Penn State University Mark Zuckerberg War on Free Will Essay INTERPRETIVE ESSAY EXERCISE For this Interpretive essay exercise, I want you to select ONE of

Penn State University Mark Zuckerberg War on Free Will Essay INTERPRETIVE ESSAY EXERCISE

For this Interpretive essay exercise, I want you to select ONE of the texts we’ve read in the pdfs and use it to construct a simple frame or lens through which you’ll reflect for 3page (around 900 words) on some element of your – or our collective, public – experience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

You can use any concept from any one text to relate to something you’ve observed or experienced during this health crisis.

Consider how the following ideas and their respective texts may offer ways to think carefully about what’s occurring in the world and our lives. Remember, too, that you’re welcome to select a concept that’s not on the list.

Franklin Foer might ask how the technocratic underpinnings of our society may affect our ability to manage this crisis. (MARK ZUCKERBERG’S WAR ON FREE WILL from world without mind)

Joseph Stiglitz might ask us to critique the government’s response to this crisis, and how it may favor the will and interest of rent-seeking corporations. (p389-412)

Jonathan Lethem may ask us to reconsider the concept of individualism and individual property in the midst of a crisis in which we all depend on each other to be responsible for the health and well being of our most vulnerable friends and neighbors.

Lethem may also aid us to think about how the COVID-19 crisis encourages to abandon enframing and see the world in a new way. (The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism)

Make sure that you (1) identify the reading and concept you’ll be working with for this assignment, offering a brief close reading of an idea-rich passage where you see this concept at play, and (2) outline one example of how you’ve seen this concept enacted since the onset of the pandemic.

