Thursday Tip: Reflections on PLAGIARISM

Does plagiarism offend you? Or do you think that in today’s age of digital knowledge and online sharing, it doesn’t really matter?

As obvious as the answer might be, there seems to be two takes on it: one seemingly reflecting the opinion of the younger generation–understand some teenagers, and the other folks. The following article from Laura Miller, titled Plagiarism: The Next Generation, left me disturbed. And here is a New York Times article written by Nicholas Kulish on the same topic. There is a book that is currently all the rage in Germany, topping 5 in Der Spiegel’s bestselling list, a magaizine I would compare to the Time in America. AXOLOTL ROADKILL, written by seventeen year-old Helene Hegemann, is about a teenager who experiments with drugs and the club scene in Berlin, after her mother passed away. Hegemann recognizes heavily “borrowing” passages from a novel titled STROBO, written by a blogger known as Airen, who apparently also “borrowed” from other books. Professor Deborah Weber-Wulff’s, who lives in Germany, has a blog dedicated to cases of plagiarism and gives an update of the situation and the tension it creates among critics.

Hegemann is now up for the Leipzig Book Fair literary prize of $20,000 for AXOLOTL ROADKILL. You read well. She refutes accusations of plagiarism, explaining that what she did is “mixing.” Literary mixing.

And I’m left wondering where this world is going. The girl says, “I put all the material into a completely different and unique context and from the outset consistently promoted the fact that none of that is actually by me.” You do this in college and you could be expelled. A journalist does it and he gets fired. You copy entire pages of another book and you could win a $20,000 prize? Albeit it’s in another country. I still wonder what kind of message it sends to children. What are the new standards?

Am I the only one confused here?

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About Nathalie Mvondo

Nathalie Mvondo lives in Northern California and studies anthropology and nutrition. She is a writer and a blogger.
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9 Responses to Thursday Tip: Reflections on PLAGIARISM

  1. Anna says:

    You’re definitely not alone in your confusion! If this kind of “mixing” is rewarded to the point where it becomes the norm then I think the future of writing and reading will be pretty bleak. Hopefully, enough people have a sense of what plagiarism actually is that it will never get to that point.

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  2. linda covella says:

    It’s bad enough that she “wrote” it and thinks the plagiarism is okay, and then it got worse when a publisher knowingly published it (books in the U.S. have been pulled from circulation when plagiarism was discovered), but to top the whole thing off, literary judges are now giving her an award *knowing* it’s plagiarized work. Plagiarism should not be condoned, encouraged, or rewarded.

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  3. Bookewyrme says:

    Yea, I’ve been following this brouhaha. My hope is, enough publications/bloggers/forums etc. have expressed extreme shock and disapproval of the actions of all involved (author, publisher, awards committee) that no one will think this should be the new “norm.” I’ve always been an optimist though.

    All I can say is, MY children will be thoroughly taught from the start that plagiarism is just another form of STEALING.

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    • Bookewyrme, I’m with you on that. It seems as if the lines are getting more and more blurred. I’m especially concerned about the consequences in school as well, when kids will come to mistake “quoting” and “plagiarism” (i.e. the whole essay written by someone else).

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  4. Cheryl says:

    It seems like it should be a cut and dry topic. Thou Shalt Not Steal, period. What a crazy world we live in.

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