Sophie Hunter plagiarism allegations: Dr. Angela Moorjani’s email to the editor of The Guardian and a statement by the New England academic who discovered the appropriation of Dr. Moorjani’s work.

These two posts originally appeared on the blog New England Anon. I can confirm their authenticity as the original email by Dr. Moorjani was sent to the author of this blog and I have the personal information of the academic who goes by the name New England Anon.

Transcript of Dr. Moorjani email

From: Angela Moorjani

<moorjani@umbc.edu>

Date: Mon, Jul 27, 2015 at 5:17 AM

Subject: Re: Plagarism of your academic research appearing in The Guardian

To: xxxxx <xxxxx.1982@gmail.com>

Hi xxxx,

Thoughtful of you to let me know about the Guardian piece by Sophie Hunter.  Thanks.

Obviously some of the Guardian readers caught the comment about the plagiarism before it was deleted. Suddenly there were over 30 hits on my Academia site,mostly for my Beckett and Racine article and my profile.  They came from all over the globe. I have not experienced this amount of interest before!

I sent the following letter to the editor:

Several enlightened people have brought to my attention that a piece published in your esteemed newspaper on July 25 by Sophie Hunter ‘plagiarizes’my article on Racine and Beckett. A serious charge indeed.
I have now read Hunter’s article and the accompanying comments with some bemusement. I will limit myself to two comments:
Sophie Hunter is to be lauded for bringing modern music and modern theatre to the general public. But it would not have hurt her efforts or reputation if she had tipped her hat in the direction of  the insightful Beckett scholars who have ‘connected the dots’ instead of hogging the whole credit for herself. It seems clear to me and to those who have brought this affair to my attention that she gleaned her quotations and claims from my article ‘Beckett’s Racinian Fictions’ available online.
What is intriguing is that a reputable international newspaper like yours will see fit to censure and delete so many comments. The reason was obviously not the attacks on Hunter’s personal life, as some of these have survived your censorial pen. On the other hand, the people who have sent in relevant comments and have contacted me do not appear on your site.

Thanks again and all the best,

Angela

On Jul 25, 2015, at 8:42 PM, xxxx wrote:

Hi Angela,
I thought I’d let you know that an article has appeared in The Guardian that has used parts of your paper “Beckett’s Racinian Fictions: Racine and the Modern Novel Revisited” without giving you credit, and it appears what the author is claiming as her research in general is solely based on your academic work.
This is the original article via donotlink, should the newspaper alter it in future.
http://web.archive.org/web/20150725193435/http://www.theguardian.com/music/2015/jul/25/happy-days-samuel-beckett-festival-enniskillen-benjamin-britten-phaedra
One commenter on the article has called attention to this, though it appears The Guardian is deleting all comments critical of the author, including those that are questioning the veracity of the author’s curriciulum vitae and other credentials. In light of this, I thought it best to notify you. Some of the other aspects of the author’s life being called into question are related to Beckett as well: ex. the author claims to have won the Samuel Beckett Award when it was really the production company of which she was a part of that won it, not her as an individual. It was also technically not an award, but a grant for a then-unproduced work.
I am ccing The Guardian’s editorial inbox as well as a couple other London newspaper in the interest of transparency.
Sincerely,xxxx

The original emails, with headers. You may click to expand to full size.

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On why I have an email from Dr. Moorjani to The Guardian

Although there is currently a new maelstrom being created in the BC fandom (the early reviews released by The Times and The Daily Mail), I want to put the email exchange between hunter-hype-blog (originally sophiebitchdaily) and Dr. Angela Moorjani ‘out there’ on my blog.  I know the timing could be better; however, this was planned well before this morning’s shenanigans.

