University Diaries
A professor of English describes American university life.
Aim: To change things.
Contact UD at: margaret-dot-soltan-at-gmail-dot-com

 
 
 
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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Ms. V. Runs Into More Static


From an editorial in the Daily Herald, Washington State:


What is the response to this blatant theft? From Viswanathan's statement: " ... I am a huge fan of her work and can honestly say that any phrasing similarities between her works and mine were completely unintentional and unconscious."

Unbelievably, the publisher of Little, Brown plans to reissue the book with "the inappropriate similarities" eliminated. Additionally, Viswanathan plans an acknowledgement to McCafferty in the new version. What could the acknowledgement possibly say? "You might want to read 'Sloppy Firsts' first"?

What's really scary is that Viswanathan did not sit down, write a book and send it to a publisher. No. She collaborated with 17th Street Productions Inc., a book packager that specializes in teen narratives and helped her develop her story.

Little, Brown publisher Michael Pietsch said he did not think Viswanathan's "inappropriate similarities" were caused by the pressures of being both a student and an author, or because of her collaboration with 17th Street Productions. Problem is, she wasn't an author. But she sure had motivation to become one when that $500,000 advance was offered. Talk about pressure. And that's in addition to her school work. Viswanathan wants to be an investment banker, not an author.

Little, Brown should pull the book, rather than revising it. Somebody here needs to acknowledge that stealing of that magnitude isn't done "unintentionally or unconsciously."



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UPDATE: I knew they'd come through! They just had to collect their thoughts.

According to Kenan Professor of Psychology Daniel L. Schacter, a former chair of the department, examples of unintentional plagiarism by writers have been reported in the past.

Psychologists refer to the phenomenon as ‘cryptomnesia,’” Schacter wrote in an e-mail. “Psychologists conceive of cryptomnesia as a failure of source memory, where one retrieves previously stored information, and attributes that information to the wrong source.”

“Various forms of source misattribution have been studied extensively—they represent a common type of memory failure,” he added.