[ilds] [BULK] Re: Plagiarism

Ilyas Khan ilyas.khan at crosby.com
Fri Jun 1 10:49:04 PDT 2007


I want to voice the opinion of a lot of people on this email list and thank
you for such a detailed, well written, reasonably balanced and comprehensive
email. Your aside about exchanges with Michael is, in itself, enlightening,
and I enjoyed the rest of the email. One of the few that I have decided to
print and keep in my own notebook.

(in a wonderfully summery London - at least for now)

On 6/1/07 11:49 PM, "James Gifford" <odos.fanourios at gmail.com> wrote:

> Hello all,
> If I were to articulate my thoughts on Durrell's borrowings or plagiarisms
> more thoroughly, it would take the following form, though I should hasten to
> add that we do not currently have all the instances catalogued, so
> everything all of us says is at least subject to some shift as patterns or
> trends may emerge.
> First, let me also belabour a point that I know has frustrated several list
> members, and that's the tone of our interactions.  Let me point out that I
> know Michael Haag, who with his lovely wife very kindly had my wife and I to
> dinner less than a week ago at an absolutely delicious Turkish restaurant.
> I know tone over email is often not what it is in a personal conversation --
> we all take different approaches, and Michael's is fairly direct.  Fair
> enough -- he takes direct responses as well, with no harm.  We have a few
> people on the list who 'shoot from the hip,' and I just want to point out
> that disagreement doesn't mean we fail to use each other's work (and cite
> it) or continue to enjoy friendly discussions.  This may be belabouring the
> obvious, but as a moderator, I've heard a few worried comments about these
> exchanges, so I wanted to make sure my thoughts on it were at least clear.
> So, as for plagiarism, I should respond in detail.  Michael notes:
>> 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.
> I'd disagree with this, and the dozens of students who have been given a
> permanent mark of academic misconduct, failure on a course, and academic
> probation (and in a few cases permanent expulsion) from the schools I've
> taught at would disagree as well.  I do not condone plagiarism, but an
> author is in a different situation from that of a student writing papers.
> For the record, every paper I've received over the past 4 years has been
> required to pass an electronic plagiarism detector -- the result has been
> (on average) a 10% rate of plagiarism (and filed cases) regardless of how I
> stress this point to my students.  Fine.  We don't need those students.  And
> by the way, the quality of the school and admission standards has very
> little to do with it -- one of the worst schools I've taught at with the
> lowest admissions standards is the only one I haven't yet had a plagiarism
> case for (though I had one borderline).
>> 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.
> I think I've shown this is patently false and also a different matter.
> Plagiarism is *not* on the rise in the academy -- the plagiarists are just
> stupid enough to steal from something that is a searchable database...
> Moreover, having worked in a few different industries, I can very
> confidently state that the rate of intellectual theft or theft of
> non-physical materials is much, much higher outside of the academy.  I see
> it in the news media *constantly*.  In construction it is an absolutely
> standard practice to quote a lower price if you have someone else's quote
> for a contract in hand, and then to submit the verbatim quote form the
> competitor with the lower price.  Many industries would simply cease to
> exist if they academy's standards were applied to intellectual property.
> But, Durrell is hardly in the same boat as students, reporters, or
> construction crews, and I think the authorship of _Caesar's Vast Ghost_ is
> perhaps disputable as well...
>> 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. 
> Again, while I appreciate Michael's thoughts here, these are on a different
> order.  Rather than breaking into my home by forced entry and stealing
> unique properties that I could not replace, wouldn't this be more akin to my
> inviting you in (next time you're in Edmonton!) only to find you liked my
> decorating so much you copied it back in London?  Perhaps neither of our
> analogies here is apt...  In the case under discussion, Durrell stole 2
> pages from a book written by a man who had already published his letters and
> introduction to an E.M. Forster volume.  This is not to say it's excusable,
> but if I were to include 2 pages from one of Charles' articles in one of my
> own, then ask him to review it...  I would think it's at least cloudy.  And,
> I would hasten to add that our academic research that makes finding these
> issues easier is greatly supported by a loose network that perpetuates
> copyright violations by distributing materials that are not permitted
> reproduction by anyone other than the copyright holder.  Is this an
> anarchist listserv?
> However, there are two other issues at work here as well: pastiche and the
> notebook composition method (apart from whether or not Durrell even wrote
> that book).  Also, Peter Christensen refers to the interview in which
> Durrell calls himself a burglar, and he makes much use of it in his article
> "The Hazards of Intellectual Burglary," which I've cited at the end, and
> which I've disagreed with strongly in print even though I still get along
> well with Peter quite well and respect his work.
> Durrell's earlier texts contain a different kind of borrowing, which I would
> agree with Bill is far closer to pastiche, and I think he got the habit from
> none other than T.S. Eliot.  After all, how many lines of "The Waste Land"
> are original?  Even the title is borrowed, but that is it's point.