An introduction to the topic of Ms. Hunter’s ‘borrowed’ academic ideas:

Let me say that while I am new to being an active blogger in the skeptic community I am far from being new to the showmance.  I am an academician with specialties in both feminist literary criticism and post-colonial Irish literature. I have research experience commensurate with a graduate degree in literature as well as coursework experience in the topic of intertextuality.  Therefore, when I initially read Ms. Hunter’s article for The Guardian about her “constellation of connections” she personally discovered between Beckett, Racine & Britten, my academic senses started tingling. As a former composition and literature lecturer with considerable essay grading experience, I acquired the innate ability to recognize a writer’s words as ‘borrowed;’ it is a matter of identifying a writer’s voice established in a piece and then noting when that voice suddenly shifts.  As I scrolled through the comments on the article, I couldn’t help but notice not only all of the deleted comments, but also one commenter’s questions in particular (cavatelli) which drew attention to the notion that perhaps Ms. Hunter was not the first to make the Racine/Beckett connection.  Being ever the academician, I set out with Google, EbsoHost and my library card and within a matter of minutes, found Dr. Moorjani’s article “Beckett’s Racinian Fictions: ‘Racine and the Modern Novel Revisited.’”  After reading the article, particularly the first several paragraphs, I realized that Ms. Hunter had borrowed Dr. Moorjani’s own connections between Racine and Beckett and merely re-worded them, using the same quotations from Beckett’s lecture students without citing them properly (unlike Dr. Moorjani), and passing it all off as her own work.

My next step was to create a Guardian account, novelsandtea, and type up my findings.  I felt a duty to Dr. Moorjani as a fellow academician to not only bring Ms. Hunter’s outright uncredited borrowing of her intellectual property, but also to defend the definition of ‘authorial integrity.’  I never once, in my initial post nor my several replies, used the words ‘plagiarist’ or ‘plagiarism.’  I did not feel comfortable making that particular call; although, I have had, unfortunately, several experiences making that selfsame call regarding my students’ essays.  I fully recognize the difference between genres and that one does not use a bibliography in a newspaper essay; however, one should recognize work that one used to formulate the thesis for said newspaper essay and mention the name of the person who wrote said work.  That is all I was concerned with: calling Ms. Hunter out for authorial dishonesty and bringing Dr. Moorjani’s article to the forefront.

As a lurking, anonymous member of the skeptic community, I decided to create my own blog to house my newly voiced-out-loud opinions about Ms. Hunter and her article.  Thus, itnewenglandanon was born.  I merely used my anon name from Benedict’s Third Testicle and “voila!” my humble blog was born.

Meanwhile, I noticed that a fellow skeptic had emailed Dr. Moorjani and relayed the ‘borrowing’ incident directly to her.  Said skeptic, then going by bitchsophiedaily, received a reply.  I asked her if she wouldn’t mind forwarding the emails to me. I gave her my credentials, she double checked them with BTT (with my permission), and I received the emails the same evening.  We waited for 10 days for a response from Dr. Moorjani asking her permission for me to publish her email to The Guardian, but received no reply.  We then decided to go ahead and publish, knowing that Dr. Moorjani sent her email to The Guardian with the full knowledge that they might choose to print it.  They have not.  So, in the interest of academic honesty and giving credit where credit is due, I am posting the emails here on my blog.

I am not looking for any salacious controversy.  I am merely an academic, who HAPPENS to have become a skeptic in the BC fan community. I serve no agenda other than the desire for academic honesty and recognition of the hard work that original scholarship involves.  I am not a conspiracy-theorist; I am more Scully than Mulder.

So, with this unintentionally giant preamble out of the way, here are the emails. The first is from Dr. Moorjani to bitchsophiedaily (now hunter-hype-report) addressing her and copying her text from her own email to The Guardian and the second email is the original email bitchsophiedaily (now hunter-hype-report) sent to Dr. Moorjani, alerting her of Ms. Hunter’s article.  In order to upload the email exchange in its entirety, it was necessary for me to convert them to .jpg files.  The only redactions performed were for privacy’s sake.  On my honor as an academician, I did not alter either email’s contents.  I present them as they were presented to me.

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