HOW WRITERS WILL STEAL YOUR LIFE AND USE IT FOR FICTION A BRIEF HISTORY OF PLAGIARIZING IDENTITY, FROM LEO TOLSTOY TO SALMAN RUSHDIE

plagiarismPlagiarism in many instances should be shunned and punished; at the same time, it has been at the heart of cultural life for centuries, bringing much good and much pleasure. The great plagiarists have committed no crime. And there is the “added value” argument, which many find persuasive. But there is a further question to raise, and in many ways it is the most interesting.

The word plagiarism comes from the Latin for kidnapping, literally “going out with a net.” It was used first in something like its modern sense in AD 1 by the Roman poet Martial. A plagiarius was, in his view, someone who stole someone else’s slave or enslaved a free person. In epigram No. 32, he applies the term metaphorically to another poet, whom he accuses of having claimed authorship of verses Martial had written. Later, in epigram No. 53, he uses not plagiarius but the word for thief (fur) to apply to someone whom we would call a plagiarist. As Martial was to put it, a plagiarist doesn’t just steal a person’s body; he kidnaps his person, her inner life.

This develops into an altogether different literary theft. For both the memoirist and the novelist are inevitably inspired by the people they have met, and will make use of them to suit their purposes. This may not strictly be plagiarism, but it is similar territory. “Writing is an act of thievery,” admits Khalid Hosseini, author of the autobiographical novel The Kite Runner. “You adapt experiences and anecdotes for your own purposes.” John Cheever put it more gently: “Fiction is a force of memory improperly understood.”

 

Both the memoirist and the novelist are inevitably inspired by the people they have met, and will make use of them to suit their purposes.

 

It can also cut close to nonfiction, and the lines of demarcation become blurred. In a recent essay, Alexander Stille, himself a memoirist, has written: “Within this kind of work there is inherent conflict. The characters in a memoir are not real people, but inevitably feed on the blood of the living like vampires. And so it is entirely natural for those real people to defend their identities as if they were fighting for their lives.”

Such “kidnappings” can cause as much pain as, if not more than, someone whose work is plagiarized may feel. During the mid-1960s, Michael Holroyd was researching his two-volume biography of Lytton Strachey when he took time out to complete a short novel, his first and, as it turned out, his only. “It would be some fifty thousand words long and cover the happenings of a family over twenty-four hours,” wrote Holroyd many years later. The book was accepted for publication by Heinemann in Britain and by Holt, Rinehart in the United States. “During the long wait for publication I had given the typescript to my father to read—and he was horrified. For him the book was not a novel at all but a hostile caricature of the family. ‘You go out of your way to avoid any redeeming features in anyone’s characters,’ he wrote. . . . ‘The formula is evident. Take the weakest side of each character—the skeleton in every cupboard—& magnify these out of proportion so as they appear to become the whole and not only part of the picture. Please understand the whole family are together in their dislike of this distorted picture you have drawn of them.’”

The family had not in fact read the book, but Holroyd’s father’s reaction was enough. In a special introduction to the novel, finally reissued in 2014 after years out of print, Holroyd explains how he in turn felt. “I was nonplussed by this awful reaction. I had borrowed certain traits, gestures, tricks of speech and various mannerisms from members of the family, but had fixed them on to characters with very different careers and past lives.”

Whatever his son’s motives, Holroyd the father was determined to stop publication. There may have been breaches of trust, but none of copyright, and certainly no plagiarism of an actionable kind, so instead he threatened to sue for libel. In Britain, where libel laws are strict, Heinemann was concerned, but Holroyd was aghast. “The intensity of his grief and anger . . . shocked me. So I withdrew the novel and returned my advance.” Holt, however, having taken legal advice, went ahead, and the book was published in the United States in 1969. “No copies reached my family and I was able to help my father, who was sliding towards bankruptcy, with my advance.”

Something very different happened over the publication of Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children. When his father first read the book, in 1980, he was convinced that Ahmed Sinai, the novel’s drunken patriarch, was a satirical portrait based on him. He was furious. Salman Rushdie did not deny that the character was a fictionalized version of his parent—“In my young, pissed-off way,” he later explained, “I responded that I’d left all the nasty stuff out”—but he objected to his father’s wounded reaction, which he thought betrayed a crude understanding of how novels worked. “My father had studied literature at Cambridge so I expected him to have a sophisticated response to the book.” But in Rushdie’s case he never rescinded his “kidnapping.”

