Revolution Lullabye

May 28, 2009

Johnson-Eilola and Sebler, Plagiarism, Originality, Assemblage

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan and Stuart A. Selber. “Plagiarism, Originality, Assemblage.” Computers and Composition 24 (2007): 375-403.

Johnson-Eilola and Selber argue for a problem-solving view of writing as assemblage rather than a performance and product-oriented understanding of composing. They place the concept of assemblage in conversation with discussions of plagiarism and originality, both which would undervalue and even criminalize assemblage (remix, collage) writing. They show how practices of assemblage are common in other fields and contexts, like website design, architecture, blogging, and institutional and workplace writing. Writing as assemblage, a postmodern understanding of creativity, limits the ethical and legal panic over plagiarism and the sloppy, unnecessary paraphrasing and allows students to use all available resources (and acknowledge those sources) to make their argument and solve problems.

Quotable Quotes

“If we take away that hierarchy, we remove the impulse for students to lie about it. If a piece of the assemblage is valued primarily for its function rather than its place in a hierarcy, students are no longer pushed so hard to hide the citations for their sources” (400). – students are afraid to have too much of their text in quotes or cited because then it doesn’t look like their original thought is in there (even though they selected, assembled.)

“By untangling the academic function from the legal function [of citation and paraphrase], we open up assemblages and remixes to examination in terms of our academic and pedagogical goals” (399).

“What if we put the emphasis on problem-solving, originality be damned?” (380).

“creating assemblages requires the same rhetorical sophistication as any text” (391).

Notable Notes

Christopher Alexander pattern language – these design patterns are “an ongoing conversation between local and global” and “The possible rhetorical moves of a pattern language are a reservoir, drawn on by an architect to address problems in specific contexts, remixed into an assemblage. The assemblage works at the intersection of principle and concrete.” (395).

selection, choice, local context

change in assessment practices to question whether the assemblage solves problems (instead of the Romantic understanding of single original author)

students are taught this hierarchy – others’ work and words can only be used as support and are secondary to their own original thoughts

21st century remix culture is all around us


March 9, 2009

Johnson-Eilola, The Database and the Essay

Johnson-Eilola, Johndan. “The Database and the Essay.” In Writing New Media. Eds. Anne Frances Wysocki, et al. Logan, Utah: Utah State UP, 2004. 199-235.

Drawing on scholarship and federal cases about intellectual property law and theories of writing as symbolic-analytic work and writing as articulation, Johnson-Eilola argues that composition teachers should begin valuing the processes of selection and connection (as done in blogging, database construction, MOOs, and search engine design) as writing, writing to discuss, analyze, and do in their classrooms. Writing, he argues, cannot be divorced from the economic sphere and must understand all information as value- and choice-laden. Two forces have combined to spark this change that composition teachers must understand and act upon: first, the postmodern move to recognize that there is no such thing as the solitary author, since all writing is social work; and second, that intellectual property law is increasingly seeing texts not as coherent wholes but rather chunks of marketable, commodified information and material. His assignments ask students to blog and look critically at how search engines organize and display information.

Quotable Quotes

Looking at “the breakdown of ‘text’ as a coherent and privileged object” (205)

Shift “away from thinking of intellectual property as a ‘work’ – as a relatively extended, coherent whole – and toward thinking of it as marketable chunks” (209).

“This new notion of writing as at least partly – perhaps primarily – about valuing connection will let us argue to our students that information is not neutral. Collection is a social and political act; there are not mere disembodied facts, but choices” (212).

Notable Notes

see selection and connection as writing – draw on articulation theory for this.

we need to begin connecting writing and architecture theories

postmodern, commodity, capitalist,

the business of information

controlling linking on webpages, database structure

February 22, 2009

Foucault, What Is an Author

Foucault, Michel. From “What Is an Author?” In Authorship: From Plato to the Postmodern. Ed. Sean Burke. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP,  2000. 233-246.


Foucault shifts attention from the individual author to examining the features of texts that have authors, prioritizing discourse, language itself, instead of authors or even readers. He explains that the role of the author isn’t merely descriptive; it performs an act, an authoring act in society. Four features of the author-function are as follows: it is connected to institutional and societal issues of legal property and appropriation; it is not the same for all discourses and in all cultures and time periods; it is defined through a complex process of assigning and constructing an author by searching for coherence in style, argument, and quality over many texts; and it allows for the plurality of egos, a separation of the author, narrator, and other subjects in the text. Foucault then moves to describe a particular kind of author who arose in the nineteenth century, citing Marx and Freud as examples. They are authors of entire discourses, who produced not only their own texts but a possibility for the production of others, texts that always return to the founding discourse, never debunking it. He distinguishes between a founding act of science and a founding act of discourse. Foucault then suggests what work must be done next: creating a typology of discourse through analyzing the relationships of between an author and a text and investigating the role of subjects and authors as functions of discourse, not existing outside of it.


