Tag Archives: teaching

A Master Among Master Thieves

13 Oct

In the Times Online, there is a piece about plagiarism detection software “proving” that Shakespeare didn’t write The Reign of King Edward III by himself:

What about the tomcat’s meow an’ milk cow’s moo?

What about the tomcat’s meow an’ milk cow’s moo?

The Shakespeare matches came from four scenes, about 40 per cent of the play. The remaining scenes had about 200 matches with works by Kyd, best known for The Spanish Tragedy, a play known to have influenced Shakespeare, indicating that he wrote the other 60 per cent of the play.

This is fascinating to me for a number of reasons. Imagine the nerve of using the kind of tool usually employed to detect lowly student thefts on The Bard himself! What messages are people getting from this? That, alas, Shakespeare was a common thief (et tu, Billy?) and somehow a lesser writer? Or that perhaps we should stop making criminals of students for doing what “the greats” do themselves? Should we instead study the uses of influence along with our students in order to show them how to employ these methods appropriately instead of just banning them outright? Shall we encourage collaboration and imitation as an early and necessary stage in their development as writers?

These issues were explored in the Master Thief series about Bob Dylan and plagiarism.

Here are a few words from Shakespeare himself (I think) on thievery:

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Tom Lehrer: “Lobachevsky” (a delightful song about plagiarism, plus a bibliography of sorts)

1 Jun

Here is Tom Lehrer‘s song about Nikolai Lobachevsky, an inventor of non-Euclidean geometry and an accused plagiarist.

Click below for a  list of sources (with links) used in the “If I Was a Master Thief” three-part series.

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If I Was a Master Thief III

24 May

dylanwoody (In Part I, instances of plagiarism in Dylan’s most recent works were discussed, plus the common practice of appropriation in the blues, folk, and jazz traditions, along with findings of similar thefts in the literary tradition. With help from Richard F. Thomas, Jonathan Lethem, and Lawrence Lessig, an examination of appropriation’s crucial role in creativity was introduced, preparing for later explorations of how to reconcile these methods with the ways writing is taught.Part II looked what Lessig calls “remix” in more detail, extending the principles into the business world, the sciences, and to Paulo Freire’s ideas on education, setting the stage for rethinking approaches in writing instruction.)

I Try My Best To Be Just Like I Am

But Everybody Wants You To Be Just Like Them

All this knowledge about how artists, musicians, lawyers, and writers really get things done fills this lowly comp teacher with acute anxiety. How can I deny my students the same methods and still claim to be teaching writing? Like Disney, shall I proclaim from on high unto to my students, “Do as I say, not as I do”? And if I say that, then what the hell am I teaching? Tidiness? I suppose I could rationalize and say English papers aren’t works of art anyway. Few would dispute me on this. And, of course, my students are not Bob Dylan. But neither was Bob Dylan at their age. And yet, even the young Bobby Zimmerman was a college freshman once. Imagine that––he was in someone’s English class. How annoying would that be? (D+. Please follow Chicago-Style documentation. Mississippi-Style is not accepted here. And quit dropping your G’s! You sound like some lonesome hobo!)

Story has it, Bobby Zimmerman rarely went to class. Thank God. Wait––did I just say that? Yet, I wonder. Are we not making room for creative types in higher education? Must they all drop out and hitch to Greenwich Village in the dead of winter? And if more of them stayed, what would they teach us? Continue reading

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