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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1959.3/58962
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- Enunciation squared: writing, originality and the fabulation of wisdom
- Tofts, Darren
- The concept of the origin, we know from deconstruction, is problematic. The differantial logic of the trace suspends any pursuit of it, inviting us instead (as if there really is a choice) to succumb to its play. Within universities we have explained the postmodern to our children but haven't done it very well. Or perhaps we have done it too well. They interactively embrace the idea that knowledge precedes them and are aware that scholarship is a tissue of interconnected, reflexive quotations. For many of the bright young things that pass through our halls of learning, writing an essay is not so much a discipline of research and composition as a language game; the permutation of an archive of readymade words and phrases on the myriad topics likely to be encountered in any course of study you care to name. To essay something is not an attempt, a speculation, the trying out of new ideas. It is a process of assembling, or rather dissembling, like a model that you put together, without having any role in its design. All the big guys are quoting other people, so what's the buzz? And the French ones don't even cite the sources they quote anyway. Our students have read their Calvino and can spot a combinatory process a mile away. They got all the hip theoretical references in The Matrix. Postmodern Theory 101 has its avatars and its messages are clear: knowledge, like everything else in hyperreality, is an appearance adrift from the real, a simulacrum. Get with it and get over it. Neo doesn't have to learn Kung Fu as a discipline of mind and body, refining its motor skills and philosophical wisdom from years of training at the local dojo. He just 'knows Kung Fu', having acquired its techniques as store-bought second nature, programmed from a simulation package that does the work for him. In other words, his expertise is not grounded in any actual effort on his part. Wicked. Does this sound jaded? I can't tell any more. It's certainly not meant to be. What do we expect of our students when we force-feed them on diets of Baudrillard, Lyotard and Derrida like so many fattened foie gras geese? As with the logos, they have taken us at our word. Go forth and appropriate. And then we sting them for plagiarism. Within universities plagiarism is without question public enemy number one. Plagiarism is defined and applied in the academy as the unacknowledged use of someone else's ideas and/or words as if they are your own (unlike their customers, our learned line managers aren't hip to allusion, pastiche, collage, sampling and the cut-up-fold-in method). In the long and venerable tradition of belles-lettres there is an unspoken ethics and integrity associated with original research. If you use secondary sources or paraphrase them it is the scholarly and ethical convention to acknowledge them appropriately.1 The imprimatur of these principles (“best practice” in today's parlance) is the signature of the author. To name is to mark writing with an unimpeachable authority, quod scripsi scripsi. In signing off on an essay, we presume that our students make a pledge in the name of presence. The signature is their seal of authenticity, the confirmation that their written words originate from the fount of their internal resources. But writing is far from being a reliable guarantor of originality and our students know this. Anyone can forge a signature and a plagiarised essay presented in your name is a consequence of the signature effect. It is, in every sense of the word in this context, the mark of an absent presence.
- Publication type
- Journal article
- Research centre
- Swinburne University of Technology. Faculty of Life and Social Sciences
- Angelaki: Journal of Theoretical Humanities, Vol. 14, no. 1 (Apr 2009), pp. 155-164
- Publication year
- Taylor and Francis
- Publisher URL
- Copyright © 2009 Taylor & Francis and the Editors of Angelaki. The accepted manuscript of the paper is reproduced here in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher.