks) has now been immortalized, but only by having her words kidnapped by a king. A spiritual fraternity of authors and ideas is all well and good when you’re the one doing the borrowing, but property rights start to sound much better when it’s your stuff being potentially stolen.

Andrea Pitzer at Slate had written:

In Dylan’s recounting, a “Quaker pacifist priest” tells Flask, the third mate, “Some men who receive injuries are led to God, others are led to bitterness” (my emphasis). No such line appears anywhere in Herman Melville’s novel. However, SparkNotes’ character list describes the preacher using similar phrasing, as “someone whose trials have led him toward God rather than bitterness” (again, emphasis mine).

Following up on this strange echo, I began delving into the two texts side by side and found that many lines Dylan used throughout his Nobel discussion of Moby-Dick appear to have been cribbed even more directly from the site. The SparkNotes summary for Moby-Dick explains, “One of the ships ... carries Gabriel, a crazed prophet who predicts doom.” Dylan’s version reads, “There’s a crazy prophet, Gabriel, on one of the vessels, and he predicts Ahab’s doom.”


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