This making use of—even making off with—someone else’s life seems to me to be what a plagiarius does. But it is, simply, what writers do. In an endnote essay in The New York Times Book Review the novelist and playwright Roger Rosenblatt put this well:

For the wolf of a writer, the family is a crowd of sitting ducks. There they assemble at the Thanksgiving table, poor dears—blithering uncles, drugged-out siblings, warring couples—posing for a painting, though they do not know it.

The objects of a writer’s scrutiny may be entirely blameless, but the writer will infuse his family with whatever characteristics suit his purpose, because “defects make for better reading than virtues.”

Literature is littered with stories of how novelists have taken the lives of people they have met and used them for their fictions. The family is just the nearest ammunition to hand. Friends and enemies, lovers and ex-lovers, all are grist to the artist’s mill. The celebrated society hostess Lady Ottoline Morrell (1873-1938) was the inspiration for Mrs. Bidlake in Aldous Huxley’s Point Counter Point, for Hermione Roddice in D.H. Lawrence’s Women in Love, for Lady Caroline Bury in Graham Greene’s It’s a Battlefield, and for Lady Sybilline Quarrell in Alan Bennett’s Forty Years On. (In the first two instances at least, she felt betrayed by authors she regarded as friends.) Zelda Fitzgerald complained of her husband that in The Beautiful and Damned she could “recognize a portion of an old diary of mine which mysteriously disappeared shortly after my marriage, and also scraps of letters which sound vaguely familiar. Mr. Fitzgerald seems to believe that plagiarism begins at home.” A novelist I edited wrote of a main character whose father had murdered her mother—a situation taken from real life by the novelist from the pillow talk of a onetime lover, whose own family had experienced exactly that tragedy. Only when the book was in proof did he show it to her, and she was outraged. Chastened, he rewrote the novel. Many writers do not behave as well—or, if they do, not as late.

In 1872 a neighbor of Tolstoy’s cast off his mistress, Anna Pirogova. The railroad had recently been extended into the province, and in her despair Anna rushed down to the tracks and threw herself under a train. The corpse was taken to a nearby engine shed, and Tolstoy, hearing of the tragedy, rode over to view the remains, even though he had never known the woman. We do not object when we learn that he used Anna Pirogova as the inspiration for Anna Karenina, or when an otherwise anonymous Madame Delphine Delamare, after numerous adulteries as the wife of an inattentive country doctor, in 1850 poisons herself and becomes the model for Emma Bovary. When, in The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann, for his portrait of Mynheer Peeperkorn, borrowed some of the features of Gerhart Hauptmann, at that time Germany’s foremost dramatist, a scandal ensued, and Mann was forced to appeal to Hauptmann directly: “I have sinned against you. I was in need, was led into temptation, and yielded to it. The need was artistic.” And there the matter rested. These are just three examples, when in truth hardly any imaginative writer doesn’t borrow from people they know. Even so, when the instances come closer to home, we may justifiably feel that our person has been kidnapped.*

Most writers acknowledge the destructive, even self-destructive element in their chosen profession. “As a younger man,” admitted Peter Carey, “if anything was worth stealing I would steal it.” Whether it is in fiction or nonfiction, most writers take that “right” for granted. “The novelist destroys the house of his life and uses its stones to build the house of his novel,” Milan Kundera wrote in Art of the Novel, not as apology but as a description of the way things are.

 

Most writers acknowledge the destructive, even
self-destructive element in their chosen profession.

 

John Updike confessed that fiction is “a dirty business.” His art had “a shabby side. . . . The artist who works in words and anecdotes, images and facts wants to share with us nothing less than his digested life.” In his book Self-Consciousness, he exempts himself from “normal intra-familial courtesy,” adding that “the nearer and dearer they are the more mercilessly they are served up.” Interviewed for a 1982 TV documentary, he bluntly states: “My duty as a writer is to make the best record I can of life as I understand it, and that duty takes precedence for me over all these other considerations.” After Updike and his first wife told their children they planned to divorce, he composed a story about the episode (“Separating”) a mere two weeks later, a “way of hiding,” he put it in a 1968 interview, “of too instantly transforming pain into honey.”

The Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard, whose six-part memoir/novel My Struggle is extremely revealing about his close relatives, has said that the question of whether a writer ought to use his family as material is like asking: Would you save the cat or the Rembrandt from a burning house? His answer is that we must save the cat, choosing life over art—but he portrays his own family in intimate, hurtful detail.

Graham Greene has famously written about the “ice chip in the heart” that allows novelists to plagiarize the lives of friends—an image he took from Hans Anderson’s The Snow Queen, in which a sliver of glass from a shattered magic mirror lodges in the heart of a young boy, Kai. For Greene, that chip of ice is essential equipment. Nearly all writers have to ask whether they possess such a splinter, and to what degree.

 

* This leaves plenty of room for error. Around 1999, a woman librarian brought a case against Joe Klein and Random House since she believed that she was the model for a character who has an affair with the Clintonesque presidential candidate in Klein’s Primary Colors and was thus defamed. It was said that the woman cited as evidence the description of her character’s shapely legs in the novel being an exact description of her own. In fact, Klein had used as inspiration the legs of his literary agent, Kathy Robbins (my wife). When Kathy was required to make a formal deposition, she made sure she wore a short skirt and high heels. The claim duly failed, a New York court ruling that a depiction “must be so closely akin” to the real person claiming to be defamed that “a reader of the book, knowing the real person, would have no difficulty linking the two.”

In an extreme case, David Graham Phillips, early hailed by H. L. Mencken as “the leading American novelist” of his day, was fatally shot in 1911 by a man overcome by rage at what he believed was the depiction of his family in one of Phillips’s fictions. The author, on his way to the hospital, said that he had no knowledge of his assailant or his family. See Peter Duffy, “Character Assassination,” The New York Times Book Review, January 16, 2011, p. 23.

By Richard Cohen, Via Random House

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Want to Learn English with an Experienced teacher?

WEST YORKSHIRE, UK

West Yorkshire, UK

Hi all,

Long time no see. Missed me? Well, to tell the truth, I have been spending a lot of time working offline. There are times when you  just need to get away from the virtual world and go back to the old-fashioned one. However, I am back with some good news.

VocabIn the modern world where, whether we like it or not, English has become a universal language of communication, it is of immense importance to master the standard language skills. This will help you communicate with the individuals worldwide being it professionally or privately. During my 18 years of teaching experience and attending a variety of seminars, conferences, round tables and workshops, I have learned that the key to success is the communication. Why? The right choice of words carry the power and vibration that open up the way up. Do not bereave, deprive,rob or take away from yourselves  this opportunity. 🙂

Having this in mind, I have devised a plan to use my website and social network to start giving lessons online (translations and proof-reading included) in order to teach and help my candidates as much as I can to reach their goals and fulfill their dreams.

Anyone interested in learning English from the Beginners’ to the Advanced level or need some the above mentioned professional services, can contact me via my website, Linked in or my Facebook account. As for the details of the courses studied, in case you are interested, you can just drop a message using one of those domains and I will answer back ASAP. (Please, take into account the time differences 🙂 ). All I can say is that the success is ensured.

Besides those, I also do proof-reading, translating from Serbian into English and vice versa and create lesson plans according to your professional teaching needs. Therefore, do not hesitate to contact me.

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P.S. Did I mention that there are some bonuses for those who are interested in long-term learning? Well, there are. And they are just a message away.

In the end, to illustrate the possible approach to learning English I am posting a link Mary J. Blige, U2 “One”, a song that comprises loads of grammar points. Enjoy!

 

The Characteristics Of A Good School

The Characteristics Of A Good School

by Terry Heick

For professional development around this idea or others you read about on TeachThought, contact us.

When a society changes, so then must its tools.

Definitions of purpose and quality must also be revised continuously. What should a school “do”? Be? How can we tell a good school from a bad one?

