Here are two passages. See if you notice a similarity.
This essay begins with Diderot sitting in his study bemused and melancholic. Somehow this study has undergone a transformation. It was once crowded, humble, chaotic and happy. It is now elegant, organized, beautifully appointed, and a little grim. Diderot suspects the cause of the transformation is his new dressing gown. (McCracken, 1988)
As he looked from his desk and glanced around his study, Diderot noticed that it had been transformed by mysterious forces. It was once crowded, humble, chaotic, and happy. Now it was elegant, organized, and a little grim. What happened? [new para.] Diderdot suspected that the cause of the transformation was right before his eyes. It was a new dressing gown. (Twitchell, 2002)
James Twitchell is a professor of literature at the University of Florida. He is a prolific author. He is also a plagiarist.
The revelation of this behavior begins with Roy Rivenburg, former Los Angeles Times reporter. Rivenburg discovered Twitchell had used his, Rivenburg’s, work as his own.
A reporter for the Gainsville Sun, Jack Stripling picked up the story, and the results appeared Friday.
It appears Twitchell has stolen widely and I am in distinguished company, including Rivenburg, Leslie Earnest, Peter Van Ham, Lance Morrow, Joseph Pine and Virginia Postrel. (See Virginia’s post on this topic below.)
Twitchell claimed that passages borrowed for his book Shopping For God (2007) were only "little snippets" confined to a single chapter, the result of mere "sloppiness."
But "snippets" also appear in his 2002 book, Living It Up where he appears to have borrowed from a Harvard Business Review article by Joseph Pine and James Gilmore, and a Reason article by Virginia Postrel. Branded Nation (2004) has some too. (Stripling has a good review. Link below.)
This was witting behavior. Twitchell sent Postrel the manuscript of Living It Up to ask for a blurp. She noticed Twitchell’s use of the Diderot Effect and asked him to acknowledge me. Twitchell did not. According to Stripling, Twitchell claims that Diderot Effect "has become such common parlance in his area of study that he wasn’t even sure who coined it." Really? But his use of my exact words tells us he was acquainted with its origin.
According to Stripling, the University of Florida did not act with dispatch.
After Rivenburg made contact with Twitchell, Twitchell told his department chair about the problem. But Pamela Gilbert, the chairwoman, did not forward along the allegations to UF’s Office of Research to begin a misconduct investigation.
Simon & Schuster is not pulling books from the shelf, as they have done in other cases. Adam Rothberg, spokesperson for Simon & Schuster, is promising correction for "the paperback edition." I wonder if the threat of legal action by the offended authors might concentrate the editorial mind?
McCracken, Grant. 1988. Diderot Unities and the Diderot Effective. In Culture and Consumption I. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, pp. 118-129.
Postrel, Virginia. 2008. If You’re Going to Steal My Prose, At Least Keep My Facts. Dynamist Blog. April 27, 2008. here.
Stripling, Jack. UF professor Twitchell admits he plagiarized in several of his books. Gainsville Sun. April 25, 2008. here.