[ilds] Plagiarism

Michael Haag michaelhaag at btinternet.com
Thu May 31 10:34:52 PDT 2007

I was not going to raise this because of my personal involvement, but 
James' defence of Durrell's plagiarism as outlined below is yet another 
example of 'the academy's' willingness to think up idiotic 
rationalisations instead of arriving at a principled position.  The 
principle may be that it is OK to steal texts, in which case they can 
start by stealing each other's PhD dissertations, and allow their 
students to steal their term papers from the internet.  Or they can say 
only 'great writers' are entitled to steal, in which case they had 
better start defining who those people are and how far their licence 
runs.  That is not the law, however, which unlike the academy takes a 
firm and straightforward view on what is right and wrong.  I could 
easily use James' argument below to explain that I had broken into his 
home, stolen his belongings, but that it was perfectly all right as he 
would have known, or at some point was likely to find out, that I had 
done so.  As I have said before, I was flattered to have had two pages 
stolen by Durrell for use in his book, and so personally I have let it 
pass.  But it is not a practice that is defensible.  I would not get 
very far if I stole two pages of Justine and published it as my own 

Durrell has done this quite a lot.  I had not known about the 
Prospero's Cell plagiarism until Richard Pine brought it to our 
attention.  I will be looking into that thoroughly now.

I have spotted quite a bit of close lifting if not outright plagiarism 
in Justine and other volumes of the Quartet, taken from sources like 
Robin Fedden's contributions to the Personal Landscape anthology, and 
from Leeder's study of the Copts, Modern Sons of the Pharaohs.  In fact 
it is pretty funny, because Manzaloui in his 'Curate's Egg: An 
Alexandrian Opinion of Durrell's Quartet' attacked Durrell for his 
supposedly faulty understanding of this and that, and it turns out that 
the fault lies largely in the material Durrell lifted from supposedly 
reputable sources -- this is what Bill demonstrated in his article 
'Some Sources of Durrell's AQ' (these and others can be found in 
Critical Essays on Lawrence Durrell, ed Alan Warren Friedman, Boston 

It is astounding how little 'the academy' troubles to examine source 
material in the case of Durrell, how its theorising is based almost 
entirely on principles of careless free association, self indulgence, 
or ideological mongering, unrestrained by reference to evidence, 
context, biography or the other usual constraints.  There is plenty of 
work to be done.


On Thursday, May 31, 2007, at 06:02  pm, Bruce Redwine wrote:

> 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 "M!
>  yths & 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.
> Bruce
>> 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...
>> Best,
>> James
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