We have been following with keen interest the story of Mark Anderson and Daniel Blue’s criticisms of Julian Young’s Nietzsche biography. (See these posts: 3rd July 2011, 11 November 2011, 12 November 2011, 14 November 2011, and 11 June 2012.) Anderson, it will be recalled, found disturbing parallels between some passages in Julian Young’s book and a biography published by Curtis Cate. Daniel Blue noted as well that in addition to these borrowed passages (which form a relatively small portion of Young’s book), Young leans heavily on Cate’s work.
Young imported two kinds of material from Cate. Obviously, there was the duplication of language, which Anderson has noted and Young has acknowledged. But this was not just a question of stylistics. Cate’s language summed up research and distilled hours spent in the libraries. This labor was Cate’s, and in the process of repeating his words Young implicitly annexed these findings as his own.
Now (July 2nd, 2012) the Chronicle of Higher Education has run a story on Anderson’s exposé. (You can’t read the story online unless you subscribe; library subscriptions have a moving wall of one month.) The Chronicle is quite cautious in its treatment of the case, but we were struck by the following passages:
One of the main things that bothers me is that Curtis Cate was a serious man, who wrote a serious book," says Mr. Anderson, who recently earned tenure. "And it wasn't paid much attention to when it was published." Cate, a Paris-based editor at The Atlantic, also wrote books about George Sand and Napoleon's incursion into Russia. He died in 2006. When Mr. Anderson first came upon the parallels with Mr. Young's book, he wrote to Cate's publisher and his agents but was unable to generate any interest. Now that he's made his case, he says, "he lack of response from the broader scholarly community is strange to me."
Early on, [Anderson] tracked down Curtis Cate's stepson, Michael J. Aminoff, a neurologist at the University of California at San Francisco Medical Center, and has kept him informed of developments in the exchange. Dr. Aminoff is skeptical that the situation can be cleanly resolved.
"There was sort of a muted apology by the other author," he [presumably Aminoff] says, "but I'm not sure that's going to help Curtis Cate or his book, which has now been supplanted by the other one. I don't know if there is any simple solution to the problem, except that this might serve as a cautionary tale."
In response to this sort of criticism, Young says: "since Cate appeared in my bibliography I assumed it would be obvious that I had used him as a source of basic historical data."
According to the Chronicle, Cambridge University Press will insert an errata slip into the book.
Beatrice Rehl, publishing director for the humanities and social sciences at Cambridge, writes in an e-mail message to The Chronicle that the press "is relying on Dr. Young to compile the errata slip and is also checking to make sure it is accurate."