VQR » The Accidental Plagiarist: The Trouble with Originality

This article by Erik Campbell from the Virginia Quarterly Review (via Arts&LettersDaily) starts with Nietzsche’s “Many a man fails as an original thinker simply because his memory is too good “, and touches nicely on a number of ideas – including (again from Nietzsche) “There is always a kind of contempt in the act of speaking.” Indeed, by what right do I assume that anything I say has not been thought by another? or, worse, was not about to come to mind as an independent thought but for my theft of that pleasure in order to satisfy a greed for priority?

In the course of the essay, poet Stephen Dunn’s lines “Our cats like God have never spoken/A word that wasn’t ours” come in as just an example of something accidentally claimed by Campbell as his own invention, but for me they strike a particular chord as they express something I often feel needs to be put forward.  So I can imagine suffering Campbell’s fate myself in the future with regard to those words in particular.

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