“a cat may look at a king”

From BoingBoing: A recent episode of Public Radio International’s To the Best of Our Knowledge dealt with remix, reuse, and plagiarism:

Author Jonathan Lethem talks to Jim Fleming about his “Harper’s” Magazine essay, “The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism.” As the subtitle indicates, Jonathan Lethem appropriated the words of many authors to cover the subject of plagiarism, although he provides full attribution of his sources at the end of the essay. Also, Paul D. Miller (aka DJ Spooky, That Subliminal Kid) talks to Anne Strainchamps about his book, Rhythm Science, and how the art of music sampling relates to plagiarism. We also hear a DJ Spooky/TTBOOK interview mashup.

MP3 link: here

The Lethem essay is online: here. I remember hearing about it but never read it all the way through till now; it’s astonishingly good — a fantastic summary of today’s cultural moment.

As I quoted in my senior undergraduate thesis:

Am Ende ist alle Poësie Übersetzung.
In the end all literature is translation.
Novalis, a.k.a. Friedrich von Hardenberg

As I wrote in the conclusion chapter, my own translations were intended to “illustrate (and hopefully validate) my twofold assertion: that emulation is not bad literary practice but a respectable and indeed essential part of creation, and conversely that the insertion of one’s own personality and culture is not a sign of bad or unfaithful translation. On the contrary, both processes are unavoidable, and so we might as well do them openly.”

2 Responses to ““a cat may look at a king””


  1. 1 Jamie S. Rich January 28, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Very cool links. I found it both fascinating and frustrating to sort out the ideas, but as a consummate thief myself, enjoyed the exploration.

  2. 2 hcduvall February 7, 2008 at 7:18 am

    If you got access to the hard copy (or are a subscriber of Harpers, you can see it online) there’s also a pair of great articles about the Molotov Man, a photo of Nicaraguan revolutionary, that issue. One is from an artist who used it and another from the photographer that took the photo that inspired his work. I think it brings more ideas/complications to Lethem’s ideas about plagiarism when you think about doing those things to documentary work.


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Leigh Walton talks comics and maybe other arts. (RSS)
He also works for the very excellent publisher Top Shelf Productions (which does not necessarily endorse the views and opinions, etc, herein).

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Header by me. Contains an interpolation of the final panel from All-Star Superman #1 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Speaking of which.

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