In this episode of High Theory, Geoffrey Sanborn tells us about Plagiarism. A concept emerged with the idea of originality, plagiarism challenges some of our most deeply held notions of individualism and status. Hatred of plagiarism is so baked into our culture that it evokes a gut response of disgust, which prevents us from actually analyzing it as a form of social behavior.

In the episode, Geoff talks about websites that promise to “humanize” chatGPT content, like the AI Text Converter and the Plagiarism Remover. He talks about postcolonial theory, as a tool that might help us analyze plagiarism, and invokes Homi Bhabha’s idea of “colonial mimicry,” which appears in his 1984 article “Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse.” He also talks about the actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith, and references David Graeber’s book Debt, which we ran an episode on way back in 2020. It was in the early days of High Theory, so apologies for the audio quality, but we think you’ll like it.

Geoff is a Samuel Williston Professor of English and department chair at Amherst College. He has published many books about nineteenth century American literature, most recently Plagiarama! William Wells Brown and the Aesthetics of Attractions (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016), which was the inspiration for this conversation. It’s a really great book! You should read it.

The image for this episode was made by Saronik Bosu in 2023.

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