Bob Dylan, the poet laureate of the rock era, whose body of work has influenced generations of songwriters and been densely analyzed by fans, critics and academics, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday.
It is the first time the honor has gone to a musician. In its citation, the Swedish Academy credited Mr. Dylan with “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.”
The choice of Mr. Dylan for the world’s top literary honor came as something of a surprise and was widely viewed as an expansion of the academy’s traditional notions of art. Mr. Dylan, 75, joins a pantheon that includes T. S. Eliot, Gabriel García Márquez, Samuel Beckett and Toni Morrison — the last American to claim the award, in 1993.
“The old categories of high and low art, they’ve been collapsing for a long time,” said David Hajdu, a music critic for The Nation who has written extensively about Mr. Dylan and his contemporaries, ”but this is it being made official.”
In choosing a popular musician for one of the most coveted prizes in the literary world, the Swedish Academy dramatically redefined the boundaries of literature, setting off a debate about whether song lyrics have the same artistic value as poetry or novels.