Uncreative Writing

In Kenneth Goldsmith’s article, “It’s Not Plagiarism. In the Digital Age, It’s ‘Repurposing’”, he talks about a class that he teaches at the University of Pennsylvania called Uncreative Writing. In this class, all of the work submitted by students must be plagiarized in some way. Students are encouraged to patchwrite, steal, repurpose and even buy papers. Based on what I know about this class, I would love to take it. In all of the writing classes I have taken in my life, plagiarism is considered a serious offense. In fact, when I was in fifth grade, I almost got kicked out of Hebrew School because of plagiarism. My teacher assigned us a small research paper on a topic of her choosing, which I didn’t want to do since my parents were forcing me to attend Hebrew School. So instead of writing the research paper, I put my topic into Google and copy and pasted the entire Wikipedia article about it into Microsoft Word. Before turning it in at Hebrew school, my mom picked it up off the printer and read it. She was amazed by “my writing skills”, since I was only in the fifth grade. I started to feel a little guilty after that, but turned it in anyways. The next week, my teacher pulled me out of the classroom and asked if I knew what plagiarism was. I lied and said that I didn’t. She explained what it was and told me that if I ever did it again I wouldn’t be allowed to return to the school. After that, I never plagiarized again, at least not purposefully. However, Kenneth Goldsmiths article and class made me think about plagiarism in a different way. He made me realize that there is possibly something to learn from plagiarism. While I am not saying that I plan on plagiarizing, I think that taking a class and learning about it could help improve my writing.

Three of Goldsmiths arguments about plagiarism seem particularly compelling to me. The first argument is that technology is continuously evolving the way we process text and absorb data. He even proposed the idea of the “unoriginal genius”, that perhaps our notion of genius is outdated because of technological advances and perhaps the way we use the information from technology is the most important part of the creative process. The second argument is that in other creative fields, replicating others work has become mainstream. The example he uses is that in music, sampling is commonplace. Many popular songs today are constructed entirely by using other pre existing songs. The final argument that is most compelling to me is the idea that “the suppression of self-expression is impossible”. In the article Goldsmith argues that even when “we do something as seemingly ‘uncreative’ as retyping a few pages, we express ourselves in a variety of ways”. Although he certainly has an unconventional idea of creativity, I feel that I could learn about my writing style based on what I would choose to include in my papers and how I would use already existing information.


One thought on “Uncreative Writing

  1. Elissa,
    I think that your response to Goldsmith’s article is refreshingly personal and insightful. The summary of Goldsmith’s three main arguments are concise and explained with clarity. I agree that attending Goldsmith’s class would significantly improve writing skills and help analyze them, but I also feel like it would help me understand plagiarism more. By that I don’t mean understanding the definition of plagiarism, but the extent to which we can plagiarize and how original ideas are extremely hard to come by. Rearranging existing information is also an art, which I, too, would love to master (not to cheat, but as a skill)


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