The Ecstasy Of Influence : Plagiarism

1589 WordsSep 26, 20177 Pages
Plagiarism has been seen as a harmful practice when it comes to the preservation of an artist’s originality. Jonathan Lethem demonstrates the commonality and convenience of plagiarism by composing his article “The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism” of phrases and ideas of other writers; however, he also supports the claim that a person can rethink and reinterpret the understandings of other people and create an “original” idea based off of them. Is this what Lethem truly means when he says that appropriation is acceptable, or is he supporting intellectual thievery? Appropriation is different from plagiarism in that appropriation doesn’t want the ideas of another artist to be stolen, but further elaborated on or rethought completely.…show more content…
It can be argued that Lethem is encouraging intellectual thievery, because he wants artists to look to the work of those who precede them. In actuality, appropriation is a way of preserving and referencing past culture in the present. Lethem writes, “Dylan’s art offers a paradox: while it famously urges us not to look back, it also encodes a knowledge of past sources that might otherwise have little home in contemporary culture….Dylan’s originality and his appropriations are as one” (212). It is important to look to great artists of the past to find inspiration and to realize the root of a genre or literary movement in time. Original ideas are born from the influences of other people and the concept that interaction with art of different kinds can spark something great within a person. Lethem is not recommending the infringement of an artist’s work, but is encouraging people to find motivation and revelation in the works of other artists and translate that into something raw and inexperienced. Lethem writes, “Most artists are brought to their vocation when their own nascent gifts are awakened by the work of a master….Finding one’s voice isn’t just an emptying and purifying oneself of the words of others but an adopting and embracing of filiations, communities, and discourses” (214). Although Lethem
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