This really starts at the human level, but that’s a broader issue. For now, let’s consider that schools are simply pieces of larger ecologies. The most immediate ecologies they participate in are human and cultural. As pieces in (human) ecologies, when one thing changes, everything else does as well. When it rains, the streams flood, the meadows are damp, the clovers bloom, and the bees bustle. When there’s drought, things are dry, and stale, and still.

When technology changes, it impacts the kinds of things we want and need. Updates to technology change what we desire; as we desire new things, technology changes to seek to provide them. The same goes for–or should go for–education. Consider a few of the key ideas in progressive education. Mobile learning, digital citizenship, design thinking, collaboration, creativity, and on a larger scale, digital literacy,1:1, and more are skills and content bits that every student would benefit from exposure to and mastery of. As these force their way into schools and classrooms and assignments and the design thinking of teachers, this is at the cost of “the way tings were.”

When these “things” are forced in with little adjustment elsewhere, the authenticity of everything dies. The ecology itself is at risk.

The Purpose Of School In An Era Of Change

What should schools teach, and how? And how do we know if we’re doing it well? These are astoundingly important questions–ones that must be answered with social needs, teacher gifts, and technology access in mind. Now, we take the opposite approach. Here’s what all students should know, now let’s figure out how we can use what we have to teach it. If we don’t see the issue in its full context, we’re settling for glimpses.

How schools are designed and what students learn–and why–must be reviewed, scrutinized, and refined as closely and with as much enthusiasm as we do the gas mileage of our cars, the downloads speeds of our phones and tablets, or the operating systems of our watches. Most modern academic standards take a body-of-knowledge approach to education. This, to me, seems to be a dated approach to learning that continues to hamper our attempts to innovate.

Why can’t education, as a system, refashion itself as aggressively as the digital technology that is causing it so much angst? The fluidity of a given curriculum should at least match the fluidity of relevant modern knowledge demands. Maybe a first step in pursuit of an innovative and modern approach to teaching and learning might be to rethink the idea of curriculum as the core of learning models?

Less is more is one way to look at it, but that’s not new–power standards have been around for years. In fact, in this era of information access, smart clouds, and worsening socioeconomic disparity, we may want to consider whether we should be teaching content at all, or rather teaching students to think, design their own learning pathways, and create and do extraordinary things that are valuable to them in their place?

Previously we’ve assumed that would be the effect–that if students could read and write and do arithmetic and compose arguments and extract the main idea and otherwise master a (now nationalized) body of knowledge, that they’d learn to think and play with complex ideas and create incredible things and understand themselves in the process. That the more sound and full their knowledge background was, the greater the likelihood that they’ll create healthy self-identities and be tolerant of divergent thinking and do good work and act locally and think globally and create a better world.

A curriculum-first school design is based on the underlying assumption that if they know this and can do this, that this will be the result. This hasn’t been the case. We tend to celebrate school success instead of people success. We create “good schools” that graduate scores of students with very little hope for the future. How can that possibly be? How can a school call itself “good” when it produces students that don’t know themselves, the world, or their place in it?

So then, here’s one take on a new definition for a “good school.”

The Characteristics Of A Good School

A good school will improve the community it is embedded within and serves.

A good school can adapt quickly to human needs and technology change.

A good school produces students that not only read and write, but choose to.

A good school sees itself.

A good school has diverse and compelling measures of success–measures that families and communities understand and value.

A good school is full of students that don’t just understand “much,” but rather know what’s worth understanding.

A good school knows it can’t do it all, so seeks to do what’s necessary exceptionally well.

A good school improves other schools and cultural organizations it’s connected with.

A good school is always on and never closed. (It is not a factory.)

A good school makes certain that every single student and family feels welcome and understood on equal terms.

A good school is full of students that not only ask great questions, but do so with great frequency and ferocity.

A good school changes students; students change great schools.

A good school understands the difference between broken thinking and broken implementation.

A good school speaks the language of its students.

A good school doesn’t make empty promises, create noble-but-misleading mission statements, or mislead parents and community-members with edu-jargon. It is authentic and transparent.

A good school values its teachers and administrators and parents as agents of student success.

A good school favors personalized learning over differentiated learning.

A good school teaches thought, not content.

