Did Bob Dylan Really Ruin English Class Forever? Some Say Yes (But They Are Wrong)

How does it feel?

When Bob Dylan won a Nobel Prize, some started to decry the fall of literature–including the teaching of English. In a piece called “Pity the English teacher, now that Bob Dylan has won the Nobel Prize,” one commentator argued that the kinds of lyrics put forth by the musician paled in comparison to traditional poetry. “Backed up by an amplified bassist and a hard-hitting drummer, [Dylan’s] lines might be OK yet hardly prize-winning stuff. By themselves, they lie inertly on the page. Hercules couldn’t lift their dead weight.”

Ouch, though I appreciate the allusion.

Look, it’s important to remember what comprises the heart and soul of English study: examining language–in its myriad ever-evolving forms–closely and creating with it. For some students, Dylan’s language–or many other artists for that matter, like Black Thought–provides a less intimidating and relatable opportunity to slow down and study an author’s craft. If all English teachers taught was Bob Dylan, I’d be worried. But adding him and other popular language artists to the curriculum to provide new entries and vestibules to the discipline? Go for it.

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