Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Memories of Teaching Baudrillard

I was saddened to learn that Jean Baudrillard died yesterday. I enjoy teaching Baudrillard. There's a certain joy in sharing theories that are so wildly exuberant with undergraduate students who are alternately both appalled and intrigued by his excesses.

Baudrillard also holds a peculiar record for me in inspiring plagiarism. One semester, after having spent two weeks lecturing on Baudrillard's strange theories of simulation and hyperreality, I found that three of the final papers from students in the class had been plagiarized. Sometimes this happens, and I try not to take these things personally. However, what was new for me was that all three papers were copied verbatim from exactly the same online essay. I had my own little hyperreal series of simulated Baudrillard papers lying on my desk. I was tempted to pass all three students for their clear grasp of his concepts -- and perhaps I would have if they had colluded to intentionally produce such an effect. Sadly, though, it wasn't genius on their part, but just plain old bad luck.

The bright side for me was that for the first time ever, the students didn't try to argue with me about their charges of plagiarism. Faced with the three identical papers and a printed copy of the website, they were gratifyingly humble in accepting their F's in the class.


  1. That made me laugh. Although genius and bad luck are sometimes hard to disentangle. Look at poor old Baudelaire!

  2. True enough. Although somehow I remain confident that none of these particular students was a budding young Baudelaire having a bad day.