It should have an introductory paragraph that provides context for your ideas and an assertion of a thesis that connects your one textual idea to the COVID-Epidemic. Your writing should be a balance of your own original observations and analysis from your life, for which you should use the first-person, and quotation from the text. All work should be Times New Roman, size 12, double spaced. Three
from the counterculture, but not really.
All the values it professes are the values of the sixties. The big
tech companies present themselves as platforms for personal liber­
ation, just as Stewart Brand preached. Everyone has the right to
speak their mind on social media, to fulfill their intellectual and
democratic potential, to express their individuality. Where televi­
sion had been a passive medium that rendered citizens inert,
Facebook is participatory and empowering. It allows users to read
widely, think for themselves, and form their own opinions.
We can’t entirely dismiss this rhetoric. There are parts of the
world, even in the United States, where Facebook emboldens citi­
zens and enables them to organize themselves in opposition to
power. But we shouldn’t accept Facebook’s self-conception as sin­
cere, either. Facebook is a carefully managed top-down system,
not a robust public square. It mimics some of the patterns of con­
versation, but that’s a surface trait. In reality, Facebook is a tangle
The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism
By Jonathan Lethem
All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the
book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated. . . .
—John Donne
Consider this tale: a cultivated man of middle age
looks back on the story of an amour fou, one beginning when, traveling abroad, he takes a room as a
lodger. e moment he sees the daughter of the house,
he is lost. She is a preteen, whose charms instantly
enslave him. Heedless of her age, he becomes intimate
with her. In the end she dies, and the narrator—marked by her forever—remains alone. e
name of the girl supplies the title of the story: Lolita.
e author of the story I’ve described, Heinz von
Lichberg, published his tale of Lolita in 1916, forty
years before Vladimir Nabokov’s novel. Lichberg later
became a prominent journalist in the Nazi era, and his
youthful works faded from view. Did Nabokov, who
remained in Berlin until 1937, adopt Lichberg’s tale
consciously? Or did the earlier tale exist for Nabokov
as a hidden, unacknowledged memory? e history of
literature is not without examples of this phenomenon, called cryptomnesia. Another hypothesis is that
Nabokov, knowing Lichberg’s tale perfectly well, had
set himself to that art of quotation that omas Mann,
himself a master of it, called “higher cribbing.” Literature has always been a crucible in which familiar
themes are continually recast. Little of what we admire
in Nabokov’s Lolita is to be found in its predecessor;
the former is in no way deducible from the latter. Still:
did Nabokov consciously borrow and quote?
“When you live outside the law, you have to eliminate
dishonesty.” e line comes from Don Siegel’s 1958
film noir, e Lineup, written by Stirling Silliphant.
e film still haunts revival houses, likely thanks to Eli
Wallach’s blazing portrayal of a sociopathic hit man
and to Siegel’s long, sturdy auteurist career. Yet what
were those words worth—to Siegel, or Silliphant, or
their audience—in 1958? And again: what was the line
worth when Bob Dylan heard it (presumably in some
Greenwich Village repertory cinema), cleaned it up a
little, and inserted it into “Absolutely Sweet Marie”?
What are they worth now, to the culture at large?
Appropriation has always played a key role in Dylan’s
music. e songwriter has grabbed not only from a
panoply of vintage Hollywood films but from Shakespeare and F. Scott Fitzgerald and Junichi Saga’s Confessions of a Yakuza. He also nabbed the title of Eric
Lott’s study of minstrelsy for his 2001 album Love and
e. One imagines Dylan liked the general resonance
of the title, in which emotional misdemeanors stalk
the sweetness of love, as they do so oen in Dylan’s
songs. Lott’s title is, of course, itself a riff on Leslie
Fiedler’s Love and Death in the American Novel, which
famously identifies the literary motif of the interdependence of a white man and a dark man, like Huck
and Jim or Ishmael and Queequeg—a series of nested
references to Dylan’s own appropriating, minstrel-boy
self. Dylan’s art offers a paradox: while it famously
urges us not to look back, it also encodes a knowledge
of past sources that might otherwise have little home
in contemporary culture, like the Civil War poetry of
the Confederate bard Henry Timrod, resuscitated in
lyrics on Dylan’s newest record, Modern Times. Dylan’s
originality and his appropriations are as one.
e same might be said of all art. I realized this forcefully when one day I went looking for the John Donne
passage quoted above. I know the lines, I confess, not
from a college course but from the movie version of
84, Charing Cross Road with Anthony Hopkins and
Anne Bancro. I checked out 84, Charing Cross Road
from the library in the hope of finding the Donne passage, but it wasn’t in the book. It’s alluded to in the
play that was adapted from the book, but it isn’t reprinted. So I rented the movie again, and there was the
passage, read in voice-over by Anthony Hopkins but
e Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism
Jonathan Lethem
without attribution. Unfortunately, the line was also
abridged so that, when I finally turned to the Web, I
found myself searching for the line “all mankind is of
one volume” instead of “all mankind is of one author,
and is one volume.”
In 1941, on his front porch, Muddy Waters recorded a
song for the folklorist Alan Lomax. Aer singing the
song, which he told Lomax was entitled “Country
Blues,” Waters described how he came to write it. “I
made it on about the eighth of October ‘38,” Waters
said. “I was fixin’ a puncture on a car. I had been mistreated by a girl. I just felt blue, and the song fell into
my mind and it come to me just like that and I started
singing.” en Lomax, who knew of the Robert Johnson recording called “Walkin’ Blues,” asked Waters if
there were any other songs that used the same tune.
“ere’s been some blues played like that,” Waters replied. “is song comes from the cotton field and a
boy once put a record out—Robert Johnson. He put it
out as named ‘Walkin’ Blues.’ I heard the tune before I
heard it on the record. I learned it from Son House.”
