Originality...Status:Deceased?

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"[T]here's no such thing as a wholly original work of literature."

Foster, page 29

Originality is slipping away from mankind, so it would seem.  I just had a discussion with a friend yesterday about music originality: Rhiana basically using the entire song "Tainted Love" as a basis for her song "SOS", M.C. Hammer's "Can't Touch This" utilizing "She's a Super Freak", and Vanilla Ice's obvious plagarism of Queen and David Bowie's "Under Pressure" in "Ice, Ice, Baby" (which he was rightfully penalized for).  My apologies for the music rant, but what does this say? There is a desire to reuse, reformulate, and in a sense, recycle things of old and transform them into something "new".

Perhaps there is a desire to do so, but could it just be that we've already touched upon all of the major ideas.  I must agree with Foster with regards to the reusing of themes and ideas.  Archetypes and allusions fill our culture.  Music comes to a point where we have to go retro and remix older genres into new ideas.  The same happens with literature.  All of the basic plot ideas and scenarios are out there in the literary world (note that I say basic...there's always room for creativity).  Hence, it would seem that originality is only partially dead: the themes are reused, but the manners of conveying them are revealed anew to the world through contemporary settings and characters.  It is in this regards that originality is struggling....the themes will always be one of mankind's, the world's, or nature's struggles, but it is the delivery that should be at least a new facade.

  

http://jerz.setonhill.edu/EL267/2009/02/online_agenda_items_1/

http://jerz.setonhill.edu/EL267/2009/02/foster_how_to_read_literature_1/

3 Comments

I agree with you Chris. Themes are reused not only in literature and music but also in film, television shows, and even video games.
I think, however, that music and literature has handled the changes particularly well compared to film. If you think back to how many comedic movies have been made after college, or how many scary movies have similar plots, you may see where I am coming from.

Alyssa Sanow said:

Foster's claim that there is no such thing as an original piece of work actually surprised me. A few pages later, he makes the claim that there is "only one story" (32). Obviously if there is only one story, then every work of literature will be a "remix" of that one story. I, however, really struggle to believe either of these ideas. Has our ability to develop creatively and culturally developed such a plateau that no other original work is or will be created? Maybe it's just me being idealistic but I believe there is always room for a new story line (beyond simple twists in previous plots). Writers (and musicians) simply have to stop being satisfied with making their point with another's words or ideas.

Jennifer Prex said:

I agree that it is definitely getting more and more difficult to be original. I also agree that creativity isn't dead. It is always possible to take different ideas that are known and put them together in a creative and new way. It is when this is unsuccessful--when a story is too predictable due to reader familiarity with other works--that it seems like there isn't much creativity left.

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