A Question of Paraphrase . . .
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)"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.
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"
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.