> Moreover, how do we read the scene in _Mountolive_ near the beginning, in
> which Mountolive and Leila look at each other in love, and she recites
> Ruskin's "Imperial Order"?  It's a stolen bit from Ruskin, but I think
> that's actually the point...  Such things appear throughout the Quartet,
> Revolt, and Quintet (as well as the Black Book and the other stand alone
> volumes).  To a degree, I'm inclined to see these as instances of pastiche,
> especially given the political and aesthetic dimension that develops if they
> are read as akin to allusions.  How do we change as readers when we not only
> recognize an instance of 'borrowing' but also recognize the source?  I read
> some of these as functioning very much like Henry Miller's stolen paragraph
> from Joyce in _Tropic of Cancer_.  It fits like Eliot's notion of Tradition,
> which prompted so many of "The Waste Land" thefts.  That element is a viable
> artistic method with established purposes and reasons, put into motion by
> none other than Durrell's senior mentor.
> The other element is his notebook composition style.  He jotted just about
> anything and everything into the notebooks.  For instance, the famous
> Gnostic suicide cult in the Quintet derives very simply from excerpts from
> Serge Hutin's _Les Gnostiques_ combined with a momentarily famous teen
> suicide club in Slovenia (not really, just a sudden spike in the suicide
> rate that made people suspect some kind of club).  Durrell just merged the
> newspaper article with his jottings from Hutin's book to come up with a
> brand new plot.  It worked, and it worked well.  In using his notebooks as
> 'quarry books' (which Richard Pine has explored more thoroughly than anyone
> else), Durrell often both repeated himself (internal allusion) and repeated
> materials he'd copied into his notebooks that he'd transcribed rather than
> actually written.  That entails some risks, but it's a method that makes his
> works what they are...  It's certainly not the same as a student or scholar
> copying pages and "forgetting" to cite.
> However, there's yet another problem to put into this puzzle, and that's the
> temporal sequence.  This is both a saving grace and damning evidence.
> Durrell's first novel, _Pied Piper of Lovers_ contains materials taken from
> a family member, and while reworked, I don't think it qualifies as pastiche.
> Plagiarism is likely closer to the mark, though the materials take on a very
> specific context in their new framework.  That problem doesn't strike me as
> being the case at all in the remaining materials until the very end of his
> career.  From _Panic Spring_ to _Quinx_, I am inclined to read borrowings as
> pastiche, allusion, and a way of playing with Eliot's Tradition (as well as
> a risk of his notebook method, which I'm inclined to see as a failing in
> _Revolt_ and some points in the _Quartet_ but also as the greatest
> innovation and strength in the _Quintet_ and _Clea_).  Did Durrell violate
> Freud's intellectual property rights?  What about Groddeck, whom he
> frequently took from in order to create plots?  Is "Clueless" or "Bridget
> Jones" in violation of Jane Austen's rights?
> That leaves the very end of the temporal stretch: _Caesar's Vast Ghost_.
> Someone who has worked more closely on that volume and the notebooks for it
> (Isabelle Keller, where are you??) can say more about this; however, I
> suspect that Durrell continued his lifelong habit of scribbling in the
> notebooks, but he had some very, very substantial help in cobbling those
> jottings together into the final volume.  My understanding is that the draft
> he sent to Faber was a mess of loose papers, and I heard a rumour he had
> help patching it together.  Given his last few years of hard drinking, ill
> health, and very likely a stroke (Ian is vague on this issue, but he does
> describe the impact it had on Durrell, and the late interview in "Une Amitie
> Parisienne" shows his slurring much to one side of his face -- Michael??), I
> find this neither surprising nor significant.  _Caesar's Vast Ghost_ is not
> Durrell's finest work, and I suspect the stitches holding it together may
> not even be his own, though there are some absolutely lovely passages that
> strike me as typical of something I'd find in his later notebooks.  That
> some of those sections were transcriptions from things he liked surprises me
> not at all -- I actually wonder if he was the one who consciously chose to
> include them, especially something so long as 2 pages.  If he had used it,
> he must have known Michael would spot it immediately, perhaps even before it
> went to press.
> As for passing judgement, I try to avoid that.  Percy Shelley enjoyed
> shooting song birds, Malcolm Lowry was a drunk, Elizabeth Smart would
> consume anything that might give her a buzz, Byron (ahem), and so forth...
> I still like their works, and use their biographies when appropriate, but I
> don't like to judge the author, per se.  I'll judge a student for plagiarism
> in the classroom, but for an author who wrote a text I'm working on, it's
> not part of what I'm reading to do -- I'd like to know when it's happening,
> and it may change how I read, but to suggest I should stop reading an author
> based on his or her ethics really isn't a matter I can be bothered with.  As
> I said, this notion is a 20th century invention -- as any musician can tell
> you, borrowing was the norm until the past 150 years, ranging from theme &
> variations to lifting entire movements.  It was a trade, not a matter of
> private ownership.  Thank gawd someone violated Shakespeare's intellectual
> property rights in the Quartos!  I'm neither fully in favour of that nor
> fully against it, though out of courtesy I do think Michael should have his
> 1/100th of the royalties, even though those royalties likely exist due to
