In Response to Perloff
To the editor:
I am flattered that such a distinguished and accomplished literary scholar as Professor Marjorie Perloff has commented on my recent column, “In Someone Else’s Words.” I welcome her response. In fact, as a 21-year-old columnist for The Crimson, I welcome any and all responses. However, Professor Perloff’s attacks are misguided and unfounded.
In Unoriginal Genius, Perloff claims that “the language of citation” is “the logical form of ‘writing’ in an age of literally mobile or transferable text” (4, 17). In light of this, I have to say that I am surprised that Perloff seems to view the hyperlink I included to her publisher’s website as an unacceptable or insufficient form of citation. If she takes issue with the actual content of my overview of the book, then I would urge her to bring up that concern with her publisher as well as with Professor Kenneth Goldsmith, who describes Perloff’s conception of “unoriginal genius” on the first page of his book.
I disagree with Perloff’s theory, and I take issue with her claim that Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project is a foundational example of citational poetry. Walter Benjamin never described his Arcades Project as poetry; Perloff’s description of it as such is conjecture and is hardly a sturdy pillar upon which to develop a theory of poetics. Kenneth Goldsmith does employ a tongue-in-cheek tone in order to poke fun at society’s views about plagiarism, but such a tone does not alter the basis of his argument and literary approach or my opinion of it: Professor Goldsmith still advocates unoriginality and re-appropriation of text, and, in his role as a professor, he strives to help his students become better copiers. Perloff says that I “get Goldsmith all wrong.” One example of a laudatory feature of Goldsmith’s work that I apparently do not understand is the way that Goldsmith shows “just how subtle ‘copying’ can be.” I do not misunderstand—I disagree. I do not think that subtle plagiarism should be applauded or encouraged.
I have read and thought about Goldsmith and his work, although perhaps the reading was unnecessary. Goldsmith says he wants a thinkership not a readership. According to him, it’s more important for people to think about his books, not to actually read them (Goldsmith, Kenneth. Kenneth Goldsmith. Interview by Dave Mandl. The Believer. Oct. 2011).
Isabel E. Kaplan ’12