Open University lecturer under investigation after 'publishing a Dylan Thomas story under her own name'
AN Open University lecturer, is being investigated for suspected plagiarism after allegedly publishing a Dylan Thomas story under her own name.
Dr Joanne Benford, a teacher of creative writing, is accused of multiple instances of copying the works of other writers and passing them off as her own over two decades.
One of her short fiction collections, Down By The Water, features a story called Holiday Memory. It appears to be a verbatim copy of a radio play of the same name written by Dylan Thomas and first broadcast on the BBC in 1946.
The allegations came to light after Alex Keegan, an author of short fiction, discovered a work called Postcards From BalloonLand in another book by Dr Benford, called Coming Up For Air.
Mr Keegan claims that the story is his own, based on his own children and a family trip to Disneyland. He alleges that the story was reprinted word-for-word in Dr Benford’s collection.
He approached the Open University, which is investigating the claims.
David Knight, director of associate lecturer services at the Open University, said: “An allegation of plagiarism has been made against one of our Associate Lecturers. The Open University does not tolerate plagiarism, and it is viewed as a serious offence.
“Associate Lecturers make a vital contribution to the quality of teaching and learning and we have taken immediate action to investigate the allegation.
“If a case of plagiarism is proven, The Open University disciplinary procedures will be followed. It would not be appropriate to comment further until we have concluded the internal investigation process.”
A spokesman added that Dr Benford, 41, has not been suspended “as it is now between presentations and she is not currently teaching any students”.
Dr Benford’s website describes her as a prolific author who has self-published short stories, poems and novels, all of which are available to purchase as e-books. She said her life “has been marked by variety, travelling the cradles of civilisation, being a one-time singer, pianist, artist, librarian and all-round seeker” who began writing professionally aged 20.
She claims that Down By The Water was shortlisted for the Raymond Williams Publishing Prize after its publication in 1995, the same year that it was published by Mr Keegan. Her book was last reprinted in 2008.
Her Holiday Memory story is identical to the Dylan Thomas save for a few words.
Thomas’s version is published in several anthologies including On The Air with Dylan Thomas: The Broadcasts, which is available online. A sample passage reads: “Liquorice allsorts, and Welsh hearts, were melting, and the sticks of rock, that we all sucked, were like barbers’ poles made of rhubarb... I remember the smell of sea and seaweed, wet flesh, wet hair, wet bathing-dresses, the warm smell as of a rabbity field after rain...”
The version in Dr Benford’s book reads: “Liquorice Allsorts and Milk Bottles were melting and the sticks of rock that we all sucked were like barbers’ poles made of rhubarb... I remember the smell of sea and seaweed, wet flesh, wet hair, wet bathing-dresses, the warm smell as of a rabbit-home field after rain...”
A spokesman for the executors of the Dylan Thomas estate said they had issued a cease and desist letter to Dr Benson after being made aware of the issue this week. Thomas’s work remains in copyright.
Other stories in collections published by Dr Benford allegedly bear similarities to works by Aleister Crowley, Leonard Cohen and John Burnside.
Dr Benford could not be reached for comment yesterday.