If you run a google search on “Where did Shakespeare get his inspiration?” the results immediately point to other authors, other authors’ works, and a slight suggestion of someone who isn’t even Shakespeare writing Shakespeare’s plays. To downplay what Shakespeare accomplished and replace it with what results in just shy of “plagiarism” seems extreme. The fact of the matter is that almost all “text” gets meaning from other “texts” just as words get their meaning from other words: https://thresholdresources.wordpress.com/1-4-words-get-their-meanings-from-other-words/. As Roozen points out, it is not merely the text alone that forms our interpretation of the text (Roozen, 2016, pg. 44). It is life experiences, moral compasses, nature/nurture, content, and language that guides us to a meaning. And as Stanley Fish addresses in his piece, “Is There a Text in this Class?,” any act of interpretation, is not an individual act but one that has been created from a social construct, which he calls “interpreter communities” (Fish, 1980, p. 322). Much like the interpretation of anything else, we can see the justification for these interpretations from Fish, “… because in order to grasp the meaning of an individual term, you must already have grasped the general activity… in relation to which it could be thought to be meaningful…” (Fish, 1980, p. 304).
We are inundated with movies, television shows, and books that are constantly recycling “old” into “new” but does that diminish the quality of the “new”? Surely, the “new” has to be given an opportunity to be successful. And what is even more interesting is that these concepts are being mocked within the actual “new” thing that has been created. In the remake of the 80s television show, 21 Jump Street, Deputy Chief Hardy laments on this concept, “We’re reviving a canceled undercover police program from the ’80s and revamping it for modern times. You see the guys in charge of this stuff lack creativity and are completely out of ideas…” (Lord & Miller, 2012).
“We’re reviving a canceled undercover police program from the ’80s and revamping it for modern times. You see the guys in charge of this stuff lack creativity and are completely out of ideas…” (Lord & Miller, 2012).
And if you’ve happened to notice a surge in reboots, revivals, and remakes, there is a reason. There is familiarity in concepts that we already understand. From the standpoint of an interpretive community, this makes sense. We want to feel connected to the “text.” To the thing we read, watch, or listen to. And if you can’t find a connection, you tend to shut down quickly. There’s excitement we get when a piece is alluded to in another piece. Interestingly enough, we may never have been exposed to the original “thing” in the first place. For example, the Jaws theme song? You may have never even seen the movie but you definitely understand the reference and the tone implied when someone starts in on the horrifying melody. As Josh Walbert writes in his blog- Prequels, Sequels, Reboots, and Remakes, it is easy to come in with preconceived notions about what a movie (or text) should be, “Movies, like any art form, are meant to convey something; a passion, an idea, a sense of joy, of despair, of hope, humor, or sadness” but it is within these inspirations that we should continue to strive towards the creation of something unique.
In, “A Short History of Writing Instruction: From Ancient Greece to Contemporary America,” Don Abbott notes how even during the Renaissance, students depended on imitation which required “great authors to imitate” (Abbott, 2012, p.158). Students even created commonplace books, which were collections of personal compositions as well as analysis of other works, quotations, and illustration. These books, used in conjunction with other anthologies and collections, gave students an array of works from which to draw in order to focus on a theme of his or her own. Grammar school students were ever rarely expected to move outside of these suggestions; however, older students were required to be original in thought, theme, and discourse.
Roozen understands that this is not a popular Western thought but one that is “vital” in “….the continual making and remaking of knowledge, selves, and society” (Roozen, 2016, p. 46). We may want to believe that our “text” is completely unique and original but the truth is we have been influenced so greatly by other texts, images, and life, that it is likely impossible that we have journeyed into a completely unknown territory. But what we do have control over is the recognition of this fact, and, in turn, moving forward with the knowledge that we have a vast array of materials in which we can rely on in order to create something new.