Violators of authorial intention are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Plagiarists are chucked bodily out of the university and taunted mercilessly by the press.
Just as museums seek to preserve the historical past by placing its artifacts under glass and special lights and environments, with interpretive cards placed just underneath, so also do academic authors seek to preserve their expressive past by placing its artifacts in print and other immutable media, such as audio- and videotape. Media subject to alteration or other mutation, such as html publication, anonymous graffiti and other texts, are shunned.
Glenda Watling-Bishop in our fellowship is a case in point. Having proudly placed a poem in a prestigious literary journal, she waited expectantly for it to appear--only to discover, to her horror, that the editorial staff at the journal had taken certain insupportable "liberties" with the body of her text, inserting a comma where she expressly did not want it, making her utter lines that she did not believe in and certainly did not want to speak . . . She felt absolutely violated. It was the worst thing that had ever been done to her (that she could recall; at this point in her recovery she was still in denial about repeated disciplinings by an abusive teacher).
She was so distraught that she couldn't teach her classes. She couldn't even bring herself to call in sick. Finally a concerned graduate student stopped by to see what was wrong, and found the house a mess, the bedclothes in disarray, and Glenda looking haggard at the sink.
"What happened to you!?" the student asked, shocked.
"I--I've been--raped!" Glenda finally choked out.
"Raped! Oh my God! I'm calling the cops. Did you know the son of a bitch?"
"Well, yes, I . . ."
"Give me his name. That bastard's gonna pay. You do want to press charges, don't you?"
"I guess so. I don't know. I'm not sure I can . . ."
"I'll help you. I've been there myself."
"No, you don't understand. I'm not sure I have any legal grounds. I think I may have consented, by some perverse twist of the law . . ."
"Listen, believe me, I know what you're feeling. I felt the same way myself when I was raped by my date at a Greek swap in college. Nobody consents to be raped. I'm calling the cops."
"Well, if you think it's best . . ."
So the cops came, and asked Glenda all their typical impersonal cop questions. Who, when, where, how long, why. Glenda was on the verge of a breakdown anyway; she had had no counseling, no emotional support from her sisters at the Rape Crisis Center. She wavered throughout her interrogation between frantic anger and utterly miserable tears.
"So who is this guy, Frenell J. Tubbs III? What kinda fruity name is that?"
"He's the editor of a very prestigious literary journal."
"And how do you know him?"
"Then how did you know he was the guy?"
"He's the editor. Who else would violate my text?"
"Let me get this straight. He raped your text? What is it, some kinda textbook?"
"No, damn you, it's a poem! He violated me! I want him thrown in jail!"
"He raped you, or he raped your poem? Which is it, lady?"
"Both. He raped me by raping my poem."
"You were standing right behind it?"
"Asshole. My poem is me, it's my voice, my soul, my body in a very real and morally significant way. He fucked it all up."
"And you want to bust him for rape?"
"OK, OK--you were raped. But look, this is important for your chances of a successful prosecution. Did you in any way lead this guy on? Did you give him any indication at all that you were open to his manipulation of your poem? Say, mention in your letter to him that you 'trusted' him to print your poem 'as he saw fit,' or 'to its best advantage,' or anything of that nature?"
Glenda could not believe she was hearing this. Of all the misogynist oppressor pig bullshit . . . She felt herself blanch, felt paralyzed with rage and fear. She couldn't fight this, any more than she could fight that son of a bitch rapist editor, or Mr. Jones--
And then the memories came flooding back, the "discipline" with which her sixth-grade teacher had plied her, the tongue-lashings, the ridicule, the torn-up poems . . . she shriveled, the tears flowed, she wanted to shrink until she was no more . . .
"Has this ever happened to you before?"
She looked up, startled. Had the cop said that, or was it her flashback to sixth grade? She could have sworn the cop had said it, but he said it with Mr. Jones's tonal inflections, his voice . . . Was she losing her mind? She seized huge clumps of her hair in both hands, squeezed tightly as if to prevent her brains from pouring out onto her clothes.
"I--I beg your pardon?"
"You've probably published poems before, right, maybe a lot of them? In fact, pardon my saying this, ma'am, but you look like someone who's published a lot of things in less prestigious journals, places that weren't so picky about who they publish--and who they violate."
"Are--are you saying--that I--asked--for this, you cocksucking son of a bitch!?"
"Just let me ask the questions, ma'am. This is painful, I know, but it is essential that we get all this on the record now, before some D.A. drags it out of you on the stand. Have you ever given an editor permission to make 'small' or 'purely cosmetic' changes in your poems--say, in hopes of getting them published?"
"You did send them the poems in the first place, right? And you wanted to get published more than anything in the world? Your job depended on it, maybe? Your job's for a creative writer, you have to keep getting published or perish, am I right? How many 'allowances' did you make with those other journals, huh? How many? Is this the first one you cried 'rape' on? It isn't 'rape' until it's some nationally renowned journal, is that it?"
The hateful, insulting questions stung her like redhot needles, burning through her flesh. She had worked hard to find any kind of voice within the academy; now this . . . Now that it seemed her voice would finally be heard, this! She couldn't bear it . . .
(Let me get this straight--we're not addicts. We don't speak for any persons we aren't. We're writing about rape. Text-rape. In a book about academic addictions ... why do I feel so uncomfortable about this--? Is it because I feel like I may have been (or am now) a rapist? Or is it rather that I feel as if I have been (or am now being) raped? Could it be both? If so, which is my role?)
(If Glenda's an addict, she needs to recover from her addiction, right? Which is protecting the sanctity of her text against misreadings, alterations, and the like. So what would recovery be? A willingness to let anyone do to her (texts) whatever they like? The textual equivalent of prostitution, promiscuity, repeated self-abasement? Sounds medieval: the academic addict as flagellant. Or would it be cessation of all writerly activity, the textual equivalent of celibacy? More medievalism. Should Glenda become a visionary who has no need to write down her poems--like the mystical bride of Jesus celebrated in monastic traditions?)
(Or--more I suppose to the point of this thing-- who in the hell can diagnose or prescribe for Glenda? Glenda herself? Glenda and the group? The cop? The editor(s)? The author(s)? And, if Glenda becomes a mystic does that mean she has no need to write down her poems, or does it mean that she has an even greater desire not to? What if she writes them anyway? Is that a violation of mystic discipline? Again, who diagnoses? Who prescribes?)
(The long and the short of it is that there is no cure for academic addiction. Addicts sometimes recover, but nobody can cure them.)
(What we have is a daily reprieve based upon a complete and utter disintegrative process being allowed or encouraged to continue.)
Pig ending. The judge threw her case out of court. Not only didn't she have a legal leg to stand on, she wasted tax dollars on a frivolous persecution of a law-abiding citizen. He cited her for contempt and fined her one month's salary and 300 hours of associate editor's work. His final comment was: "If you can't run with the big dogs, stay on the porch."
Sensitive New Age guy ending. Glenda is being encouraged to seek her own path through the perilous forest of recovery . . . we can't presume to know exactly what's good for her, but we are sure of one thing: we really really care about her, very deeply. Really.
Feminist ending. As if two rapist-types like us, no matter how sensitive, could ever pretend to know that.
Terrorist ending. Pass the grenades and firebombs . . . we shot the cop, blew up the editorial offices of the journal and poured pig's blood on the smouldering bodies of the staff after we pulled 'em out. Then Glenda and me and you all committed suicide by taping dynamite to our poems and the poems to our chests and walking into offices of Random House, boom!
Mystical ending. Glenda rolled off a fart, one of those high whistling ones.
Back to Am I An Addict?
Copyright 1992 Doug Robinson and Bill Kaul