Fiction: originality and intertextuality

Dan Green argues that we should embrace literary borrowing:

It is really only with the rise of the novel as the predominant literary form that originality becomes a criterion by which it seems appropriate to assess a work of literature–or through the use of which one might say something useful about a particular work. Yet here again we all know that what seems original at first glance often enough isn’t and that writers are frequently quite willing to foreground the sources of their inspiration. (And even when they’re not, there’s always Harold Bloom’s “anxiety of influence”–and if you actually bother to read Bloom, you discover that his analysis is overwhelmingly compelling.) Ulysses is a rewriting of the Odyssey; the Biblical echoes in Faulkner are deafening; some readers might think Henry James stole from himself and wrote the same few stories over and over again.

The proprietor of Rake’s Progress agrees with Green but does his part to debunk the recent Nabokov plagiarism charges.


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