Let’s say you want to reference a famous piece of literature for an upcoming speech, but your memory of certain plot points and characters is blowing in the wind — what are you to do? Well, if you’re Bob Dylan and that speech is your mandatory lecture you need to give to receive your Nobel Prize award money, then maybe you’ll turn to SparkNotes. At least, that’s what a well-researched report from Slate points to.
According to the article, the research began when it seemed as though Dylan quoted a line from Moby Dick that didn’t exist. In the speech, which Dylan recorded earlier this month, the music legend is talking about how influential the Herman Melville book was on his work. He quotes a “Quaker pacifist priest” character saying, “Some men who receive injuries are led to God, others are led to bitterness.” While that was never written in the book, the online study guide did describe the preacher as “someone whose trials have led him toward God rather than bitterness.” The echo of the two descriptions is itself not enough proof of guilt, but Slate then goes on to further dissect the singer-songwriter’s speech to find nearly a dozen other examples of phrasing similar to what’s used in SparkNotes, which are are different from the words used in the novel. The article displays the pretty convincing argument via a chart that you should check out.
So, while using CliffsNotes might get you in trouble with your teacher, they won’t necessarily get in your way of taking home some sweet Nobel Prize money.