Weekend’s New York Times: Nabokov, Kureshi, Sontag, Skurnick, McLemee

Regarding the recent so-called plagiarism scandal centering on Nabokov’s Lolita, the New York Times Magazine notes that Maar, the scholar behind the accusations, is accusing Nabokov not of plagiarism but of “cryptomnesia,” a “process by which things are learned, forgotten and then mistaken for original inspirations when recalled.” The following sidebar appears in the print edition but not online:

Several researchers … have proposed that implicit memory underlies the phenomenon of cryptomnesia, defined as mistakenly “generating a word, an idea, a song or a solution to a problem, with the belief that it is either totally original, or at least original within the proper context.” Presumably, a memory representation of the other person’s work remains available for some time following its presentation, allowing it to come to mind readily. Usually, the knowledge that the idea originated with someone else will also be retrieved, but an old idea may occasionally come to mind unaccompanied by any information about its external source. Under these circumstances, one may honestly believe that the idea is one’s own, hence inadvertently committing plagiarism. — “In Search of Inadvertent Plagiarism” by Patricia L. Tenpenny et al., American Journal of Psychology, Dec. 22, 1998

Also of note in the weekend’s New York Times: Hanif Kureishi (My Beautiful Laundrette) is interviewed about his new screenplay; Susan Sontag argues that the flood of horrific photographs from Iraq will not stop until the Bush administration changes its attitudes and policies; and Lizzie Skurnick and Scott McLemee review books.


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