This is not intended as a discussion of the charges that Dylan is guilty of plagiarism. I will explain why below.
Instead, I hope that we might discuss the difficult and fascinating work being done by Scott Warmuth, at least part of which is being published at his blog http://swarmuth.blogspot.com/
Warmuth's work is aimed at tracing out Dylan's intentional "incorporations" of passages from (and sometimes just a phrase from or a reference to) a vast array texts. Those sources are not strictly from high culture. They range from Twain to travel guides and the decidedly seamy Joe Esztehas.
I think the word "incorporations" is extremely instructive. I settled on this word myself before reading Warmuth's interesting 2008 essay "Bob Charlatan" (full title and pdf here: http://newhavenreview.com/wp-content/up ... armuth.pdf
) where he uses it in the first paragraph.
It is an especially apt word, both avoiding the inaccurate connotations of words like 'quotation' or 'borrowing' and pointing to the way in which the texts Dylan draws upon are transformed and made to play a new and unintended purpose in Dylan's writing.
1) The incorporated texts are not being quoted -- that is, they are not being referred to as external texts, separate from his own, in order to be discussed in relation to his own text.
2) Nor are the incorporations being illicitly used to avoid having to write for himself -- that is, as if he were unable to write and chose the texts as a cop out (like buying a term paper on line)
3) nor are they meant to replace his own poorer writing without being noticed to be another's text -- again, like buying a term paper on line.
Warmuth (and his collaborator Edward Cook) claim that these incorporations are in fact a kind of game that Dylan is playing. For instance, in the first paragraph of the essay I noted above, Warmuth writes, regarding Chronicles (which is the focus of the essay): "Dylan has hidden many puzzles, jokes, secret messages, secondary meanings, and bizarre subtexts in his book". The incorporations are meant to be noticed, but not easily. They are a puzzle that is to be played and solved.
A brief note regarding the now-locked Plagiarism thread: the claims Warmuth and Cook are making render the quasi-moral arguments that emerged in that thread about Dylan failing to cite his sources irrelevant. If Dylan's aim is to create a kind of cryptograph, to write in an esoteric style, then citing his sources would undermine the project. In order for the project, as Warmuth describes it, to work, Dylan must not cite or draw explicit attention to his sources.
There remains a legal argument -- but it would have to be reformulated: in our corporatist, capitalist culture, is the kind of project Warmuth and Cook suggest Dylan has undertaken even possible?
I hope to spend some time working through Warmuth's work and to draw attention to it here, in this thread. I want to do this for a number of reasons. The main one is my sense that, should his research hold up, Mr. Warmuth's (and Cook's) work is transformative. It will require that everything that Dylan has written, at least since "Love an Theft", (and apparently even his interviews) be reconsidered. Despite a few essays in recent years, I do not think that the consequences of what may be happening in Dylan's work have been seriously considered.
But there is also a scholarly reason. Mr. Warmuth's work has not been taken up in the serious and critical manner that it seems to deserve. Assuming that their conclusions and claims hold up to scrutiny, Warmuth's and Cook's claims and research project will be strengthened by questioning and by the efforts and contributions of a broader community which has a wide range of expertise and a deep familiarity with Dylan's work.
I hope that you will join me is taking up Warmuth's hypothesis. I recommend that you start by reading the essay "Bob Charlatan" (linked above). It states clearly Warmuth's project and at least vaguely refers to his methods.
Of course, there is also the possibility that Warmuth's and Cook's work may not hold up to scrutiny. A lot remains to be examined -- both with regard to their findings and their methods. But, that cannot be decided without a thorough examination of their work. A relatively brief foray into their work (and Cook's only through Warmuth's) suggests that there is a a real likelihood that the late Dylan is engaged in a fascinating and, it must be said, unusual project. If W and C are right, what it is not
Please do not post dismissals of Warmuth's work in this thread without spending some time working through his writing.