RARA-AVIS: Originality and criticism

Thu, 22 Apr 1999 00:00:08 EDT Fred Willard writes:

<< While I'm sure it's fabulous fun to publicly accuse
people of theft, my suspicion is that the accused may not be as amused.

As a genre is defined by it's conventions, what exactly is theft? Is it
theft to write a Shakespearean sonnet? >>

I'm enjoying the "theft" discussion, but I would put only a positive spin on
the concept. I'm intrigued by writers who borrow narratives and remake them.
I think this phenomenon should be an object of praise. Originality seems
like a fairly new criterion. Since Fred mentions Shakespeare, one can make
the oft-noted comment that Shakespeare stole plot ideas/concepts from a lot
of sources, and that "theft" hardly mars the plays.

I feel silly talking about Shakespeare, but I think of him too in the context
of Fr. John Woolley's remarks on Teran. I thought his close readings were
great. On the other hand, I was glad to see the ambition of Teran's prose.
The "cut glass" sentence works as a sort of compression. Most readers will,
I think, understand the shorthand without thinking about it (without thinking
of crystal glassware). So too with the quasi-syntaesthesia of "slow dunes."
The reader bends to the meaning in the context. Shakespeare bent words to
get the right sound and meter. The words then take on the new meanings and
end up in the OED. It's a stretch, but oh well. (And I've got other doubts
about Teran, but not so much about the opening prose.)

Doug Levin
# To unsubscribe, say "unsubscribe rara-avis" to majordomo@icomm.ca.
# The web pages for the list are at http://www.vex.net/~buff/rara-avis/.