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The Kathy Acker Mash

From here.


Kathy Acker: What I was interested in was what happens when you just copy something, without any reason... but it was the simple fact of copying that fascinated me. I wanted to see whether I could do something similar with prose. I came to plagiarism from another point of view, from exploring schizophrenia and identity, and I wanted to see what pure plagiarism would look like, mainly because I didn't understand my fascination with it. I picked Don Quixote as a subject really by chance.

She decided that since she was setting out on the greatest adventure any person can take, that of the Holy Grail, she ought to have a name (identity). She had to name herself. When a doctor sticks a steel catheter into you while you're lying on your back and you do exactly what he and the nurses tell you; finally, blessedly, you let go of your mind. Letting go of your mind is dying. She needed a new life. She had to be named.

From Don Quixote.


Kathy Acker: I don't imagine an ideal reader. I write for myself and maybe my friends. Although as I give readings more and more, I try and see whether the audience is bored. So in that way I'm aware of an audience. There has to be that element of entertainment, really, or there's limited accessibility. So I do care about my readers in that way. Academics-I feel a confusion about academia.

Interviewer: You've come out of the academy?

Kathy Acker: I absolutely hate it. I've seen too many English departments destroy people's delight in reading.

In this female terrorist house which is disguised as a girls' school, you're free to move around. You're standing on the Delancey Street corner. It's raining lightly. You know you're older than the other girls. A man might not want you cause the skin on your face's slightly wrinkled. Men want young tight fresh girl skin. They want new. They want to own. They want to be amazed.

From Great Expectations.


Kathy Acker: For instance, while writing it, I never considered that Blood and Guts in High School is especially anti-male, but people have been very upset about it on that ground. When I wrote it I think it was in my mind to do a traditional narrative. I thought it was kind of sweet at the time, but of course it's not.

I have been alone for a very long time. I'm locked up in a room and I can't get out. Because I've been locked up in this room so long whatever desires are arising in me are rampaging around everywhere as wild and fierce and monstrous as gigantic starving jungle beasts. I don't know how to talk to people, I especially have difficulty talking to you; and I'm ashamed and scared 'cause I want you so badly, Dimwit.

From Blood and Guts in High School.


Interviewer: Empire of the Senseless seems to indicate a new direction for you. For instance, the plagiarism is not so apparent.

Kathy Acker: Empire is a new direction, but I did use a number of other texts to write it, though the plagiarism is much more covered, hidden. Almost all the book is taken from other texts,

Interviewer: What other texts?

Kathy Acker: I've used tons of other texts--sometimes it's just a phrase. You know I've gotten very good at it. There's a lot of Genet for instance. The beginning is based on Neuromancer, a book by William Gibson. But from page to page, I've adapted a lot of other texts. I couldn't even say exactly.

I think that because I perceived what marriage was for my grandmother and because I love her, I am not able to sexually love another human being or accept another human being's love. If I have to love, our of desperation or desperately, I know love only when it's allied with hate.

From Empire of the Senseless.


All quotes belong to Kathy Acker.


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Nov. 26th, 2005 06:18 am (UTC)
That's a great interview, thanks for the link. I like the way you intertwine the interview with sections from the books.
Nov. 26th, 2005 09:32 am (UTC)

i was surprised to hear her call the things she was doing plagiarism, y'know. really was. it was an interesting take--wants me to go and reread some of the originals and reread the books again. especially since i have actually never read DON QUIXOTE--either version, in fact, though i own the acker copy.
Nov. 26th, 2005 10:26 am (UTC)
Hmm, I always though of it as playing with plagiarism. Especially Great Expectations.

I haven't read Acker's Don Quixote, and I haven't finished Cervantes' version, although I did start a long time ago in a lit course, far, far away.
Nov. 26th, 2005 10:31 am (UTC)
i guess i just never thought of plagiarism--the term, the whole thing connected. i understood that she'd taken the original texts and was rewriting them, but... i dunno, just that term. i'm fascinated by it now. i wonder if i can plagiarise my thesis?

well, probably not.
Nov. 26th, 2005 07:37 pm (UTC)
I think there might be some sort of convention by which when one does it deliberately and openly it's called pastiche, and when one uses others' work underhandedly and tries to pass it off as their own it's called plagiarism, which might be why you don't think of Acker as a plagiarist.

In one of my creative writing courses we had an essay/theory assignment and I created a plagiarized autobiography. I used a few local authors like Joan London and Marion Campbell to provide locations and some other more generic scenes from family life. It was an interesting exercise, because I wanted it to read true to someone who knew me. It also raised issues about where is the self as narrator/author in a pastiched and plagiarized autobiography. My feeling is that the self/author is present in the selection and arrangement of the elements selected, although that would not hold for someone who randomly selected passages and stuck them together in the order they turned up.

It was also during exercises like that one in which I figured out that I was much more into the theoretical side of things, and that while I like being able to play around with formats other than essays. I like communicating ideas as simply as possible far more than I like writing in a manner which requires I focus on the prose or on a narrative.

As for whether you can plagiarize your thesis... Perhaps, if you can do it in a suitably self-conscious manner which demonstrates some point about academic writing being intertextual because everyone needs to back up every single interesting claim with a reference to to someone else. I'd be surprised if no one thought of that already.

However, this seems a bit off topic for your thesis - I was thinking about your recent complaints about the conventions of academic writing.
Nov. 27th, 2005 04:31 am (UTC)
there are lots of different techniques that use plagiarism. it sounds like you used a bit of collaging, more than anything else. and there's cut up text usage. it's used a lot in poems--you can even have found poems, where you take a basic text you find around and simply give it a poetic language. so there are lots of techniques that used plagiarism, and acker uses those, as well as pastiche, as you say.

plagiarism is more attributed to simply passing off someone elses work as your own, and thus not what acker was really about at all. but i find it interesting that she uses the word--as if calling it plagiarism is an act of defiance, almost, by reducing the idea that she has used to simply being one she stole.

it's interesting, as i say.
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