Pragmatic Plagiarism

Pragmatic Plagiarism: Authorship, Profit, and Power

Marilyn Randall
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 360
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/9781442678736
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  • Book Info
    Pragmatic Plagiarism
    Book Description:

    In this illuminating study, Marilyn Randall takes on the question of why some cases of literary repetition become great art, while others are relegated to the ignominy of plagiarism.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7873-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xvi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xvii-2)
  5. Introduction: What Is Plagiarism?
    (pp. 3-20)

    There is a wealth of received wisdom about plagiarism, transmitted most effectively through countless aphorisms coined primarily by authors, that is, virtual plagiarists, in their own defence. The ‘history’ of plagiarism can be divided roughly into discourses of apology and of condemnation: the first generally argues that all literature, or art - in fact, all of human activity - is essentially repetitive, and that ‘plagiarism,’ therefore, is inevitable. The second, ascribing an ethical content to aesthetic activity, defends notions of intellectual property, originality, and individual authenticity, which are seen to be transgressed by certain types of appropriation of intellectual products....

  6. Part One: Authoring Plagiarism

    • 1. What Is an (Original) Author?
      (pp. 23-31)

      The suppression of the author in St Onge’s definition does not prevent him from re-emerging as a ‘psychologically competent fraud’ motivated by the desire for unearned advantages of an unnamed type. In theEncyclopédie, however, it is quite clear that these advantages are those bestowed by ‘authorship’: a plagiarist is a writer who aspires to a position to which his talent is unequal. In this definition, it is important to understand the phrase ‘wanting at all costs to become an author’ quite literally - authorship and plagiarism are incompatible terms:authors don’t plagiarize. This might seem counter-intuitive to us today,...

    • 2. Originating Discourse: Authority, Authenticity, Originality
      (pp. 32-59)

      Classical and medieval notions of authorship are pertinent to a history of plagiarism for what they reveal about the stability of attributes of authorship over the course of history. In brief, authorsoriginatetruth; their discourse isauthoritativein that it expresses truth; and this intimate relationship between author and discourse is the condition ofauthenticityguaranteeing authorship. The tautological nature of this triumvirate is evident: what is less obvious is its continuing power in modern conceptions of authorship.

      While classical rhetoric did not formally recognize ‘originality’ as an aesthetic criterion, an investigation of the rules governing ‘good imitation’ reveals...

    • 3. Owning Discourse
      (pp. 60-96)

      As plagiarism is predicated on authorship, so does it presuppose ownership. Borges, Barthes, Foucault, structuralism and its ‘post,’ Ralph Federman, Sherrie Levine, and Kathy Acker notwithstanding, we do not yet inhabit the satirically parallel world of Tlön, where, as Borges tells us; ‘in literary matters too, the dominant notion is that everything is the work of one single author. Books are rarely signed. The concept of plagiarism does not exist; it has been established that all books are the work of one single writer, who is timeless and anonymous. Criticism is prone to invent authors. A critic will choose two...

  7. Part Two: Reading Plagiarism

    • 4. Reading the Reader
      (pp. 99-125)

      Whereas the history of copyright can be reduced, albeit simplistically, to the national laws and their interpretations instituting protection for intellectual property over time, the ‘history’ of plagiarism is somewhat more elusive, although not for the lack of historians’ efforts, as we shall see. It is easier to find accusations of plagiarism than unproblematic examples of it, because the phenomenon itself is constructed by an interpretive discourse of reception such that repetition is not sufficient to condemn a text; it can be, in fact, one of the intrinsic qualities of what is deemed literary. As with any form of aesthetic...

    • 5. Reading the Act
      (pp. 126-156)

      The best way not to be accused of plagiarism, as is the case for all crimes, is not to get caught, but, in the case of plagiarism, avoiding detection does not necessarily entail the invisibility of the crime; it consists, rather, in showing that an evident discursive repetition does not fit the criteria defining the transgressive variety, but is of an innocent, or better yet, positive form. Most defences against plagiarism are not denials of discursive borrowing, or even of copying, but attempts to cast the repetition in an innocent light.

      Identifying plagiarism entails ascribing to an agent a series...

  8. Part Three: Power Plagiarism

    • 6. Profit Plagiarism
      (pp. 159-188)

      Plagiarism without profit - or without the perception of it - is hardly conceivable. It is only when repetition results in advantages to the author that suspicions of fraud become plausible. Thus, while authorial intentions may be indeterminable from textual evidence, they may be deduced from the effects or consequences of the alleged act: a profitable ‘borrowing’ will easily be shifted to the category of theft. As the example of Martial’s coining of the metaphor ‘plagiarism’ implies, it is a constituent and original part of the definition of plagiarism that someone lose and someone gain, and that what has unjustly...

    • 7. Imperial Plagiarism
      (pp. 189-217)

      Commenting on the passage that introduces this chapter and the Latin practice of translation, Rita Copeland says that, for the Latins, the ‘aim of inventional difference in the replicative project of translation is founded on a historical agenda of conquest and supremacy through submission’ (17). This relation between the conqueror/translator and the submissive, conquered nation/culture has a reciprocal structure: the military and political superiority of Latium is matched by the cultural supremacy of the ancient Greeks. By the translation and latinization of Greek culture, the act of conquest becomes at the same time a recreation of Latin culture in the...

    • 8. Guerrilla Plagiarism
      (pp. 218-252)

      Plagiarism and authorship presuppose each other: a generalized kind of ‘plagiarism,’ no longer recognized as such, as in Borges’s ‘Tlön,’ would be the consequence of the absence of authors, or perhaps of their death. Now that this ‘death,’ not only of authors, but of the individual humanist subject, has been proclaimed, or at least theorized, it follows that poststructural and postmodern plagiarism would appear to be closely allied with the disappearance of the subject upon which authorship is predicated. ‘Plagiarism’ might be the necessary or logical form of aesthetic production available to an author who has been deprived of the...

  9. Conclusion: Post-Plagiarism
    (pp. 253-270)

    There is no question that appropriation art, with the success in the 1980s of such artists as Richard Prince, Mike Bidlo, Barbara Kruger, and Sherrie Levine, has now become fully institutionalized as a form of contemporary art. But it has not done so without having generated discussions, both in the art world and in the legal arena, about the contradictions inscribed in the conflict between copyright legislation and the allegedly aesthetic or political uses of the appropriation of social images that, as previously copyrighted commodities, are at the same time private property. Within the art world, the commodification of art...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 271-298)
  11. Works Cited
    (pp. 299-312)
  12. Index
    (pp. 313-321)