-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: Plagiarism & Dead Poets
Date: Thu, 17 May 2007 23:39:00 -0400
From: "charlotte.hussey" <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
I agree with Natasha that we are too obsessed with plagiarism....it brings
out all our teacherly authoritarian tendencies, like tapping the black board
with a sharp pointer... It's true too that in literature, sources of
inspiration have included dreams, the fickle muse, various illegal
substances and, of course, the work of other writers.
One of the things my poetry workshop students do are imitations or "talk
backs" to poems of well-known poets. Stephen Dunning & William Stafford
(1992) have a good description of it in "Getting the Knack: 20 Poetry
Writing Exercises." (Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English).
Like weekend painters in the Louvre, poets have had a long tradition of
apprenticing with those that came before them. I remember in my youth
carrying William Carlos Williams and then Shakespeare on my person at all
times--they were intimate companions and I knew their poems inside out. As
for imitations, they go likes this:
(1) Read the selected poem out loud a few times.
(2) Copy it by hand.
(3) Note down what strikes you about it.
(4) Expand these notes into a page or so of discussion as to why you chose
this poem to work with. Mention what techniques you are planning to imitate,
or themes you will "talk back to" in your own poem.
(5) Write your poem and give credit in your title to your poet----, ie.
"After Yeats's "Wanderings of Oisin"
At first students can't believe I am asking them to do this....It goes
against all they have been told about plagiarism and originality. Copying by
hand seems sketchy too. But after they have done so, they say things like "I
can understand the subtle use of punctuation much better and why the lines
break where they do. I get all this now, as if by osmosis and without a lot
of theorizing!" They come to like doing this a lot. It's reassuring, even
relaxing. Some of their best poems come from doing imitations....Also it
helps them jump-start their writing. "I can always do any imitation on those
days when I sit staring at the blank page," they tell me.
I don't know how, if at all, this translates over to writing academic
essays, but my students and I have gotten some good discussions going about
plagiarism and their need to "talk back" to a dead poet. Charlotte Hussey
On 5/16/07 8:26 PM, "Natasha Artemeva" wrote:
> I was reading a modern Russian novel the other day, and in the foreword
> the editor was saying that in this novel a reader would find hidden
> quotes from various famous Russian authors whose names were then listed.
> I am sure any of us can provide multiple examples
> of "borrowing" from other authors in literature, music, film, even in
> academic papers. Why are we so obsessed with student plagiarism?
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Natasha Artemeva, Ph. D.
School of Linguistics and
Applied Language Studies
1125 Colonel By Drive
Tel.+1 (613) 520-2600 ext.7452
Fax +1 (613) 520-6641
E-mail: [log in to unmask]
To leave the list, send a SIGNOFF CASLL command to
[log in to unmask] or, if you experience difficulties,
write to Russ Hunt at [log in to unmask]
For the list archives and information about the organization,
its newsletter, and the annual conference, go to