An apology, a correction, and a cautionary tale about authorship and scholarly error

I want to offer an apology, a correction, and a cautionary tale about authorship and scholarly error.

Let’s begin with the apology and correction. I want to apologize for a misattribution of authorship. In Make It the Same, I refer to a 2005 audio art project entitled Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” I cite this work on pages 122–23, again on page 147, and in a bibliographic entry (on page 300) as authored by cris cheek alone, whereas the work was in fact authored by cheek and Kirsten Lavers, who together formed the art collective TNWK (an acronym for Things Not Worth Keeping). The work was produced in collaboration with the sound artist Simon Keep and with the staff and students of Coleridge Community College in Cambridge, England. I sincerely apologize to all involved for this error.

Correct and full information about Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is readily available on the project’s website here (as an old archived website, it contains a few broken links).

The header for the archived Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” website. The project “formed part of the Radio Taxi project transmitted from Taxi Gallery – an unusual arts venue based in Cambridge. Over Spring Bank Holiday weekend 2005 Taxi Gallery became a short range FM and internet radio station broadcasting a live mix of a range of sound and music programmes made with the Coleridge School and members of the local community as well as national and international sound artists.” (http://www.radiotaxi.org.uk/mariner/about.html)

However, instead of consulting this website, I relied on cheek’s PennSound page, where the audio project is available for download and where primary authorship of the project is (or was) attributed to cheek alone (I understand that this error is being corrected as I write). In repeating this error, I compounded it, transforming a mutable webpage into immutable print.

It’s an error I deeply regret not only because it elided the important work of others, first and foremost Lavers and Keep, in the project, but also because my attribution of sole authorship went against the ethos of “serious play,” as cheek puts it, around authorship that was integral to the project and to the work of TNWK.

In Make It the Same, I describe the project as “an audio recording of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner in which each line is read by a different student or staff member from Coleridge High School [another error: it should read “Coleridge Community College”] in Cambridge, England. Coleridge thereby performs a multicultural community of many accents who nevertheless form a collective subject through their shared embodiment of a canonical text of English literature.” My attribution of sole authorship to cheek ended up replacing one white male English author with another, whereas a key aim of the project was arguably to displace both sole authorship and such gendered and racialized biases.

Like Coleridge’s rime, this is a cautionary tale. One shoots the albatross or ignores authorship at one’s peril. The death of the author has been much exaggerated. Authorship continues to matter deeply and perhaps even especially in projects that seek to draw it into question. 

My error has in turn caused me to question my own biases and oversights in writing about such works and to be doubly conscious of how such an error can not only damagingly elide the work of an author but can also contribute to a scholarly system of citation that continues to elide the intellectual and creative labour of many. It was this very system of prejudice that Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” set out to highlight and oppose through a collective affirmation of difference to which I humbly, and belatedly, add my voice here.

Published by Jacob Edmond

Jacob Edmond is associate professor in English at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He is the author of Make It the Same: Poetry in the Age of Global Media (Columbia University Press, 2019), A Common Strangeness: Contemporary Poetry, Cross-Cultural Encounter, Comparative Literature (Fordham University Press, 2012), and of numerous essays, which have appeared in journals such as Comparative Literature, Contemporary Literature, Poetics Today, Slavic Review, and The China Quarterly.

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