May 4, 2006

Student’s Novel Faces Plagiarism Controversy

by Nick Montfort · , 10:42 pm

Have you been following this whole Harvard student book plagiarism story? I’m sorry that this young girl, pushed by the needs of a publishing machine and, no doubt, by her own ambition, should have fallen into this trap so early in her career. But the fact is that although she has been manipulated and packaged, what has happened to her has very largely been her own fault. The thing is, it’s not conventions of character and plot that Viswanathan is accused of copying, it’s whole sentences of text.

But published scholarly literature is full of examples of writers using the texts, words and ideas of others to serve their own immediate purposes. I believe it is also necessary at the outset to demonstrate how plundergraphia is distinct from plagiarism and reference, and shares little more than intention with found poetry. I think it’s fair to say that most of us spend hours each day shifting content into different containers. There is no exercise of the intellect which is not, in the final analysis, useless.

7 Responses to “Student’s Novel Faces Plagiarism Controversy”

  1. Louis Dargin Says:

    Jesus Nick

  2. Agustin Says:

    Interesting last quote by Borges!

  3. Language Log ยป Dr. Frankenessay discusses originality Says:

    […] 12:08 am

    Nick Montfort of Grand Text Auto has posted an essay consisting of one original question — at least, I haven’t been able to find the same words in the same order elsewhere on the web — followed by seven sentences each of which was lifted verbatim […]

  4. nick Says:

    I feel that I need to answer these accusations of originality right away.

    The first sentence is not mine; I took it from some blog post entitled “Plagiarize This” which seems, oddly, to no longer be up – or maybe the author corrected the spelling of “plagiarism,” as I’ve now done. The link to the Washington Post was in that sentence to begin with and was stolen too. And, the title of this blog post is an appropriated Harvard Crimson headline.

    If I did write anything original in that post, believe me: It was completely unconscious.

  5. Dennis G. Jerz Says:

    I’ve created poetry by lifting lines from student blogs. I rather liked, it too. I should have submitted it to the school’s lit mag instead of posting it online.

  6. andrew Says:

    Observant GTxA readers may have noticed I linked this news about Viswanathan to my related post on Unconscious Thinking, 10 days ago.

    But in light of the latest discoveries about her apparent plagiarism, perhaps it’s all more conscious than unconscious after all.

  7. Francois Lachance Says:

    Even lifted the signature on the by line, eh?!

    by nick @ 10:42 pm

    also appears in other spots on the WWW albeit with an uppercase “N”

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