Literary experts find John Hughes’ defense of plagiarism unconvincing | Australian books

Literary academics have taken Australian author John Hughes to apparently transcribe excerpts from some classic texts including The Great Gatsby in portions of his new book The Dogs.

The Guardian Australia newspaper published on Thursday 1700 word essay by Hughes In it he explains why some excerpts from F Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy and Eric Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front by Eric Maria made their way into his novel. Guardian Australia has reviewed all the similarities between Hughes’ work and sections of those classic texts and found some cases where entire sentences were identical or where only one word had been changed.

Then the revelation followed Just days after The Guardian revealed the similarities Between a Sydney writer’s book and a 2017 English translation of the non-fiction work The Unwomanly Face of War by Nobel laureate Svetlana Alexievich.

When asked about the similarities, Hughes wrote, “I don’t think I am more plagiarism than any other writer who has been influenced by the greats before them.”

He referred to T.S. Eliot’s book The Waste Land, which he said “is in itself a sort of an anthology of great words for others. Does that make Eliot a plagiarism? Not at all, it seems. You take, that is, and make something else out of him; you Make it your own.

“I’ve always used other writers’ works on my own. It’s a rare writer who doesn’t… It’s a matter of degree.”

The Guardian has turned to a number of academics to question Hughes’ claims, and while some have expressed admiration for the author’s literary talent, others have not supported his justification.

“It’s not a cause for moral panic…but whether it’s conscious, subconscious or subconscious, it’s certainly something I personally oppose,” said Dr. Ali Alizadeh, Senior Lecturer in Creative Writing and Literary Studies at Monash University.

“It appears that Mr Hughes was keeping his cake last week, and decided to eat it this week,” said Tom Doig, lecturer in creative writing at the University of Queensland.

Hughes last week It responded to the initial allegations Saying the similarities were unintended and unfortunate. He issued a public apology to Alexievich and her translators.

TS Elliott
John Hughes cited TS Eliot (pictured) in his defense. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Wednesday, Guardian revealed The Dogs also contained passages similar to sections from other famous works of fiction, including The Great Gatsby, Anna Karenina, and All Quiet on the Western Front.

This time, Hughes claimed that the similarities were intentional, arguing that artists have been recycling, reimagining, and rewriting stories since time immemorial. Argue that it’s not what you take, but what you do with it that matters.

Hughes quoted TS Eliot in his defense as saying that he wrote in his novel The Sacred Forest: “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal. Bad poets distort what they take away, and good poets make it something better, or at least something different.”

Hughes argued, “The great hub of modernity, the Wasteland, is in itself a kind of an anthology of the great words of others. Does that make Eliot a plagiarism?”

Well, no, says Doig — because Elliot Include margins.

“I think what’s really weird about this situation is that when the story broke last week, there was all this detail of ‘Oh, I did it by mistake, oops… It’s part of the great law.'”

“Can you accidentally sample and intentionally sample at the same time? I’m sure you can. Maybe he did. But this seems to me a completely strange place to land.”

Dr Alison Miller, a senior lecturer in Deakin University’s School of Communication and Creative Arts, told the Guardian that Hughes’ defense of Elliott was a “wobbly argument” and that his argument in general was not correct.

“There is no acknowledgment that this is in any way part of the writer’s creative process,” she said.

“This does not necessarily mean filling the book with footnotes or citations, but there is no contextual conversation about using other writers as a source in any of the discussions about the novel.”

Hughes’ defense of Eliot was not “well done,” according to Alizadeh, but the writer’s apparent borrowing of excerpts from “The Great Gatsby” is just as troubling, if not more so.

He said, “There is an issue of the singularity of the phrase when we talk about the prose novel.” “Entire paragraphs and paragraphs where they seem to have been removed from existing literary works, so I think yes, it’s a problem.”

Professor Kimberly Weatherall of the University of Sydney Law School said it was impossible to get into an author’s head to judge the level of consciousness when copying another work.

“I don’t have any comment on whether it’s about the practice of sloppy writing and record-keeping or something else,” she said.

“Certainly there are matters of degree in plagiarism. Artists often build on what has gone before. But there is a big difference between paraphrasing classic stories or classic literature and copying paragraphs word for word. Whether you’re talking about plagiarism or copyright, literal copying—or Close to that—usually considered out of the faint range.”

Dr Toby Fitch, a lecturer in creative writing at the University of Sydney, who is also the poetry editor of Overland, said Hughes’ claims about “collage” and “pats” would have been intriguing, if he had made them a point of interest in his novel.

“However, none of these literary techniques were brought to the fore,” he said.

But let’s not confuse this: Hughes’ story is not a hoax or a scandal. It is just another disturbing misrepresentation of the practice of writers—usually poets, and rarely novelists—who use collage and other techniques of language recycling in more interesting ways to subvert the cult of the author, and thus the individual character. to capitalism.”

No trick, no scandal, but it was enough, it seemed, Trustees of Miles Franklin to remove dogs From the longlist for the award last Friday.

Doig said the controversy is unlikely to reach the bean hill for the average reader anyway.

“I suspect the kind of people who enjoyed The Dogs – a much more ‘literary’ effort – might be interested in the ambiguous questions of authenticity and transparency of intertextuality…but for a lot of readers, it doesn’t ‘whatever’ is ‘original,'” He is good.

“Is it fun? Is it a good read? This is a perfectly legitimate perspective.”

On Friday, Hughes Publishing, Terry Ann White of Upswell Publishing, said in a statement that the author had violated her trust.

While her “motivation has always been to stand by my authors,” White said she was offended by a line he wrote in the article justifying his work published by The Guardian: “I wanted to see the dedicated passages and get to know them in a collage.”

“The events of the past two weeks in the media amplified on social media have been concerning on a personal level as well as concerning for my new publishing venture,” she wrote.

In response to questions from the Guardian, Hughes said he was “deeply sorry” for putting White in a difficult situation.

“In my essay on influences, I never intended to imply that I had intentionally disguised the words of other writers as my own,” Hughes said. “I just sought to try to explain how something like this could happen to a fiction writer as much as I could.

“Terry Ann White has been a strong supporter for many years and is a person of great integrity.

“I am deeply saddened by the thought that her reputation has been tarnished in any way as a result of my actions. Small publishers are of vital importance to our industry.”