Quotable Quotes


Marx, Freud:  “They cleared a space for the introduction of elements other than their own, which, nevertheless, remain within the field of discourse they initiated” (241).


“The initiation of a discourse practice is heterogeneous to its ulterior transformations” It “overshadows and is necessarily detached from its later developments and transformations” (242).


“The subject (and its substitutes) must be stripped of its creative role  and analysed as a complex and variable function of discourse.” (245)


“We can say in our culture, the name of an author is a variable that accompanies only certain texts to the exclusion of others: a private letter may have a signatory, but it does not have an author; a contract can have an underwriter, but not an author; and, similarily,  an anonymous poster attached to a wall may have a writer, but he cannot be an author. In this sense, the function of an author is to characterize the existence, circulation, and operation of certain discourses in society” (235).


Notable Notes


Shifts the focus from author to text, from discourse and its functions.


Labor-intensive process of assigning an author to a body of work. We believe that the work of an author must be homogenous: there must be unity in its quality, arguments, style, historical place and context. Contradictions must be solved – there can’t be any inherent complications unless they can be explained away.


The name of an author functions as a classification, creates relationships between texts and gives text and discourse a sort of permanence in society  (235)


February 19, 2009

Barthes, The Death of the Author

Barthes, Roland. “The Death of the Author.” In Authorship: From Plato to the Postmodern. Ed. Sean Burke. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP Ltd., 2000. 125-130.

Barthes argues that it is not the author who speaks in a text, but rather, language itself. The concept of a single (male) author is one rooted in Enlightenment individualism, an idea so powerful that it reduced the text to an explanation and an understanding of the author. Instead, Barthes claims, an author and a text are born simultaneously (126); the former does not give birth to the latter, for the act of writing is not an act of reporting ideas but, rather, a performative act. Writing and texts do not have single, solitary lines of understanding: they are multivoiced and understanding them can only be a process of disentangling the lines, not completely deciphering them or figuring them out (129). The work of assigning meaning to a text, of compiling the voices into some sort of understandable whole, does not belong to the author/writer. It is the duty of the reader. Barthes calls for “the birth of the reader” at the expense of the Author. (130).

Quotable Quotes

“The birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author” (130).

“A text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination” (129) author-reader

“Everything is to be disentangled, nothing deciphered” (129)

“Life never does more than imitate the book, and the book itself is only a tissue of signs, an imitation that is lost, infinitely deferred” (128).

A text is a “multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash” (128)

“Writing is the destruction of every voice, of every point of origin…Writing is that neutral, composite, oblique space where our subject slips away, the negative where all identity is lost, starting with the very identity of the body writing” (125).

“The voice loses its origin, the author enters his own death, writing begins” (125).

Notable Notes

not assigning an ultimate final meaning to a text is to refuse God (and reason, science, and law) – very postmodern (129)

assigning an author limits a text, closes it, allows it to be criticized as an object

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

February 7, 2009

Howard, “Collaborative Pedagogy”

Howard, Rebecca Moore. “Collaborative Pedagogy.” 54-70.

Howard, tracing the rise of collaborative pedagogy to Kenneth Bruffee and open admissions policies, explains several kinds of collaborative writing and learning used in the composition classroom: collaborative learning (the kind that happens in whole-class or small-group discussion); student collaboration in solo-authored text (through peer workshops and writing groups), collaborative writing assignments, and the collaboration that happens between a writer and text when a writer engages in source-based writing. Collaborative pedagogy contends the romantic notion of the solitary author, instead foregrounding the inherent social nature of language, meaning-making, and knowledge. It provides a social context for students to think and write in, flattens the hierachy in a classroom(which empowers students), and models the kinds of writing tasks students will have to do in the workplace.

Quotable Quotes

Writer/text collaboration – “re(formative) composition” that allows students to play with the language in sources without worrying about textual ownership issues: it could have “the potential for expanding students’ linguistic repertories and increasing the authority of their academic prose voices” (67).

Movement “away from a normative solitary author and toward an appreciation for collaboration” is necessary for the acceptance of and success of the pedagogy in the eyes of the discipline (56)

Notable Notes

Bruffee’s 3 principles: 1. thought is internalized conversation 2. writing is internalized conversation re-externalized 3. collaborative work is establishing and maintaining knowledge among a community of knowledgable peers.

Rorty – social-constructivist, knowledge is a “socially justified belief”

Ann Ruggles Gere; Kris Bosworth and Sharon Hamilton; Diana George, Marilyn Cooper, and Susan Sanders; Chet Meyers and Thomas Jones; Lusford and Ede; LeFevre, Glynda Hull and Mike Rose; Mary Minock; Keith Miller (African-American preaching)

With collaborative pedagogy, a teacher needs to discuss methods and problems of collaborative learning before the assignment, have the sutdents commit to a timetable and schedule, prepare for dissent and conflict, discuss the grading policy, and allow room for minority opinions/counterevidence in the project.

Question of plagiarism and cheating

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