Sunday, July 03, 2011

A Question of Paraphrase . . .

Issue of Dependence?
(Image from JNS)

In addition to my usual interests as displayed on this blog, I have a long-held interest in philosophy, though I generally manage to pursue it only sporadically.

Yesterday, an article that ties in with my current posts on paraphrase came to my attention. The article, "Telling the Same Story of Nietzsche's Life," is by Mark Anderson and appears in The Journal of Nietzsche Studies (Vol. 42, Autumn 2011). In this article, Anderson compares Julian Young's recent Friedrich Nietzsche: A Philosophical Biography (2010) to the late Curtis Cate's biography, Friedrich Nietzsche (2005), beginning with the following two parallel passages describing Nietzsche's boarding school, the first passage from Cate's 2010 biography:
Originally a Cistercian monastery bearing the Latin name, Porta coeli (Gate of Heaven), it had been transformed in 1543 into a 'Prinzenschule' by the Protestant Prince-Elector Moritz of Saxony. Situated slightly south of the Saale river in a wooded valley extending from the western edge of Naumburg to the narrow gorges of Kösen, Pforta or Schulpforta, as it is known to this day, consisted of some sixty acres of gardens, orchards, groves, buildings and cloisters, protected from the outer world by a thick twelve-foot-high wall, which formed an almost perfect rectangle. A branch canal of the Saale flowed through the middle of the enclosure, separating the vegetable and other gardens, the 'household' barns and workshops and most of the teachers' houses from the school buildings and quadrangles. (Cate 2005, 17)
Then from Young's biography of five years later, in 2010:
Originally a Cistercian abbey called Porta Coeli (Gate of Heaven), Pforta ('Gate' -- now to education rather than heaven) had been transformed into a school in 1543 by the Prince-Elector Moritz of Saxony . . . Pforta, or Schulpforta (Pforta School), as it is known today, is about an hour's walk from Naumburg -- Fritz sometimes walked home for the holidays. It lies just south of the ambling Saale River in a wooded valley that extends from the western edge of Naumburg to the narrow gorge of Kösen. The school estate comprises some seventy-three acres of gardens, orchards, groves of trees, buildings, and cloisters, protected from the outer world by a thick twelve-foot-high wall, which forms an almost perfect rectangle. A branch canal of the Saale flows through the middle of the enclosure, separating the work buildings and gardens and most of the teachers' houses from the school itself. (Young 2010, 21-22)
A cursory reading might not notice the particularly close parallels, so let's detail them, the earlier Cate's followed by later Young's:
Cate: "Originally a Cistercian . . . Porta coeli (Gate of Heaven)"
Young: "Originally a Cistercian . . . Porta Coeli (Gate of Heaven)"

Cate: "had been transformed in 1543 . . . by the . . . Prince-Elector Moritz of Saxony"
Young: "had been transformed . . . in 1543 by the Prince-Elector Moritz of Saxony"

Cate: "Pforta or Schulpforta, as it is known [to this day]"
Young: "Pforta, or Schulpforta . . . , as it is known [today]"

Cate: "south of the Saale river in a wooded valley [extending] from the western edge of Naumburg to the narrow [gorges] of Kösen"
Young: "south of the . . . Saale River in a wooded valley [that extends] from the western edge of Naumburg to the narrow [gorge] of Kösen"

Cate: "acres of gardens, orchards, groves, buildings and cloisters, protected from the outer world by a thick twelve-foot-high wall, which [formed] an almost perfect rectangle"
Young: "acres of gardens, orchards, groves . . . , buildings, and cloisters, protected from the outer world by a thick twelve-foot-high wall, which [forms] an almost perfect rectangle"

Cate: "A branch canal of the Saale [flowed] through the middle of the enclosure, separating the . . . gardens . . . and most of the teachers' houses from the school"
Young: "A branch canal of the Saale [flows] through the middle of the enclosure, separating the . . . gardens and most of the teachers' houses from the school"
These are remarkable parallels, so close that they raise the question as to how this might have happened. Since Young does not cite Cate as a source here or for the many similar cases elsewhere, Anderson considers the possibility of a common source used by both Cate and Young, but he finds none, which leaves us all still greatly puzzled.

Fortunately, Julian Young comes to our aid in a "Reply to Professor Anderson":
In the course of writing a very long book, and in taking notes from many different sources, it appears that I have incorporated some material from Curtis Cate's biography without adequate acknowledgement. I regret this and will ensure it is corrected in subsequent editions. I hasten to add that none of this incorporation was deliberate. Over the years, bodies of material, as they moved from notes to notes and drafts to drafts, sometimes lost contact with their sources. With respect to the sequencing of events, some sequences, as well as certain phrases ('rabid Wagnerians', for instance), lodged themselves in my mind without my retaining any memory of their original source, or indeed that their source was anyone other than myself. I am grateful to Professor Anderson for pointing out these scholarly lapses and for the opportunity to rectify them.
The answer is that "some sequences, as well as certain phrases . . . lodged themselves" in Young's mind and "lost contact with their sources." In other words, the parallels are due to Young's excellent, faulty memory, which is very retentive but also not so. That is good to know.

