Free «The Ecstasy of Influence» Essay

The Ecstasy of Influence

Everything that seems to be new was invented before. This tenor can be traced throughout the whole article The Ecstasy of Influence written by Jonathan Lethem. The author raises the question of plagiarism and inspiration in the sphere of culture. According to Lethem (2007), modern cultural production obviously involves “appropriation, mimicry, quotation, allusion and sublimated collaboration” which together comprise the creative act. It is essential to point out that most artists find their gift in embracing and tend towards adopting the previous experience of others. This influence can be also called inspiration, whereas invention implies pure creation out of nothing. Lethem gradually develops the idea while trying to distinguish what is stealing and what is inspirational influence in terms of art. The attempt to demarcate the boundaries of art has caused the emergence of a new perception of culture which makes it an intellectual property. Therefore, it vastly contributes towards the notion that it should inevitably pertain to somebody. In this context, Lethem addresses the considerations of Thomas Jefferson who perceived copyright as a negative, although necessary aspect. Thus, the ideas should be spread freely and provide the incentive for further creations. There are no doubts that art must be protected; however, the consequent creation derived from the original idea may contain layers that were not included in its initial form. Therefore, the development of someone’s idea can lead to an entirely new or considerably improved art work.

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Nevertheless, most people tend to view culture as a market loaded with products. Consequently, everything of value should belong to somebody, which results in copyright’s limitless expansion in terms of duration and scope. Thus, every creative act becomes a subject to automatic copyright protection, regardless of its value or significance. Lethem emphasizes that any art work simultaneously exists in two dimensions of economy. A market economy evaluates creation; however, the most significant is a gift economy, whereas each art work is a gift from artist to the audience. In case there was no such intention, the true value of art is destroyed by converting it in a pure commodity.

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