In nearly one breath, Waters offers five accounts: his
own active authorship: he “made it” on a specific date.
en the “passive” explanation: “it come to me just
like that.” Aer Lomax raises the question of influence, Waters, without shame, misgivings, or trepidation, says that he heard a version by Johnson, but that
his mentor, Son House, taught it to him. In the middle
of that complex genealogy, Waters declares that “this
song comes from the cotton field.”
My Internet search was initially no more successful
than my library search. I had thought that summoning
books from the vasty deep was a matter of a few keystrokes, but when I visited the website of the Yale library, I found that most of its books don’t yet exist as
computer text. As a last-ditch effort I searched the
seemingly more obscure phrase “every chapter must
be so translated.” e passage I wanted finally came to
me, as it turns out, not as part of a scholarly library
collection but simply because someone who loves
Donne had posted it on his homepage. e lines I
sought were from Meditation 17 in Devotions upon
Emergent Occasions, which happens to be the most
famous thing Donne ever wrote, containing as it does
the line “never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it
tolls for thee.” My search had led me from a movie to a
book to a play to a website and back to a book. en
again, those words may be as famous as they are only
because Hemingway lied them for his book title.
Literature has been in a plundered, fragmentary state
for a long time. When I was thirteen I purchased an
anthology of Beat writing. Immediately, and to my
very great excitement, I discovered one William S.
Burroughs, author of something called Naked Lunch,
excerpted there in all its coruscating brilliance. Burroughs was then as radical a literary man as the world
had to offer. Nothing, in all my experience of literature
since, has ever had as strong an effect on my sense of
the sheer possibilities of writing. Later, attempting to
understand this impact, I discovered that Burroughs
had incorporated snippets of other writers’ texts into
his work, an action I knew my teachers would have
called plagiarism. Some of these borrowings had been
lied from American science fiction of the Forties and
Fiies, adding a secondary shock of recognition for
me. By then I knew that this “cut-up method,” as Burroughs called it, was central to whatever he thought he
was doing, and that he quite literally believed it to be
akin to magic. When he wrote about his process, the
hairs on my neck stood up, so palpable was the excitement. Burroughs was interrogating the universe
with scissors and a paste pot, and the least imitative of
authors was no plagiarist at all.
Harper’s Magazine
Blues and jazz musicians have long been enabled by a
kind of “open source” culture, in which pre-existing
melodic fragments and larger musical frameworks are
freely reworked. Technology has only multiplied the
possibilities; musicians have gained the power to duplicate sounds literally rather than simply approximate
them through allusion. In Seventies Jamaica, King
Tubby and Lee “Scratch” Perry deconstructed recorded music, using astonishingly primitive predigital hardware, creating what they called “versions.”
e recombinant nature of their means of production
quickly spread to DJs in New York and London. Today
an endless, gloriously impure, and fundamentally social process generates countless hours of music.
Visual, sound, and text collage—which for many centuries were relatively fugitive traditions (a cento here,
a folk pastiche there)—became explosively central to a
series of movements in the twentieth century: futurism, cubism, Dada, musique concrète, situationism,
pop art, and appropriationism. In fact, collage, the
common denominator in that list, might be called the
art form of the twentieth century, never mind the
–2 –
February 2007
e Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism
Jonathan Lethem
twenty-first. But forget, for the moment, chronologies,
schools, or even centuries. As examples accumulate—Igor Stravinsky’s music and Daniel Johnston’s,
Francis Bacon’s paintings and Henry Darger’s, the
novels of the Oulipo group and of Hannah Cras (the
author who pillaged Dickens’s Bleak House to write
e Bondwoman’s Narrative), as well as cherished texts
that become troubling to their admirers aer the discovery of their “plagiarized” elements, like Richard
Condon’s novels or Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermons—it becomes apparent that appropriation, mimicry, quotation, allusion, and sublimated collaboration
consist of a kind of sine qua non of the creative act,
cutting across all forms and genres in the realm of cultural production.
truths, no matter how deeply he or she submerges that
What happens when an allusion goes unrecognized? A
closer look at e Waste Land may help make this
point. e body of Eliot’s poem is a vertiginous mélange of quotation, allusion, and “original” writing.
When Eliot alludes to Edmund Spenser’s “Prothalamion” with the line “Sweet ames, run soly, till I
end my song,” what of readers to whom the poem,
never one of Spenser’s most popular, is unfamiliar?
(Indeed, the Spenser is now known largely because of
Eliot’s use of it.) Two responses are possible: grant the
line to Eliot, or later discover the source and understand the line as plagiarism. Eliot evidenced no small
anxiety about these matters; the notes he so carefully
added to e Waste Land can be read as a symptom of
modernism’s contamination anxiety. Taken from this
angle, what exactly is postmodernism, except modernism without the anxiety?
In a courtroom scene from e Simpsons that has
since entered into the television canon, an argument
over the ownership of the animated characters Itchy
and Scratchy rapidly escalates into an existential debate on the very nature of cartoons. “Animation is
built on plagiarism!” declares the show’s hot-tempered
cartoon-producer-within-a-cartoon, Roger Meyers Jr.
“You take away our right to steal ideas, where are they
going to come from?” If nostalgic cartoonists had
never borrowed from Fritz the Cat, there would be no
Ren & Stimpy Show; without the Rankin/Bass and
Charlie Brown Christmas specials, there would be no
South Park; and without e Flintstones—more or less
e Honeymooners in cartoon loincloths—e Simpsons would cease to exist. If those don’t strike you as
essential losses, then consider the remarkable series of
“plagiarisms” that links Ovid’s “Pyramus and isbe”
