Working in the mode of Jonathan Lethem, construct a brief and original plagiarism of your own.
A key part of your task here will be to figure out just what it means to work in the mode of Lethem. Let me offer two baseline criteria:
- Your text must in some way remix, appropriate, or tweak several other texts.
- Your text must contain a key to your sources.
I’d also like you to append a brief reflection on your aims as a writer. Otherwise, the form your plagiarism takes is up to you. You can construct a print, digital, or multimedia text. You can write on any topic or argue any point that you like. You can write in prose or verse, and you can work with print, images, audio, and video. Your plagiarism does not need to rival Lethem’s in length. A page or two—whatever that means in this context, and not counting your key and reflection—should be fine.
- Thurs, 2/16, 9:00 am: Draft One
- Mon, 2/20, 1:15 pm: Workshops (x5)
- Thurs, 2/23, 9:00 am: Revision plans (x6)
- Mon, 2/27, or Tues, 2/28: Conferences with jh
- Thurs, 3/01: Draft Two
A thought on effective plagiarizing
Commenting on his use of one of his sources, Lethem writes:
. . . though in truth by the time I’d finished, his words were so utterly dissolved within my own that had I been an ordinary cutting-and-pasting journalist it never would have occurred to me to give Dahlen a citation. The effort of preserving another’s distinctive phrasings as I worked on this essay was sometimes beyond my capacities; this form of plagiarism was oddly hard work. (70)
This strikes me as a crucial insight into method. In finding sources to quote, you need to work in something other than the mode of a kidnapper constructing a ransom note out of words and letters clipped from magazines. That is, you can’t just look around for people who happen to say what you wanted to say anyway. It has to matter where your words come from. Your quotations need both to advance your argument and comment on your sources. We’ll look together in class at some plagiarisms written by other Duke students that I think do just that.