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Thanks! -- Arnie Perlstein, Portland, OR

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Jane Austen Code: Part Two

Anielka Briggs responded to my previous post in Austen L, and I have rebutted her response below:

[Anielka wrote] "I think the gist of your post is that you reckon (yet again) that you thought of my idea first. you didn't. I have really bad news for you Arnie. You are 200 years too late;) Jane Austen thought of it first."

Anielka, you put a whole new spin on plagiarism. To me, Austen studies are like science. In science, it is the physical world which scientists study. In the realm of Austen studies, what Jane Austen did is the subject matter we Janeites study. Your comment that "Austen thought of it first" is absurd, and is an attempt by you to deflect attention away from your own actions.

In Austen studies, just as in science, it is important to give credit to individuals where credit is due, even as the collective arc of Austen studies moves forward, especially in this area of subtext studies, where it is a "brave new world", and only a very few scholars such as yourself and myself, are breaking new ground. As in your recent posts, you often write as if _everything_ you are saying is your own discovery, even though only _some_ of what you are saying is original to you.

This has nothing to do with copyright or patent law, this is common courtesy, and the way academic scholarship is done in all fields. It is a matter of giving credit where credit is due.

I had actually planned to stop responding to your posts at all, but the final straw for me was when you yesterday referred to General Tilney killing his wife in childbirth without (as would have been effortless) adding "as Arnie has claimed". Unless you would like people to believe that you have been a member of these groups during the past year and yet you never read anything I wrote about my discovery in this regard, but then, miraculously, you had the same idea yourself. Who do you think is foolish enough to believe such a preposterous thing?

If you were merely a casual poster in these groups, with no apparent scholarly aspirations, then I would not care about what you wrote. But you are not merely a casual poster in these groups. Despite your endless smarmy and completely insincere self-deprecations, you present yourself as a scholar. And you are a scholar, and you sometimes do bring forward interesting discoveries. So it is offensive and outrageous to me, when a fellow scholar is not merely careless in failing to give credit when discussing discoveries, but actually seems to take some malicious glee in doing so.

And what is even more galling is that I have never done anything like this to you. Anyone can read back in these groups and see that on a dozen or more occasions in the past 3 years, I have given you credit, and sometimes high praise, for discoveries you have brought forward which really are your own original work. In fact, in some cases, I have been the _only_ person to respond to you at all, let alone to engage deeply with what you have brought forward. My response in late 2009 to your discovery of the "Leviathan" solution to the Emma charade is the best example. I was the _only_ person who solved the puzzle after you presented clues, and I responded enthusiastically, because I thought it a very important discovery.

And I have credited you on several dozen occasions not only for that discovery, but also for your discovery in October 2007 of the "Anna Weston" == > "Anna Austen" wordgame in Emma, which, as you of course recall, you discovered _after_ I privately informed you in October 2007 as to my own original interpretation of Jane Fairfax as the mother of Anna Weston, who covertly gives her baby to Mrs. Weston. Just as I have credited a thousand other Austen scholars for their discoveries, as I have done my research.

Where can you give a single example of where you brought forward an original idea, and I then used your idea without acknowledging you as the source? It has never happened!

[Anielka also wrote] "What apparently angers you is that I can read the code off the page and read it more accurately than you can. We are reading the same code. Instead you could rejoice that our suspicions mutually confirm one another's beliefs that a code exists but instead every time I post my ideas you erroneously claim "I thought that first". "

No, what I am careful to do is to make sure that credit for original discovery is given to the proper person. I never consciously present anyone else's discoveries as my own, but you do this, particularly with my discoveries, on a regular basis, and it amazes me that you have the chutzpah to complain when I challenge your doing this, and I don't ask you to stop talking about my discoveries, I merely ask you to simply acknowledge my having made them.

I have absolutely no problem with your presenting your own original ideas anywhere you want, and I have absolutely no problem with your presenting _my_ ideas, whether to praise them or to critique them, _so long as_ you add an explicit acknowledgment of my priority of discovery. Frankly, most of your word games are not of interest to me at all, and so I do the right thing in those instances, and simply ignore your posting in that instance. I keep a polite distance.

"Bad luck. I suspect Rudyard Kipling and Virginia Woolfe got there before you. And me. I solved Northanger Abbey through "Dare Lamentor Hinc" and "Mr. Elton IN charade" plus "Seymour Land and reclaim throne" which is a DIFFERENT method to you. I've not read any source you quote or heard any of your ideas (some of which are incorrect: It's NOT feminism. there is a code word but you patently don't know it.) By your own admission you "research things to death" Instead I read the texts continuously, work on codes whilst doing the housework and have spent twelve years on Austen family research and reading literary sources that Austen might have read."

You've not heard any of my ideas? What nonsense! See the above re "General Tilney as murdering his wife in childbirth"! Again, before I started writing about it publicly a year ago, this topic was _never_ mentioned publicly by anyone else! be clear as to my own opinion as to the three word games you have just brought forward yet again:

I could care less about "Dare Lamentor Hinc", which has no validity at all, in my opinion. Unless you've got some other way of linking that Latin phrase to Jane Austen, this is, in my opinion, way off the deep end.

As was clear from my (accurate and favorable) response to your puzzle re "Mr. Elton in Charade", I think that _was_ a good catch on your part, and I have my own interpretation of its significance, which apparently is very different from yours.

"Seymour land and reclaim throne" sounds very iffy to me, but I already believed that there was a royal subtext, even without your clever wordgame, so it really does not matter to me either way.

And finally, I could care less that you don't agree with my claim that feminism is at the core of Jane Austen's shadow stories (which is original to me only in that I am the first to claim that Jane Austen wrote coherent alternative stories in her novels--many other scholars have previously argued that Jane Austen in general was a feminist). In fact, I am _glad_ you disagree. And I really don't care if you never bring forward that other word you keep hinting at, or if you do it later today. It's all the same to me.

And finally, when you write these outrageous things, and then write in a tone of sweetness and light, it is no accident that I am repeatedly reminded of Mrs. Elton.

Cheers, ARNIE

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