Everything Is Illuminated Everything Is Illuminated discussion


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intertextuality or plagiarism?

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message 1: by elisa (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:05AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

elisa i know, i know, kind of an old topic but foer actually uses lines directly from sylvia plath, style from james joyce (even the font is the same as in ulysses) and the title is taken from kundera. how do you feel about foer's sampling without flagging it? is it incredibly clever or is he trying too hard?
i personally love the book and enjoy the intertextual references but i think this notion is definitely disputable. what do you think?


message 2: by Muffin (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:05AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Muffin I see how it's disputable, but I wouldn't call it plagiarism. Foer is hyper-aware of the literature that preceded him (he, like Dave Eggers, tries very hard to re-invent literature), and these elements of intertextuality are a hidden salute to authors that came before, something to be picked up on by people who read deeply into his stuff.


message 3: by Andy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:10AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Andy Stephen King rips off T.S. Eliot in The Stand
"When the evening is spread out in the sky like a patient etherized upon a table" or something like that. No reference is made. Of course, the official, academic line I got on Eliot is that he freely ripped off the pulp writers of his time.

I didn't catch it in Everything is Illuminated. It's hard to catch if you're not real familiar with the poems that are being ripped off.


message 4: by Andy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:10AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Andy I should also add that if Foer is anything like me, he may have forgotten that he did any ripping off in the first place, which doesn't excuse him from taking responsibility for it, I suppose. I rip people off all the time in my personal writing, but then again, I don't publish anything, so I suppose it's a moot point. But it's easy to forget what's been ripped off after while.

I do think the trend toward increased protection for intellectual property is not always an entirely good thing. The arguments get pretty bizarre, though. It's one thing to protect an artist's work so they get paid properly and another thing altogether to let another artist use it as a starting point or as an element in their own work. Ugh.


message 5: by Cailin (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:14AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cailin Personally I love the way Foer does that. If you are at all interested in this topic you should read a great article that was in Harper's a couple of months ago - "The Ecstasy of Influence" by Jonathan Lethem. http://www.harpers.org/archive/2007/0...


message 6: by Andy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 11:17AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Andy Good article, if a bit long. I gotta rip more people off, but where to begin?


message 7: by Sophy (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:04PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Sophy i don't think it matters whether or not Foer's style is similar to james joyce's style. (and i agree with "muffin" that he was probably fully aware of what he was doing and was in fact saluting not ripping.) not only could the same (an author writing in a similar style to another author) be said of a million books, but the mere fact that he could pull it off and make it a cohesive story instead of simply gibberish is impressive in itself. besides, i believe that once you write the story you've made the style your own. (or am i simply ripping off a quote i read somewhere a long time ago?:)


message 8: by Deborah (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:25PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Deborah I see the passages being compared with Joyce as much more influenced by medieval Eastern European Jewish folk mythology filtered down the centuries through yiddish translation of hebrew text. Foer then gave that a little celto-stream o'consciousness twist, a little nod to the fracturing of the bardic tradition. Was this an intentional literary endeavor? Who knows? He probably just thought it sounded cool.
And it did.


Emma oh interesting, i just posted a comment on how similar foer's twist on narrative is to the graphic novel Maus by art spiegelman. didnt realize there was a whole host of other influences being mixed in there. the similarities are pretty striking if you ask me though. self-conscious narrator, semi-stream-of-consciousness narrative, the switching between events, people, times, etc. not to mention the written-as-spoken style (god, i know there's a word for that, just cant think of it right now)
i agree that it's not all bad to draw heavily from influences but i would like to think there should be some originality in there. as you may have noticed i'm really torn on the subject and havent honestly made up my mind about it.
if you have a highly absorbing, stylistically interesting book (everything is illuminated) does it matter if it's just a mish-mash of its precedents? could that even be a positive thing?


message 10: by Shula (new)

Shula I haven't read the book, only just now the article posted by Cailin. I really liked the article and the author's personal experience with artists borrowing from other artists. In response to Emma's question 'could that even be a positive thing' the answer (as she probably knows :) ) is a loud yes. Not could be but is necessary. The article's point seemed to be that if the movie he refers to hadn't quoted the poem he found wisdom in, the quote itself would have fallen out of the realm of the public sphere; if artists didn't tell us about the artists they love, we would forget them.


message 11: by Beezer (last edited Aug 28, 2008 06:57AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Beezer de Martelly This discussion is a little old, so forgive me for stumbling onto it a bit late. Yes, Foer [probably consciously] snags a line or style from several authors, but many of the elements that are being mentioned here (stream-of-consciousness, self-conscious narrator, cutting back and forth through time, etc.) have been used extensively for almost the last 100 years (and in many cases, much longer than that). So, while it's easy to spot these aspects of Foer's work and even point to an author who employed them similarly, it's harder to make the argument that this constitutes plagiarism. At least there is something original in the synthesis of these myriad styles (Joyce, Plath, Kundera, etc.), no?

One more question for Elisa (if she ever returns to this forum): you compared the font in Ulysses to that in E.I.U.: which version of Ulysses are you talking about, and has the font not changed since its original publication?


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