Plagiarism: Maybe It's Not So Bad

Friday, December 27, 2013


Artists often draw inspiration from other sources. Musicians sample songs. Painters recreate existing masterpieces. Kenneth Goldsmith believes writers should catch-up with other mediums and embrace plagiarism in their work. Brooke talks with Goldsmith, MoMA’s new Poet Laureate, about how he plagiarizes in his own poetry and asks if appropriation is something best left in the art world.

Quartetto d'archi dell'orchestra sinfonica de Milano Giuseppe Verdi – Tomorrow Never Knows


Kenneth Goldsmith

Hosted by:

Brooke Gladstone

Comments [11]

Tam from Canada from London, UK

In reply to Ike from Northern NJ:

Oh my! That suddenly makes sense. I listened to the piece twice because I couldn't believe Kenneth Goldsmith was taking himself that seriously. When he pointed out such websites like "Boing Boing" and used the term "on the down-low", he sounds like one of my old fine arts professors who was always trying to act like he was "down with the kids".

Jan. 03 2014 07:28 AM

I would have had more sympathy for Goldsmith's position if he hadn't made several statements that were patently absurd. Students stringing together sentences does not represent a skill, creativity, or anything of merit. I've done this before. I've watched friends do it. You have a mental collection of about two dozen connection phrases and sentences and basically pick one at random. No spark of inspiration is involved, no masterpieces being created. If Ken thinks his students are "good" at this, it only means that he is really, really, REALLY bad at it. I also want to know what drugs the audience and/or Ken was on when they were enthralled by a traffic report.

I hope someone can recommend a real philosopher, lawyer, or writer that would give a more grounded defense of plagiarism. Surely someone falls into this camp that isn't a washed-up BS artist.

Other than that, good show this week.

Dec. 31 2013 01:06 AM
Howard Beale from NYC

Brooke I love you! Your summation of the show truly, punctuated the entire hour, such a wonderful Hegelian synthesis of what is and what will likely be and you did it with such gentle poetic elegance. You really captured the true nature of "it... yes the beauty of your show. John Keats would have been proud of you for your "Ode to a journalistic Grecian Urn" of a closer. 
The nature of possession? It seems to be the essential thing we all crave or hope to be near in whatever it's form. It's the harmony we all covet for utility, for value to us as something that makes us special, or just to marvel at for virtue's sake alone in it's essential nature.. Most of the time we crave possession to enable us to attain materialistic things. We live in a materialistic age. Part of the forces and means of production of our times for the last few centuries. I think we are starting to see where that is leading.. It's just the way it is just the way it will be... Judgement though interesting in some sense seems useless. Which is why I think it was so inspired of you to use water as a metaphor and a vessel as the carrier of that metaphor to elucidate the essential nature of an essential thing from the beginning of things as we know them. What we have grown to believe is essential and what truly is the nature of the essential within it's vessel, within it's time. Most of what we think we need we are not in control of, we drift within the tide of our time, Some of us manage to swim a bit but in the end we are all just figures drawn on a vessel for some future generation to wonder about. Yes "Ode to a digital "Grecian Urn" You really turned journalism to metaphor to poetry... Not an easy feat. 
"Did You plagiarize"? 
I don't think you did, nor do I care!
To plagiarize myself for a moment, or is that quote: 
"The time's they are a changing"...
Or to quote Keats
When old age shall this generation waste, 
Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe 
Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say'st, 
'Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all 
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
We are truly seeing the nature of a new time emerge, painful for so many. The evolution of this story will be left for another generation to ponder in the end, looking back at our digital urn
Thanks so much for the truth/Beauty Brooke...You and Bob are the best out there!! and you in particular really hit it over the fence with that closer.
And no I'm not Peter Finch or Howard Beale although I do work in the Media world. Just because I loved the show doesn't mean trying to deal with all this change doesn't make you nuts right? I'm glad I can still laugh..

Dec. 30 2013 08:43 AM
Ike from Northern NJ

The other commenters are taking Kenneth Goldsmith too seriously. He is formerly a DJ known as "Kenny G." on WFMU, where he would sometimes deliberately play the most aggravating experimental music possible, and read schmaltzy e-mails that reached him mistakenly, intended for the more famous Kenny G., the light jazz "musician." Kenneth Goldsmith is perhaps the country's foremost trickster and should be taken in that spirit. But he also brings up interesting questions about how the concept of "originality" might be perceived in the future, as Internet users continue to produce original art, culture, and articles for free and as others may, possibly, partly as a result, become less and less willing to pay for original material, and continue aggregating and pointing rather than producing.

Dec. 29 2013 08:40 PM
Mark Negie from Vienna, WV

Sweet baby Jesus! I've heard everything after listening to this segment on this week's podcast. I didn't grow up on a farm, but I do know a load of manure when I come across one. Shame on you OTM by giving this fool air time.

Dec. 29 2013 06:11 PM

Plagiarism is always wrong and is completely indefensible. Kenneth Goldsmith is a joke and Brooke should be ashamed of herself for interviewing this clown.

Dec. 29 2013 05:39 PM
Bob Lane from Farmington, Connecticut

I just heard the show featuring Kenneth Goldsmith.

Thanks again, NPR for bringing us yet another a fatuous elitist intellectual, lacking the wherewithall to have an original thought. The idea that writers of our day shouldn't bother to have their own ideas; produce their own creations, but instead take the lazy, dishonest way by relying on the works of others, is ludicrous.

Now do you want to hear how I really feel?

Dec. 29 2013 04:08 PM
Charles Moffett from New York

This morning I listened to your interview with Kenneth Goldsmith.
First, I would like all of us to remember that the written word, and the creative aspect of the written word, will be with us forever. The idea that everything has been said is utter nonsense. Stringing together a lot of passages about bridges is the stuff of term papers and theses, and dissertations. Ironically, what Mr. Goldsmith is doing is pedantic and academic.
Mr. Goldsmith's attempt to ally himself with James Joyce and Marcel Duchamp is tomfoolery. What a lot of double speak and triple speak.
But I am glad you had him on the program. Every now and then I listen to right-wing radio just to know what kind of garbage is out there.
Plagiarism is plagiarism is plagiarism.
This professor-emperor-poet laureate has no clothes.
Be well.
Best wishes for a very happy 2014.

Dec. 29 2013 12:53 PM
Ann Ryan from Long Island

I misidentified the poet as Richard Blanco. I was commenting on the remarks of Kenneth Goldsmith.

Dec. 28 2013 06:01 PM
Ann Ryan from Long Island

Richard Blanco's argument that literature always hits the same notes, and that the ready made objects of Marcel Duchamps can be in any way equated to the creation of real works of literature is facile. Literature mirrors the human condition; it describes, illuminates and reveals in a way that physical objects do not. Perhaps he is suggesting that humanity is quantifiable and finite. I would disagree and, although common themes are found throughout the ages, cliches exist, hackneyed expressions abound, but invention is never old, imagination is infinite.By all means use an existing well turned crystallisation of an idea, but always strive to express our myriad human experience afresh.

Dec. 28 2013 05:57 PM
Eric Weber from Billerica, MA

The guest's claim that plagiarism should be embraced is absurd. It's fine to point at something, and elevating the pointer over the generator has been a long standing tradition of literary critics and "experts" in any field really. To claim your pointing as an original contribution, beyond the potentially stylistic aggregation of knowledge, is an unfortunate paradigm that is contributing to a culture of stagnation and plagiarism in the written world, fiction and non-fiction alike.

Dec. 28 2013 02:05 PM

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