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Sur la Plage - Page 53

one might wish to measure in it forces that disrupt the very integrity of the textual "body." Even the neo-plagiarist's hypocrisy contributes to the evacuation of this nearly extinct organism.

  1. Is this not one of the reasons why traditional denunciations of plagiarism so often deploy the rhetoric of rape, treat it as a perverse and vile crime against the text's quite physical integrity? Thomas Mallon and other pathologists of plagiarism register an almost visceral loathing for the sacrilege that the plagiarist inflicts upon his victim. One would like a pathology of this rhetoric as well, some investigation of the way body and cultural property are collapsed into a single sign, an assessment of the notion of plagiarism as a primal transgression of the body of the work, of language and culture. Perhaps, when you tear a bit of text from the body of authorship, it is the Law itself that screams; and perhaps it is in this scream that the plagiarist hears the interpellation of his own subjectivity.
  1. If plagiarism is driven by more than critical will, if it is driven also by some order of desire, it is a desire to exploit (ruin, destroy) the other for the sake of one's own identity. To be someone over someone else's dead body. Plagiarism is demonic posession, echolalia, speaking in tongues and hearing oneself in what they say. In this sense, plagiarism resembles what some would hold to be the essential poetic experience, in which the "poetical character" is vacated in order to be invaded by and to speak in the other's voice (Keats' negative capability), and then scandalously claims that the creation is its own. When the crime of plagiarism is exposed, when we discover the other in the plagiarist's place, we see that the plagiarist has abandoned himself, sacrificed himself, fatally emptied himself to make room for his predecessor. The sympathy that the plagiarist is able to attract, noted with surprise by so many critics, might stem from this realization of how little the plagiarist turns out to be, how much he has enslaved himself to his master even in the act of stealing the life from him. Plagiarism is a perverse transubstantiation: it presumes that to incorporate the word of another is to become, in effect, like another; the perversion lies in the fact that one suppresses this identification even as one asserts it; but subsequent

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