Literature and music enthusiasts across the globe might be debating the Nobel Prize for Literature awarded to iconic musician Bob Dylan but students at Jamia Millia Islamia have been studying his songs as poems in literature curriculum since 2011.
The 75-year-old American singer-songwriter was chosen for the coveted award last month for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition”, sparking off a debate whether songs qualify as literature or not.
However, Dylan’s songs have been taught as literature in Jamia long before he was chosen for the prize.
The varsity introduced Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the wind” in its MA English programme in 2011 as part of the poetry paper “From the Victorian Age to Contemporary Times”, a compulsory subject for those studying English literature.
Other poets that are taught along with Dylan include Robert Browning, Ted Hughes and Dylan Thomas.
“Students respond interestingly to Bob Dylan’s literature. Around 40 students are currently studying the course that is taught in the third semester of the MA English programme. We have been teaching how Dylan’s songs were used almost as anthems during the American Civil Rights movement in the 60s,” a faculty member of Jamia’s English department said.
“However, with Dylan becoming the first musician to bag the Nobel Prize for literature we are hoping that more students from from other disciplines will opt for the course under the Choice Based Credit System (CBCS),” he added.
Jamia, however, is not the only university to be teaching Dylan’s work as literature. Kolkata’s Jadavpur University also has some of his songs in the undergraduate curriculum.
According to the Swedish Academy’s permanent secretary, Sara Danius, while Dylan performs his poetry in the form of songs, that’s no different from the ancient Greeks, whose works were often performed to music, a “great majority” on the 18-member jury panel had voted for him.