Publisher launches inquiry into allegation of academic copying

April 13, 2007

Moment of deja vu leads to complaint over 'familiar' text in D. H. Lawrence critique, reports Phil Baty.

A Cambridge English don is facing allegations of possible plagiarism after similarities were found between passages in a book chapter she co-authored and a classic 1961 text by the late Cambridge University scholar Graham Hough.

English lecturer Trudi Tate and former Cambridge lecturer Con Coroneos co-wrote a chapter in The Cambridge Companion to D. H. Lawrence , entitled "Lawrence's Tales". The book was published by Cambridge University Press.

A whistleblower complained to The Times Higher and to the CUP that passages in the chapter have remarkable similarities to passages from Dr Hough's book The Dark Sun: A Study of D. H. Lawrence . Dr Hough's work is not acknowledged by the authors.

Similarities with Dr Hough's work are found in summaries of the plots of four of Lawrence's major tales included by Dr Tate and Dr Coroneos in their chapter.

The whistleblower said that while different scholars summarising the plots of the same work would naturally be expected to reach similar conclusions, the summaries were almost identical and included the same "interpretive judgments".

For example, in the summary of Lawrence's England, My England , in both works the protagonist Egbert is described as "a young man of good birth who lives in the country, partly on a private income, partly off (or on) his father-in-law, and potters about doing nothing" and who "drifts into the army and is killed".

The whistleblower points out that as well as being exceptionally similar, both descriptions include the same interpretations. While both descriptions say Egbert "potters about doing nothing", the tale itself says that he "was working... he was not idle... he was always doing something, always working away".

The CUP said on March 22 that the matter was with its legal team, which was investigating. Several phone calls over several days this week failed to secure any further comment from the publisher.

Dr Tate, a fellow of Clare Hall, did not respond to numerous messages left for her by The Times Higher. Dr Coroneos, former English lecturer and fellow of St John's College, could not be contacted.

The book's editor, Anne Fernihough, said she did not have enough information about the specific allegations to comment.

A spokeswoman for Cambridge University said that Dr Coroneos had left Cambridge about a year ago and as Dr Tate was employed by a college, not by the central university, the university would not comment.

Research by Donna Bowater

phil.baty@thes.co.uk

Too close for comfort...

Coroneos and Tate

"Egbert is a young man of good birth who lives in the country, partly on a private income, partly off his father-in-law, and potters about doing nothing. His character degenerates along with his domestic situation.

He drifts into the army and is killed. The whole story is thus a rueful, half-despairing cry over England which seems congruent with Lawrence's own state of mind at the time."

Hough's original

"Egbert the protagonist is a young man of good birth who lives in the country, partly on a small private income, partly on his father-in-law, and potters about doing nothing. His character degenerates under this regime: so do his relations with his wife... when the war comes he drifts into the army and is killed... the title of the story is a rueful, half-despairing cry over England."

The whistleblower pointed out that Hough's interpretations are repeated in the passage by Coroneos and Tate, notably the matter of whether Egbert, in the tale, "potters about doing nothing". The tale says that he "was working... he was not idle... always doing something, always working away".

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