September 10, 2003

Deja vu all over again!

Ok… so I’ve had these two books that I took out of the library for my chapter on “Ekphrasis by Women and the Self Portrait Poem: 20th Century Poets Refiguring the Artist as Model” (title not yet definite), and I’ve been doing all kinds of research on the self-portrait. During the course of this research, I checked out two books from the library. The first, Flaeshin-g Mirror: Women Artists’ Self-Representation in the Twentieth Century is written by Tiziana Agnati and published by Selene Edizioni in Milan. The copyright date is 2001. I also checked out a book by Marsha Meskimmon titled The Art of Reflection: Women Artists’ Self-portraiture in the Twentieth Century published by Columbia University Press in New York. The copyright is 1996. Now, there’s an acknowledgements section at the front of this volume, but that is the only thing that separates it from the other text. I mean, the covers are different… the shape of the book is different… but the 2001 publication gives absolutely no acknowledgement to the 1996 version. Both authors take credit for the work. Both works are in English. And, both book covers include brief biographies of both authors as author of the text in hand.

They are almost exactly the same.

So, who do I attribute the ideas to? I read the Agnati first, but it couldn’t have existed without the presence of the Meskimmon. Have you ever heard of such a thing? It strikes me as utterly bizarre. Quite frankly, I don’t know who to credit. I suppose, credit could go to Meskimmon because her book was published first. Her book is published by a more well-known publisher… but at the same time—does the other deserve mentioning, since that’s the text that I actually read? Amazon lists the Meskimmon text, but not the Agnati, and more people have checked Meskimmon out of the library. I suppose that somehow at this stage I shouldn’t be quite so perplexed by problems like this, but it concerns me. How does this happen? How does a near exact duplicate of the text exist without any attribution? Finally, how do they both show up under entirely different call numbers in the university library?

So, that’s my mystery for the day. I have to get back to writing about mirrors and self-portraits….maybe I’ll just attribute it to “?” until I have a better idea what to do with this.

Posted by c_jane at September 10, 2003 2:13 PM | TrackBack

Duplicate enough to be fraudulent? Maybe you should contact the 1996 author to see if she knows anything about it. I googled her and found her email address pretty quickly.

And I think you should cite her, since her work seems to predate the other by a good five years. and Columbia UP is fairly reputable, wouldn't you say?

ooh. Intrigue in C_Jane's diss. sounds fun.

Posted by: Ryan at September 10, 2003 3:35 PM |

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I would probably go with the one that people "know" (reputable publisher, listed on Amazon), but I would certainly footnote the other, noting the oddity.

And it is very odd. Same book, different people, and five years apart. Sounds fishy ...

Posted by: Jason at September 10, 2003 3:37 PM |

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I know... it *feels* like plagiarism... but I don't want to go around accusing someone before I know the full story. But it's this really bizarre multiple personality issue. My research has two faces. I have Agnati's name on all of my index cards, but I keep writing Meskimmon in my draft. If this is plagiarism... well... WOW! What a dumb move!

Posted by: CJ at September 10, 2003 5:40 PM |

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You must do two things: contact Columbia UP and ask if they know what's up, and read (or reread) Italo Calvino's _If on a winter's night a traveler_.

Posted by: Matt K. at September 11, 2003 10:28 AM |

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It's April 6 just after 7PM East Coast time, and I see the "Agnati book" in question does NOT come up via Search at -- whether searching under Agnati or Mirror.

It still shows up via Unlibro, both alone:

and listed among other Selene titles:

I agree that both publishers as well as Meskimmon should be contacted ASAP. (In fact, I'll drop MM a note myself to see if the Googled e-ddress is still good.)

Posted by: MichaelG at April 6, 2004 7:27 PM |

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Well I know Dr Meskimmon is not at all happy about it!

Posted by: Robert G at April 7, 2004 1:10 PM |

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Hello All,

I feel it is necessary at this point to make a brief statement and send thanks to the student who originally opened this discussion and thus alerted me to the existence of the illicit copy of my book. For legal reasons, I cannot speculate as to the source of the copy or enter into a detailed discussion of the evidence amassed to date.

The volume, ‘Flaesh-in(g) Mirror’ is an unauthorised, verbatim copy of my 1996 book, The Art of Reflection: Women Artists' Self-Portraiture in the Twentieth Century (Columbia UP and Scarlet Press). It is an exact, sentence by sentence, copy of the entire book (minus my original acknowledgements), in English. It includes even the foreword by Rosy Martin and uncredited images seemingly scanned directly from my book, which may constitute a further violation of copyright.

It is, according to the copyright officers to whom I have spoken, the worst case they have seen, as it breaks primary, secondary and tertiary rights. However, it is not yet clear who is responsible.

In the meantime, I am asking colleagues to check their institutional (and personal) libraries to ensure that this text does not continue to circulate - a simple check against my book will demonstrate the severity of this case.

Posted by: Marsha Meskimmon at April 7, 2004 1:52 PM |

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Apologies for being pedantic but the text in question is NOT 'written' by Tiziana Agnati as stated in the opening entry to this discussion. It is entirely the work of Meskimmon and was published in 1996 under the title 'The Art of Reflection'.

Whether Agnati or Selene Edizione are directly responsible for this outrageous plagiarism and violation of copyright may be unconfirmed, (perhaps someone - Columbia UP for example - should pursue this?) but it is quite clear that a crime has been committed against the author, the publisher and the artists whose work is reproduced.

Under no circumstances should any credit be given to Agnati for the origination of this text. The work and ideas contained therein must be attributed to Meskimmon for 'The Art of Reflection'.

Posted by: r_s_england at April 8, 2004 8:45 AM |

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