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While some are surprised Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in literature, Sean Wilentz isn't

The Nobel committee made a bit of a surprising announcement Thursday morning: Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature for, according to the Swedish Academy, "having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition."

Dylan has written more than 900 pages of lyrics, but the Nobel Prize is primarily awarded to essayists, novelists and playwrights. Princeton University professor and historian Sean Wilentz says that Dylan fits right in with that crowd. Wilentz, the author of the book Bob Dylan In America, joined NPR's Audie Cornish to discuss the news. Read an edited transcript of their conversation below and hear the full interview at the audio link.

Audie Cornish: As a longtime scholar of Dylan, what's your reaction to today?

Sean Wilentz: Oh, I'm delighted. It's funny, the first thing I thought about was a film clip from the mid-1980s in a perfectly terrible film that he was in called Hearts Of Fire. And there's one little clip where he says, "I never thought I was gonna be one of those rock 'n' roll stars to win a Nobel Prize." He was saying this in a kind of dismissive way. I mean, Dylan's relationship to prizes — to authority in general — is, shall we say, cagey. He is a great anti-authoritarian in many ways, yet he perfectly appreciates the laurels that have headed his way. I'm sure he's appreciating this today. I certainly appreciate it and I was thrilled....

Read entire article at NPR