with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet and Leonard
Bernstein’s West Side Story, or Shakespeare’s description of Cleopatra, copied nearly verbatim from Plutarch’s life of Mark Antony and also later nicked by T.
S. Eliot for e Waste Land. If these are examples of
plagiarism, then we want more plagiarism.
e surrealists believed that objects in the world possess a certain but unspecifiable intensity that had been
dulled by everyday use and utility. ey meant to reanimate this dormant intensity, to bring their minds
once again into close contact with the matter that
made up their world. André Breton’s maxim “Beautiful as the chance encounter of a sewing machine and
an umbrella on an operating table” is an expression of
the belief that simply placing objects in an unexpected
context reinvigorates their mysterious qualities.
is “crisis” the surrealists identified was being simultaneously diagnosed by others. Martin Heidegger held
that the essence of modernity was found in a certain
technological orientation he called “enframing.” is
tendency encourages us to see the objects in our world
only in terms of how they can serve us or be used by
us. e task he identified was to find ways to resituate
ourselves vis-à-vis these “objects,” so that we may see
them as “things” pulled into relief against the ground
of their functionality. Heidegger believed that art had
the great potential to reveal the “thingness” of objects.
Most artists are brought to their vocation when their
own nascent gis are awakened by the work of a master. at is to say, most artists are converted to art by
art itself. Finding one’s voice isn’t just an emptying and
purifying oneself of the words of others but an adopting and embracing of filiations, communities, and discourses. Inspiration could be called inhaling the
memory of an act never experienced. Invention, it
must be humbly admitted, does not consist in creating
out of void but out of chaos. Any artist knows these
Harper’s Magazine
e surrealists understood that photography and cinema could carry out this reanimating process automatically; the process of framing objects in a lens was
oen enough to create the charge they sought. Describing the effect, Walter Benjamin drew a compari-
–3 –
February 2007
e Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism
Jonathan Lethem
son between the photographic apparatus and Freud’s
psychoanalytic methods. Just as Freud’s theories “isolated and made analyzable things which had heretofore floated along unnoticed in the broad stream of
perception,” the photographic apparatus focuses on
“hidden details of familiar objects,” revealing “entirely
new structural formations of the subject.”
Splits, M*A*S*H, and e Mary Tyler Moore Show. I
was born with words in my mouth—“Band-Aid,” “Qtip,” “Xerox”—object-names as fixed and eternal in my
logosphere as “taxicab” and “toothbrush.” e world is
a home littered with pop-culture products and their
emblems. I also came of age swamped by parodies that
stood for originals yet mysterious to me—I knew
Monkees before Beatles, Belmondo before Bogart, and
“remember” the movie Summer of ‘42 from a Mad
magazine satire, though I’ve still never seen the film
itself. I’m not alone in having been born backward
into an incoherent realm of texts, products, and images, the commercial and cultural environment with
which we’ve both supplemented and blotted out our
natural world. I can no more claim it as “mine” than
the sidewalks and forests of the world, yet I do dwell
in it, and for me to stand a chance as either artist or
citizen, I’d probably better be permitted to name it.
It’s worth noting, then, that early in the history of photography a series of judicial decisions could well have
changed the course of that art: courts were asked
whether the photographer, amateur or professional,
required permission before he could capture and print
an image. Was the photographer stealing from the person or building whose photograph he shot, pirating
something of private and certifiable value? ose early
decisions went in favor of the pirates. Just as Walt
Disney could take inspiration from Buster Keaton’s
Steamboat Bill, Jr., the Brothers Grimm, or the existence of real mice, the photographer should be free to
capture an image without compensating the source.
e world that meets our eye through the lens of a
camera was judged to be, with minor exceptions, a
sort of public commons, where a cat may look at a
Consider Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer:
Other people, so I have read, treasure memorable moments in their lives: the time one climbed
the Parthenon at sunrise, the summer night one
met a lonely girl in Central Park and achieved
with her a sweet and natural relationship, as they
say in books. I too once met a girl in Central
Park, but it is not much to remember. What I
remember is the time John Wayne killed three
men with a carbine as he was falling to the dusty
street in Stagecoach, and the time the kitten
found Orson Welles in the doorway in e ird
Novelists may glance at the stuff of the world too, but
we sometimes get called to task for it. For those whose
ganglia were formed pre-TV, the mimetic deployment
of pop-culture icons seems at best an annoying tic and
at worst a dangerous vapidity that compromises fiction’s seriousness by dating it out of the Platonic Always, where it ought to reside. In a graduate workshop
I briefly passed through, a certain gray eminence tried
to convince us that a literary story should always eschew “any feature which serves to date it” because “serious fiction must be Timeless.” When we protested
that, in his own well-known work, characters moved
about electrically lit rooms, drove cars, and spoke not
Anglo-Saxon but postwar English—and further, that
fiction he’d himself ratified as great, such as Dickens,
was liberally strewn with innately topical, commercial,
and timebound references—he impatiently amended
his proscription to those explicit references that would
date a story in the “frivolous Now.” When pressed, he
said of course he meant the “trendy mass-popularmedia” reference. Here, transgenerational discourse
broke down.
Today, when we can eat Tex-Mex with chopsticks
while listening to reggae and watching a YouTube rebroadcast of the Berlin Wall’s fall—i.e., when damn
near everything presents itself as familiar—it’s not a
surprise that some of today’s most ambitious art is
going about trying to make the familiar strange. In so
doing, in reimagining …
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