Jonathan Lethem The Ecstasy Of Influence Analysis

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From the content of books to the songs on the radio, art serves to provide a reflection of the world. Behind every design, there are great chains connecting the art to the artist to the artist 's inspirations and so on as far as the eye can see. In Jonathan Lethem 's The Ecstasy of Influence: A Plagiarism, he emphasizes these unseen connections. "My search had led me from a movie, to a book, to a play, to a website, and back to a book." (Lethem 212). Here, Lethem describes the great journey he took as he attempted to track down the origin of a famous quote, but even this impressive path is nothing compared to all the influences that were combined in such a small piece of art. Every single artist that had touched the quote drew inspiration…show more content…
He outlines how even day to day choices are products of the environment, and that all situations lose meaning without context. Both of these lines of thinking overlap in one key area, art cannot exist separate from the world. In Gladwell 's paper, "The Power of Context", he also discusses how the practices of the law can be changed to better suit an interconnected world. The main example that he gave involved the New York City 's police force 's attempt to battle the rising tide of crime. During this epidemic, new and untested strategies were put into place. "Bratton turned the transit police into an organization focused on the smallest infractions, on the details of life underground." (Gladwell 154). Here, Gladwell writes about how a police chief finely tuned his tactics so that his officers would pay attention to the environment, and he was met with a rousing success. This really drives the point home that in both art and life, the environment adds its own influence. The same environmental impacts that affect society also affect the world of art, and once this is realized it becomes clear that many cases of plagiarism are actually the positive result of this contextual…show more content…
This absence of total ownership begs the question: what is art theft? It 's clear that art can be stolen, books can be copied verbatim and other people 's work can be plagiarized. However, it is important to remember that there is a great deal of difference between mechanically copying something and developing a previous idea. In Lethem 's paper, he describes how an artist had used one of his earlier books and created a sculpture of a gun containing the original script. "I couldn 't take offense at that. The fertile spirit of stray connection this appropriated object conveyed back to be, was a reward." (Lethem 219). Lethem was pleased to see this new art, not only because it meant that other artists valued his work, but because in it he could see the same connection to the inspiration he had drawn upon, the "fertile spirit". When artwork is taken and reworked into something new, it is stripped of the only qualities that the previous artist can lay claim to. None of Jonathan Lethem 's original ideas or hard work went into the making of the gun sculpture, the only thing that remained was the vital ingredient, the reflection of the world. And if this sculpture were re-worked into another piece of art, once again the effort and the ideas would be replaced and refitted, leaving only the inspiration to denote where it came from. If, however, either of these two works of art were mechanically copied exactly as they were, the original ideas and effort would not be replaced but the
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