> Durrell's name and previous works rather than those 2 pages.
> And with regard to current court cases, things like _The Da Vinci Code_ (for
> which Michael is our resident expert), we have a very different matter.
> That book could not exist were it not for _Holy Blood Holy Grail_, and its
> plot is a loosely assembled wrapper for 'history' lessons almost exactly
> drawn from Baigent's book and its spawn (reminds me of children's cartoons
> where the protagonists need to stop every 2 minutes to solve a puzzle in
> order to continue...).
> Oh, and here's what Christopher Hitchens has to say about Eliot's "The Waste
> Land" and plagiarism:
> "Madison Cawein's poem 'Waste Land.' Cawein was as distant from Eliot, in
> poetic terms, as it was possible to be. He was a Kentucky blues man and a
> barroom versifier. However, like Eliot, he was fascinated by the Celtic
> twilight and the search for the Grail. And his verses, with their haunting
> title, did appear in the January 1913 edition of Poetry magazine. Since that
> very issue also contained an essay by Ezra Pound on the new poets writing in
> London, it seems more rather than less likely that Eliot would have read
> it.'
> Also, someone named "Delphi" posted to a discussion board: "Bevis Hillier
> compared Cawein's lines '...come and go/Around its ancient portico' with
> Eliot's 'Šcome and go/talking of Michelangelo'."  That's actually in
> "Prufrock" though...
> But, back to the issue at hand, Michael also notes:
>> 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'd often thought I'd use this tidbit of information, but anyone who cares
> to give me a footnote is welcome to it -- Durrell sent a letter to the
> Gennadius Library in Athens asking for books to borrow (he knew it wasn't a
> lending library) in order to finish _Prospero's Cell_.  He included the
> list.  They never catalogued the letter...  I found it glued inside the
> front board for the Gennadius' copy of _Prospero's Cell_.  Have fun...
>> I have spotted quite a bit of close lifting if not
>> outright plagiarism in Justine and other volumes of
>> the Quartet
> This is not a surprise to me, and I wonder if it may be closer to pastiche?
> Given the close ties to Eliot, the notebook method, and the duration of the
> composition, isn't this more likely than "plagiarism" per se?  Moreover, as
> with Eliot, does this material take on a very different appearance in its
> new context and position?  But, there's more...
>> 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 
> Manzalaoui (frequently mis-spelled in publications without the "a") is a
> fine scholar, and he's taken up Durrell elsewhere in different ways, but
> that is a funny article in general.  One almost wonders if there would be a
> 'right' way to write for Manzalaoui's perspective there...  It does,
> however, very notably precede Edward Said by a goodly stretch of time.
>> 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.
> I both agree and disagree with several of these points.  I might point out
> first that tracking down source materials has actually been a large part of
> my own contribution...  As for the middle part, there's been an equal share
> across the entire couple thousand critic works on Durrell -- some have been
> exceptionally good and some have been exceptionally bad.  I could say the
> same for freelance authors, reviewers, or virtually anyone in any
> profession.  The problem does not lay in the academy and who is in (or not
> in) it, but rather in the individuals doing the work.
> The "ideological mongering" has been remarkably mild in studies of Durrell,
> and I'd like to see more political studies, albeit better ones and more
> theoretically engaged with critical materials current in academic discourse.
> I would hardly call that self indulgence for most, and I think virtually all
> of it (well, perhaps 75%) has had at least a healthy dose of "reference to
> evidence, context, biography or the other usual constraints."  Simply put,
> many of us just disagree, and that's fine with me.  It's also very true that
> the biographical materials have been very shoddy until the past decade, and
> that has caused serious problems that continue even now.  Each biography
> corrects the one that came before, and that's how scholarship accrues --
> it's hardly fair to expect someone of 30 years ago to have done the work we
> do now... We just keep building, correctly, developing, and so on.  I'm glad
> to contribute what I can to those who are making corrections and turning us
> in new directions.  There are errors in my previous work, and I don't
> apologize for them -- I just correct them as I go along or hope the next
> person will show where I've been mistaken (or where we simply disagree), and
> I don't begrudge anyone for doing that.
> I hope that more carefully articulates a fast & rough idea of what I mean by
> the allusive function of some materials, the context it comes from, the
> importance of "when" in Durrell's writing career, and the host of other
> issues that surround 'plagiarism' in Durrell, not the least of which being
> the predominance of such things in 20th century writing.  The pursuit of
> source materials is extremely important, as Richard Pine's _Mindscape_ has
> shown for Durrell (try to imagine Shakespeare or Classics without it!!), but
> apart from a few incidents, I don't find it bothersome.  I'll wait for the
> evidence to prove me wrong...
> Michael, the next time we meet up, I owe you a pint!
> Cheers,
> James
> See:
> Christensen, Peter G. "The Hazards of Intellectual Burglary in Lawrence
> Durrell's The Revolt of Aphrodite." _Studies in the Literary Imagination_
> 24.1 (1991): 41-56.
> Scott, Robert Ian. "T. S. Eliot and the Original Waste Land." _University of
> Windsor Review_ 19.2 (1986): 61-64.
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