Revolution Lullabye

February 15, 2009

Randall, Pragmatic Plagiarism

Randall, Marilyn. Pragmatic Plagiarism: Authorship, Profit, and Power. Toronto: U of Toronto Press, 2001.

Plagiarism is not a textual feature; rather, plagiarism is identified, named, and made an accusation by the reader, who must interpret the author’s intentions based on the text itself, which may not give clues to the author’s motivations. Plagiarism is also pragmatic because it is a source of power: profit (economic), imperial (conquest and colonialism), and guerilla (subversive, political, and revolutionary.) Randall focuses exclusively on historical and contemporary cases of literary plagiarism suspicion and accusation, investigating (through her study of the role of the reader and the power motivations for plagiarism) why some authors are accused of the crime of plagiarism and others are praised as artists and genius authors. She points out that textual ownership (manifest through copyright law) is a far more recent phenomenon  than textual authorship (which forms the ethical foundation of plagiarism, imitation, and appropriation, and was written about in ancient times.)

Quotable Quotes

Plagiarism “is not an immenent feature of texts, but rather the result of judgments involving, first of all, the presence of some kind of textual repetition, but also, and perhaps more important, a conjunction of social, political, aesthetic, and cultural norms and presuppositions that motivate accusations or disculpations, elevating some potential plagiarisms to the level of great works of art, while censuring others and condemning the perpetrators to ignominy” (5).

Plagiarism and copyright are two different histories, invoking “two different realms – the deontic and the judicial” (76).

“Plagiarism is a judgment imposed upon texts” (xi) – she looks at the judgments, not the texts.

Notable Notes

Book Outline
Part 1: relationship between plagiarism and authorship; ancient and medieval notions of authority, authenticity, and originality; plagiarism is about identity; development of authors as originators and then owners of discourse.
Part 2: the importance of the reader in “naming, compiling, and criticizing either plagiarism or its critics” (xii)
Part 3: profit, imperial, and guerilla plagiarism – plagiarism as power
Conclusion: the digital age is questioning ideas of authorship and ownership, but the death of authorship would mean the death of plagiarism, and accusations against plagiarism aren’t going to cease

Plagiarism is unethical for two reasons: form of stealing (property) and form of fraud (authorship)

Plagiarism is a crime against authors; copyright infringement is a crime against owners (268)

Uses Bourdieu, Montainge


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