Each Thing’s a Thief: Memory, Theft and Tradition (International Course)

Each Thing’s a Thief: Memory, Theft and Tradition (International Course)

Avoid plagiarism, but explore the creative activity of appropriation and "stealing"

‘Immature poets imitate’, wrote TS Eliot, whereas ‘mature poets steal’. It’s a good line, and a good principle: if you’re going to take a line from another writer, make it your own, and act without intention of returning it. Such thievery allows poets to engage immersively with a glut of available literary and extra-literary information, and to recall, annotate, edit and personalise their poetic inheritances: as David Shields has put it, ‘Art is a conversation, not a patent office.’ This new online course looks at poetic theft, and how ideas such as appropriation and intentionally ‘stealing’ from the work of others can make focused, explicit and reflexive a creative activity in which human thought constantly and necessarily engages. We will explore methods by which poets can integrate language from literary, popular and historical culture into their poems – much as phrases from Shakespeare (himself a recycler of pre-existing narratives) or the King James Bible become divorced from their thematic and even their syntactic contexts, and are put to new cultural uses – and will consider quotation, misquotation, translation, re-contextualisation, the cento, the found poem and the remix. And we will carefully examine how to reach the level of ‘maturity’ at which your thefts from existing texts are sensitive engagements with tradition, rather than dubious attempts to ride the coattails of your predecessors and your contemporaries. We will also look at how to avoid committing mere plagiarism, and explore the effects that can be achieved by making poems encouraging of, or resistant to, future imitation and theft, thinking throughout about how stealing complicates or clarifies our relationship with writing, language and memory.

5 fortnightly sessions over 10 weeks. No live chats. Suitable for UK & International students.

More information about how all our online courses work can be found on the Online Courses page.

(Image: William J. Webbe, ‘A Thief of a Magpie’)

About Adam Crothers View Profile

Adam Crothers was born in Belfast in 1984, and lives in Cambridge, working as a library assistant and a literary critic. A contributor to New Poetries VI (Carcanet, 2015), he was selected in 2016 as one of Poetry Ireland Review’s ‘Rising Generation’ poets; his first collection, Several Deer (Carcanet, 2016) won the Shine/Strong Poetry Award 2017.

The course pushed me in directions I would never have taken without it, and the quality of my poetry reflects this. It’s an invaluable way to meet other poets who are interested in learning and in challenging themselves.

Summer 2017 Online Course Survey Response

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