I have often had students who paraphrase in this manner. They borrow a useful passage and alter it through deletion of words, phrases, or clauses, through rearrangement of words, phrases, or clauses, and through insertion of words, phrases, or clauses. Confronted by such a paraphrase, I have to gently explain that what they have done is, technically, plagiarism, even if they have cited the source, for they have retained too much of the original author's own wording. Many of my students don't realize this, but some do know what they are doing and are willfully copying. These latter students either give no source or offer a false source, thereby covering their tracks, which is how I know -- with a fair degree of certainty -- that they are intentionally copying. However, I have found that the best approach is to make no accusation of intent but simply allow the student to plead incompetence.

Most of my students have been undergraduates, but I have taught an occasional graduate course and encountered similar problems. I have learned to explain to such graduate students that no good scholar would take notes on a passage by altering it through deletion, rearrangement, or insertion of words, phrases, or clauses. A good scholar takes notes that quote exactly or that summarize carefully, not notes that rework the text in the way described, for that would be a waste of time, effort, energy, and intellect serving no legitimate purpose.

It is an academic detour best untaken.

Labels: ,

18 Comments:

At 8:56 AM, Blogger Kevin Kim said...

"It is an academic detour best untaken."

Are you paraphrasing Frost? Naughty, naughty!

 
At 9:30 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I was merely being frosty.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

 
At 1:01 PM, Anonymous Scott A. said...

I wonder just how much of this goes on in the sacred halls of academia (a place and culture I once had deep respect for, alas, in a time long, long ago)...

I've glimpsed a high-profile case here and there over the years. Enough by well-known and respected scholars, apparently, that it makes me wonder if it isn't much more widespread than we might think.

With technology the way it is now, and even more so within 5 or 10 years as more and more older texts are digitalized, I guess this itself will become a growing field of study -- with young grad students making a career of sifting through the works of the intelligencia to see how incestuous they really have been...

 
At 1:07 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I don't know if this is more common, but it's certainly getting easier to trace.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

 
At 1:45 PM, OpenID kuiwon said...

I thought citations do not constitute plagiarism.

 
At 3:13 PM, Blogger dhr said...

sometimes lost contact with their sources

The birth of [a] tragedy...

 
At 3:43 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Kuiwon, a citation alone won't always suffice.

If one quotes without using quotation marks (block quotes excepted), for instance, then a citation alone won't save one from the charge of plagiarism, for the lack of quotation marks implies that the very words themselves are also one's own.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

 
At 3:45 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Yes, Dario, as with that first plagiarist, Satan in Paradise Lost . . .

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

 
At 3:51 PM, Blogger dhr said...

Good point! send a post to the Milton List about this "original" (or plagiarized?) interpretation of Satan's behavior.

 
At 3:59 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Sounds like work . . .

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

 
At 5:41 PM, Anonymous Alex said...

When I discovered that Stephen Ambrose was suspected of plagiarism and fabricating interviews (in his study of Eisenhower), my interest in the book vanished and I didn't finish it.

This was unreasonable of me since there was much I could have probably learned from the book that was untainted by the author's piracy.

 
At 5:49 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Alex, good point, and there may also be much to learn from Young's book . . . and Clarice did learn a lot from Hannibal . . .

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

 
At 6:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recall a song I heard in my Bible College days:

I'm assistant Pastor, in a Baptist church; and I try my best to serve and lead.
I read a lot of sermons that other people wrote; and I'm influenced by what I read.
I'm beginning to sound a lot like Criswell, I preach so fervently;
And how eloquent I am, when my text is Billy Graham; and my illustrations come from R. G. Lee.....the last verse is.....
I'm beginning to sound like Spurgeon, I've read his works all through; and if you should write a book, and I can get a look...at it...I'll sound a lot like you.
But I won't quote you, I'll just start to sound like you.

Since I don't remember the singer, writer, or publisher, you may quote me as the source.
I won't mind.

Cran

 
At 6:54 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thank you, Uncle Cran, for YOUR song.

I Googled the lyrics but found nothing.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

 
At 6:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That song and all his others were set to known lyrics....that one in particular to "It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas."
As a result, the music industry made him pull his recording from public sale, and threatened him with severe fines.

Too bad, I think.

Another one, set to "Casey Jones," is a classic:

Every month we have a meeting in our plan.
It's the church's business, and man oh man!
You wouldn't want to miss it if you're in our land,
Cause you couldn't see a better fight in fifteen rounds.

Deacon Jones to Brother Moderator, "May I move that we fix the door?

Sister Brown said, "That can wait 'till later, and how dare you interrupt me when I've got the floor?!"

The Women's Missionary Union took the floor, said, "We sent three hundred bucks to Singapore."

Deacon Moneygrubber said, "Glory be, it won't be long 'till they're living better than we."

Deacon Jones to Brother Moderator, "May I move that this meeting be adjourned?"

Sister Brown, she's a good debator, she said, "Preacher, can't you make the Deacon wait his turn?"

Come out, give us your reaction, fight your wars, over 'till you win.
This is great Democracy in action, and when the meeting's over we can all say "A-MEN!"

Since this was recorded in the 1960
era, and maybe public domain, the singer likely gone and forgotten, do you suppose I can now get the copyrights, and become the owner?


Cran

 
At 6:52 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Only if the author's name is lost to history and you claim it, you might have a chance.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

 
At 1:44 AM, Blogger kdk said...

These songs being quoted are by Dan McBride.

I'm not sure you got the "Criswell" lyric exact, but it's close. His album, "Tiptoe through the Tithers" is on Youtube *someplace* I think.

Side-splitting for an old Baptist like myself.

 
At 6:21 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, KDK! I'll pass this along to my Uncle Cran.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

 

Post a Comment

<< Home