Category Archives: Author Posts

Articles written by OBP authors on their books. Accessible and interesting these posts are well worth a read for those wishing to understand more about the great range of subjects we work with.

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Allusion/Echo and Plagiarism: Walking the Fine Line

by R. H. Winnick, author of Tennyson’s Poems: New Textual Parallels (OBP, 2019)


https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0161

In the three-volume second edition (1987) of Tennyson’s complete poems, editor Christopher Ricks cites more than twelve hundred instances where phrases and short passages are similar or identical to those occurring in prior works by other hands. These similarities are sometimes as minimal as two or three words, but in some cases extend to several words in the poems.  My own work on Tennyson’s textual parallels, benefiting from the proliferation of digitized texts and the related development of powerful search tools over the three decades since that edition was produced, has identified hundreds more.  Like those previously identified, each of these new instances may be deemed an allusion (meant to be recognized as such and pointing, for definable purposes, to a particular antecedent text), an echo (conscious or not, deliberate or not, meant to be noticed or not, meaningful or not), or merely accidental.  Unless accidental, these new textual parallels tell us more about Tennyson’s reading and shed further light on his thematic intentions and artistic technique.  But do they also tell us that Tennyson, for all his talent as a poet, was also a plagiarist on a grand scale?

Questions about Tennyson’s originality were first raised early in his career, with an unsigned review of his Poems (1833) in the New Monthly Magazine accusing him of having ‘filled half his pages with the most glaring imitations’.  Thirteen years later, in The New Timon, Edward Bulwer‑Lytton referred scornfully to the ‘borrowed notes’ and ‘purloin’d conceits’ of ‘School‑Miss Alfred’.  The most galling attack, however, and the one that prompted Tennyson’s most intense and sustained response, came late in his life. It was long after he was named Poet Laureate, long after his verse had won him fame, fortune and all but universal admiration, and came, ironically, from a scholar‑critic who claimed to hold him and his poetry in high regard.

When John Churton Collins published the first of three installments of ‘A New Study of Tennyson’in the January 1880 issue of The Cornhill Magazine—including in it, based on his wide reading and prodigious if imperfect memory, nearly a hundred instances in which Tennyson seemed to him to have derived phrases, lines, passages, even whole poems from an assortment of earlier, mostly classical authors—Tennyson filled the margins of his copy with comments generally ranging from denial to outrage.  Alongside two lines from his Mariana, said by Collins to have been adapted from two lines ‘scarcely less beautiful’ of the Latin poet Cinna, Tennyson wrote: ‘I read this for the first time’. Alongside five others, ‘not known to me’. Alongside six, ‘nonsense’. Alongside three, ‘no’, or ‘no, close as it seems’. Alongside five, ‘!!’ or ‘!!!’ and so on.  In three instances, it should be noted, Tennyson’s marginal comment was ‘possibly’.  If, as seems unlikely, he took the trouble to both read and mark up parts two and three of Collins’s Cornhill pieces—later collected with other purported instances of the poet’s borrowings in Collins’s Illustrations of Tennyson (1891)—his copies and any marginal comments they contained seem not to have survived.  Tennyson’s annoyance with Collins and insistence on the originality of his poems found further expression in his subsequent correspondence and conversation, with one scholar, Edmund Gosse, whose latest critical study Collins had panned in print, reporting—or claiming—that Tennyson had consoled him by calling Collins ‘a louse on the locks of literature’.

            Was Tennyson, then, despite his denials, a serial plagiarist?  What can, I think, be said is that Tennyson’s repeated insistence that he only rarely consciously and deliberately borrowed anything from anyone is as questionable as Collins’s repeated insistence that he believed the same thing.  Based on the enormous number of textual parallels to prior works to be found in Tennyson’s poems—those previously (and credibly) identified, plus those first reported in my study—a fundamental and lifelong aspect of Tennyson’s art would seem to have been his habit of echoing any work ancient or modern he had read and at least half-consciously recalled, that his creative intelligence told him would enhance the resonance or deepen the meaning of his poems. 

            These textual parallels do not, in my view, reflect a lack of imagination or a want of originality, but an imagination of enormous range and power that regarded everything he had ever read, as well as the world around him, the people he knew, the people he loved (or didn’t), and his own personal and emotional experience, as the raw material of his art.  If Tennyson’s lifelong practice of crafting poems in this manner—a practice adopted, to varying degrees, by countless other poets both ancient and modern—left and leaves him susceptible, however unjustly, to the charge of plagiarism, then so be it.  The fact remains that in doing so, Tennyson masterfully created some of the most memorable and original poems ever written in the English language.  

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Human and Machine Consciousness – a systematic approach


https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0173.0081

Chimpanzee brain in a jar. By Gaetan Lee. Tilt corrected by Kaldari. 2007. CC 2.0.

Consciousness is extremely important to us. What would life be worth without the smells, colours and sounds that fill our waking conscious experience? Coma patients who are unlikely to regain consciousness are allowed to die. Fictional unconscious zombies are shot with impunity.

Within the Christian tradition the conscious soul is distinct from the physical body. After death conscious souls continue to have experiences in hell or heaven. This tradition was reworked by Descartes into a distinction between thinking substance (the conscious soul) and extended substance (the physical body). Modern scientists and philosophers face an apparently insurmountable distinction between their everyday colourful conscious experiences and an invisible physical world of superstrings and wave-particles.
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Enabling lifelong learning through open education


https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0173.0076

Broadly speaking, open education (OE) is the widening of access to high quality educational resources in order to promote lifelong learning and greater participation in higher learning and training. One of the driving principles of OE is that lifelong learning is a human right.

Thus, at its heart, OE is an educational philosophy about how knowledge should be created, shared, and accessed, and it is this philosophy that drives OE principles, policies, processes, and practices. These ideas are further explained in the research-based book I published with OBP, Open Education: International Perspectives in Higher Education. Continue reading

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The Role of the Well-Timed Question

Alison K. Smith https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0173.0074

My chapter in Information and Empire is something that I never really expected to write. It came about because of a simple question from Katia Bowers about what I might have to contribute to the conference where the volume began. Did I have anything about newspapers or periodicals? she asked.

It’s funny how things happen. I was in the process of going through the copy editing for my book on social estate, and if I’d been prompted just to suggest something for a conference on information technology, I would perhaps have come up with something about the very many registers of townspeople and merchants or manumission forms that were produced during the tsarist era. But then again, I might not, since I rather felt like I’d written everything I could on those, between a recent conference paper and, well, the book (I still cherish hearing a colleague call my description of such documents “archival pornography”).
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Expect the Unexpected

Daniel C. Waugh https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0173.0073

Underlying my contributions to Information and Empire is academic work extending back several decades over much of my academic career (with many breaks for other projects). I have had the satisfaction of seeing conclusions based on imperfect evidence confirmed by the work of colleagues (notably Ingrid Maier and Stepan Shamin), who have taken the analysis to new levels. The process also has taught me to expect the unexpected and to confront complexities whose resolution may never be within our grasp.

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Of Roots and Scrolls

Clare Griffin https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0173.0072

Or,
How the Bible, Witchcraft, and Botany Were Brought Together By Bureaucracy In A Completely Everyday Fashion That Was Totally Normal At The Time, No, Really, Stay With Me On This One You Guys.

Because I can explain. This is the story of an institution both entirely unique and completely typical, and of its documents, which were also weird and wonderful whilst being simultaneously humdrum and mundane. This is the story of the Apothecary Chancery. Across the seventeenth century, an official institution housed in an unassuming building next to the Moscow Kremlin was home to a small group of foreign medical practitioners (immigrants – they get the job done), and a smaller group of Russian bureaucrats, who did various things with their day, among which was to read things, talk about things, and write things down. That last part happened in a normal way for their surroundings, that is to say they were written in Russian, and on scrolls. This was how all official documents were created, circulated, and joined together into long threads around the entire empire, whether about the rise and fall of nations, or the delivery of firewood.
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How do people know things?


https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0173.0071

 

“How do people know things?” – the title of this blog post – seems like a simple question, but as our new publication, Information and Empire: Mechanisms of Communication in Russia, 1600-1850 demonstrates, the answer is complex. The volume focuses on how people knew things in pre-modern Russia, from the official information collected and used by the imperial government or created and circulated through bureaucratic institutions to the ways in which information was circulated publicly and privately through newspapers, the post, and experienced through the visual “graphosphere”. In addressing the broader question of the empire’s knowledge, the book brings together a history of information and its communication in Russia through case studies written by specialists. Continue reading

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Why Open Access? OBP Author’s Perspectives

OBP: Alice Meyer https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0173.0070

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‘I am committed to egalitarian education and breaking down any barriers that would get in the way to learning. In short I champion access to material for all.’
-Andrew Fisher

 

 

 

 

‘I really wanted The Idea of Europe to be widely available, to as many people as possible. I wanted to be sure that no one would be stopped from reading it for reasons of cost.’
-Catriona Seth

Gildenhard-Virgil-front-cover

‘Liaising with schools is an important part of what I do as a director-of-studies at King’s College and lecturer in the Faculty of Classics here at Cambridge. And anyone involved in this kind of work quickly realizes that the quality of the teaching provisions in our field varies widely – in terms of contact hours, available resources, and the training of the teachers. I would like to believe that my open-access commentaries help a bit to level the playing field.

But this is only one of the reasons why I publish with OBP, two others being flexibility and speed: these commentaries are rather quirky and experimental (some would probably say undisciplined) in ways a more conventional publishing house would hardly tolerate; and since they are designed to provide help with authors who move on and off the syllabus very quickly, they have to be written (and published) at breakneck speed. You show me another press that generates proofs within a week of submission of the ms. and has the final product available within a fortnight!’
-Ingo Gildenhard

 

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Open Textbook Network: The Power of Community

OBP: Alice Meyer https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0173.0069

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Open education means providing greater access to knowledge and learning. It also means significant institutional change, something that takes time and concerted effort to be successful.

The Open Textbook Network (OTN) is a community of higher education leaders dedicated to advancing open education best practices on their college campuses. Together, we build and share resources, data and expertise focused on open textbooks.

In the U.S., OTN membership now includes 15% of higher education. In the UK, the OTN has recently started working with the UK Open Textbooks project on their research into the viability of importing open academic textbooks into UK colleges and universities.

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Tolerance: Student Perspectives

OBP: Alice Meyer https://doi.org/10.11647/OBP.0173.0068 “We produced translations for Tolerance in a small group, made up of the 2nd year students in my college. We were given the French copies of two texts, produced our own translations, and then all met … Continue reading