The first rule of Fight Club is … you do not republish Fight Club

Another Brad Pitt boxing

A pair of therapists has lost a paper in Sage Open because they’d previously published the article in another journal (more on that in a bit). 

The article, “Bridging the gap between theory and practice with film: How to use Fight Club to teach existential counseling theory and techniques,” appeared in 2013. The authors were Katarzyna Peoples, a counselor at Walden University, and Stephanie Helsel, a therapist whose LinkedIn page lists her as an adjunct professor at Waynesburg University in Pennsylvania. The two appear to have connected at Duquesne University, where each received her doctoral degrees. 

Here’s the gist of the article

In Fight Club, we see how one man journeys out of convention and stereotypical cultural limitations toward the existential ideal of an authentic, self-responsible person who is freely being-in-the-world in an honest, engaged way. The different aspects of [Edward Norton’s] psyche provide illustrations of different existential perspectives on sexuality, freedom, and God, as well as a fragmented sense of self. Viewing Fight Club as a contemporary story of one man’s confrontation of fundamental existential issues provides a compelling and entertaining structure around which the instruction of existentialism can be organized. As counselor-educators help students understand existential counseling through media, it is important to bear in mind that educators are also colearners of this process. Educators must allow for students’ personal meaning-making of existential concepts. Because existential themes vary from one philosopher to the next, students must also learn to understand what existential counseling looks like through their personal experiences and perceptions, and that is an achievement that is unavoidably individualistic.

The one-sentence retraction notice knocks the paper to the canvas with a single punch: 

The article has been retracted due to overlap with a previous article written by the authors, titled Constructivist education with Media: Using FIGHT CLUB to teach existential counseling theory, published in Education and General Studies, Vol. 1 (2), pp. 048-053 September, 2012, posted at

And isn’t it the way with movies these days that everything’s a remake? We found yet another version of the Fight Club paper in the June 2014 issue of Merit Research Journal of Art, Social Science and Humanities (we confess we’d not heard of this journal, or the publisher, before). The paper, which carries the same title as the now-retracted article, is available here

We emailed Peoples, the corresponding author, for comment and received this reply:

[The Sage Open article] was retracted for copyright issues as my co-author and I submitted unedited version that was too similar to another article we wrote. Our mistake completely so we submitted the correct edited version elsewhere.

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3 thoughts on “The first rule of Fight Club is … you do not republish Fight Club”

  1. It’s also a massive misreading of Fight Club to suggest that the protagonist’s story is a happy one or one worth imitating.

  2. It’s kindof meta isn’t it? They thought it was a separate paper, but turns out they were just the same the whole time. 😉

  3. Having never watched Fight Club (simply because I don’t enjoy pugilism or other violent images – same for the great(?) Raging Bull), all I know is the “first rule” thing. So this is interesting at another level.

    Researching just now, I was surprised to see that Fight Club ranks 10th all time in top-rated movies on IMDB.

    So I just educated myself (existentialism in Fight Club???) by reading the synopsis on IMDB [mandatory spoiler alert]:, and holy COW, I did not know. Two paragraphs in and I stopped, because now it’s on my watchlist for the weekend.

    p.s. This is not what I anticipated for this “Independence Day” weekend…

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