A good school makes technology, curriculum, policies, and its other “pieces” invisible. (Ever go to a ballet and see focus on individual movements?)

via TEACH/THOUGHT

A good school is disruptive of bad cultural practices. These include intolerance based on race, income, faith, and sexual preference, aliteracy, and apathy toward the environment.

A good school produces students that know themselves in their own context, one that they know and choose. This includes culture, community, language, and profession.

A good school produces students that have personal and specific hope for the future that they can articulate and believe in and share with others.

A good school produces students that can empathize, critique, protect, love, inspire, make, design, restore, and understand almost anything–and then do so as a matter of habit.

A good school will erode the societal tendency towards greed, consumerism, and hording of resources we all need.

A good school is more concerned with cultural practices than pedagogical practices–students and families than other schools or the educational status quo.

A good school helps student separate trivial knowledge from vocational knowledge from academic knowledge from applied knowledge from knowledge-as-wisdom.

A good school will experience disruption in its own patterns and practices and values because its students are creative, empowered, and connected, and cause unpredictable change themselves.

A good school will produce students that can think critically–about issues of human interest, curiosity, artistry, craft, legacy, husbandry, agriculture, and more–and then do so.

A good school will help students see themselves in terms of their historical framing, familial legacy, social context, and global connectivity.

YYYYYYYYEEEESSSSSS!!! …

A LETTER OF INVITATION FROM THE “WORLD JOURNAL OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE”

11062097_10206336070060962_5468189836415076036_nDear Dr. Nada Radenković,

We are reaching you because of your article entitled, ‘A PRESENTATION OF THE WEBSITES ‘LEARNING SHOULD BE FUN’’, which was published in Journal of Teaching English for Specific and Academic Purposes, Vol. 3, No 1, 2015, and was very impressed at its scope and contents. I know you are an expert in your research area.

I am the Editorial Assistant of ‘World Journal of English Language’, a peer-review journal, published by Sciedu Press. It is devoted to publishing original articles in various aspects, fields and scope of the English Language, such as but not limited to English literature, linguistics, teaching and learning English as a Second Language (ESL), as an Additional Language (EAL) or as a Foreign Language(TEFL).

It is my honor to invite you to submit your new manuscripts to us as one of the ‘Authors’ in our next publication.

For manuscripts submission, please visit: http://wjel.sciedupress.com

We would appreciate if you could share this information with your colleagues and associates who might be interested in joining us as a ‘Reviewer’ or submit their manuscripts to us as ‘Authors’.

Thank you and we hope to hear from you and/or your colleagues and associates soon.

Sincerely,

Sara M. Lee

Editorial Assistant, World Journal of English Language

Sciedu Press

—————————————–

Mailing Add: 1120 Finch Avenue West, Suite 701-309, Toronto, ON., M3J 3H7, Canada

Tel: 1-416-479-0028 ext. 218

Fax: 1-416-642-8548

Email: wjel@sciedupress.com

Web: http://wjel.sciedupress.com

Romanticism and Rock

Love this guy! Good luck Jason. My favourite period.

James Rovira

I’m thinking about developing a course about Rock and Roll and Romanticism for the Spring 2016 semester, so I asked my colleagues on the NASSR list for music recommendations that pair well with Romantic-era poetry and prose. They responded generously with numerous suggestions both for pairings between rock and roll and Romantic texts and for the course in general. I’ve posted a list below.

Why rock and roll and Romanticism? “Romanticism” as a literary movement has traditionally been defined both thematically and as a period, with periodization usually taking priority. As a periodized trans-European phenomenon, Romanticism starts with either Rousseau’s writings of the 1760s-1780s, Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther in 1774, or the fall of the Bastille in 1789, and it lasts until about 1850, at least in England. By this date Wordsworth, Mary Shelly, and most other first and second-generation Romantic poets had died.

Thematically, Romantic literature tends…

View original post 1,130 more words

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ESP CONFERENCE

PPT CONFERENCE PRESENTATION NADA RADENKOVIC The conference being over just yesterday, it’s time to reflect upon the last three days of intensive events and presentations.Lots of thing were going on, lots of people, lots of topics, lots of information, lots of food and fun lots of lots……….Time to take time for myself. Write soon! Cheeeeerrss!