[ilds] Plagiarism

Bruce Redwine bredwine1968 at earthlink.net
Thu May 31 10:02:27 PDT 2007

James, I've only seen one example of Durrell's plagiarism -- the one Michael Haag pointed out in Caesar's Vast Ghost.  That I find blatant and inexcusable, and, if that is typical of Durrell's method in this regard, then I'm greatly saddened.  It's simply wrong, and I don't buy any arguments about textuality and intertextuality and the like.  I'm told there are other examples in other works, presumably the travel literature, and it would be interesting to see someone make a serious study of the evidence and draw some conclusions.  Didn't someone say Bill was working on this?  I'd like to see what he comes up with.  I acknowledge that the problem is complicated, but I think if a writer is borrowing verbatim or almost so from another writer, then he ought to make the reader aware of that in some way.  And there are many ways to do that.  As I told Michael, Durrell could have brought in the real or a fictional "Michael Haag" and had him deliver his own lines.  Gary Synder in "Myths & Texts" does something like that when he introduces the real John Muir, the naturalist and explorer, into his long poem and then quotes almost verbatim from one of Muir's books or notebooks -- without quotation marks.  That bothers me, but at least Synder make an effort at attribution.  Ezra Pound (whom I like) probably started this whole craze with his shenanigans.  I don't think Durrell did any lifting in his poetry, though.  And that is telling -- he found poetry too sacred to try and get away with any funny stuff.


>For Durrell, I think there's a combination.  It's expedient in fiction to
>lift a set piece or historical background (the ethics of it aside), but
>given Durrell's extreme awareness of textuality, what textual scholars do,
>and his anticipations of being read that way (his UNESCO lectures on
>Shakespeare, to my mind, make that clear), I don't think he assumed his
>audience wouldn't find out.  That's also part of the game.
>For instance, Michael, do you think Durrell knew you'd read _Caesar's Vast
>Ghost_?  Given your interactions with him over Forster and the
>Durrell-Miller letters, I think he'd be reasonably sure of that.  The two
>pages worked in a journeyman fashion, but they also send scholars to your
>footnotes to Forster, which leads to Durrell's "Introduction," which leads
>to Durrell's own borrowings from Forster for the Quartet, which leads to...
>I think that allusive  function (though not strictly speaking an allusion)
>was a part of the very genuine aesthetic appeal.  Durrell did not write
>books that exist apart from other books -- even _The Black Book_ is very
>heavily indebted to Oscar Wilde and Djuna Barnes, though Durrell only
>acknowledges Henry Miller, who I do not think was a particularly profound
>influence at all...  Even in Miller's marginal notes, he marks passages that
>seem "Miller-esque" but are actually in relation to T.S. Eliot.
>Does that leave you more or less disappointed, Bruce?
>That's my two cents...
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