Week 10: Intellectual Property Wars

Hello, it’s me.

We had a strong presence of ten students in class today, so this blog post goes out to all of you who left us all alone. May you find all the info you missed in here.
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Syllabus changes —
For next week (Week 11):
Still read Pale Fire. Alex says we need to read EVERYTHING, do not skim the usual commentary that you would….turns out all the things we usually avoid are actually important this time.
*However, the secondary readings have been changed to a section on Pale Fire in “Nabokov and His Books” by Duncan White who will be skyping in with us next class. It is under ‘Reading Schedule” on WIKI.

For Week 12:
Still meet at JFK Library but the readings have changed to Hemingway’s “A Very Short Story” and “Hills Like White Elephants”.
For Week 13:
It’s still Patriots Day, so just watch Netflix.
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Digital Exhibition Project: (additional info on WIKI)
Just when you thought you were completely exhausted and can’t take anymore, don’t forget our final project is coming up! 🙂 Here are some brief details from what we discussed in class but check the WIKI for more, I can’t do everything for you guys.

Select one rare book or manuscript (letter, newspaper, etc…) to be exhibited on course blog. It can be in the archives we visit or another library or your own collection.
Pick one you think we can all learn something from and that merits further study.
Workshop 5 will help us catalog a biographical description of your book. So you have to have PICKED your book by Workshop 5.
By April 10th email Alex a rational behind your specific choice. Which copy? Where is it?

Present the book to other students sharing photographs
* On May 8th you share your notes, pictures, reasonings, and your plan on how to exhibit on the blog in a 5 minute presentation.
Compile list of materials and sources relevant for understanding.
* By May 1st you should have done an investigation on your chosen item. Try looking it up in a library catalogue or online research. You must submit a bibliography in MLA format with at least 5 secondary sources.
Publish selected pages.
On May 12th the whole project is due.
For grad students: On May 19th the formal paper is due.
— Should make a larger argument, on top of your specific item, on how that item plays a role INSIDE of a scholarly question. By April 24th, 500 words of a research statement is due identifying the target of your paper.
—- You may work in partners for the exhibition, but despite our best efforts we could not convince Alex to let us write the final paper as a group of 10, 1 page per grad student. My most sincere apologies on that one. He was pretty close to saying yes though so I mean, not a bad effort on our part.

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Class Discussion Surrounding Workshop 3:
— Authorship and validity of a text may come from the author’s name. 1818 doesn’t have Shelley’s name and still people criticized it, maybe more because of a lack of the name. 1831 has her name so maybe times have changed more in those 13 years that it was more acceptable for her to add her name without facing scrutiny because of her gender.
—- Who is more important, the reader or the author?
….We haven’t really answered this question, might take a few more classes/years.
—- Foucault, it makes us more uncomfortable to see no author, how can we read into the conventions of the novel if we don’t know who wrote it? Does this fall under their usual work? Personally what I can add is that my critical reading, Knights Quarterly, even questioned if Mary Shelley really wrote both Valpega and Frankenstein because her style was so different.
— Interpretations of the monsters image in the 1831, he does not look like a brutish monster but more like a greek god, with his abs (thanks Halla), and more feminine appearance. this could come from the initial negative reception of the novel of being too concerned with empathizing with a monster and now the 1831 version is making him seem less frightening and emphasizing more on romance, especially with the image of Elizabeth who is not referenced in the 1818 version.
– Darisse brought up verticality of the 1818 (scroll reading) vs horizontal movement (codex reading) = old vs new.
– Seriality of the volumes, in the past volumes and chapters would come out one at a time for a novel in magazines or papers and the novel would evolve based on reception but currently, novels are published all at once and the notion of changing it during the writing process based on reviews is no longer used. The other side of this is now we have more avenues of critiquing novels because of the internet.
– Alex spoke to the idea that we don’t emphasize enough these elements of material context of the book and how that affects the way we read it. How do things appear on the page? What are they juxtaposed with – a facebook ad? We need to pay more attention to these things.
Class Discussion Surrounding Intellectual Property and Printers (Venetian Monopoly 1469 & 1666 The Case of the Booksellers and Printers handout)

— This link should show you my annotated worksheet of the Venetian Monopoly: Johannes Printing Annotation  and this is my quick write on the topic: Quickwrite 3:27

— Both articles on the rights of printing refer to printing as an art and give precedence and authority to the printers.
—- The 1666 is worried about the effect of a monopoly, so very opposite from the 1469 article. The booksellers are worried about the crown creating a monopoly and asserting their power in a negative way. It is a statement against the crown whereas the Venice degree was a statement of law.
— Consider the type of language that is used to describe books, printers, authors, publishing:
*In 1666 it mentions the author’s rights and property: this is the first example of any notion of literary property. The book as an intellectual property.
*The book as a body: “the spine”, made from animal skin (vellum), corporal features of the book that go away as we begin to call it a property.

Poe & Longfellow

Example of how can you take one object and relate it to a larger question.

Similarities we noticed as a class: references to rivers, both seem to be referencing an older tale, an implied spectator

Well, Longfellow noticed these similarities too and accused Poe of plagiarism! Poe responds in good ‘ol Poe fashion and basically shuts him down. “The whole tournure [[clothing of the poem —> i.e: a BODY]] is based upon mine…its allegorical conduct, the style of its versification and expression — all are mine.”
But can expression and style really be so specific to only being credited to one writer?

That’s all!

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6 thoughts on “Week 10: Intellectual Property Wars

  1. This has to be the swiftest, post-class, scribal posting I’ve ever seen, Sam! I’m sure your classmates will be especially grateful for the details you provided about the final project. You got one thing wrong though: I wasn’t that close to saying yes to the group seminar paper:)

    Given our tracking of the early history of copyright and intellectual property, I’m curious to know your opinions about these rights. What kind of rights should authors and publishers have? And what should be the limits to those rights? What cultural material can and cannot be “owned”?

  2. I really enjoyed reading the letter Poe wrote to Longfellow in, as you state Sam, “good ‘ol Poe fashion and basically shuts him down.” Upon hearing Alex say that Longfellow accused Poe of plagiarism my first thought was, “are you kidding? The poems are both totally bleak and eerie which is 100% what Poe is known for so if anything, Longfellow plagiarized from his style of writing!” And I was not disappointed to read Poe basically saying the same thing in his response letter to Longfellow. It was almost as if Poe was stating that he trademarked the eerie, spooky style that he writes in. Which brings me to the question you posed at the end of your blogpost: “But can expression and style really be so specific to only being credited to one writer?” I want to say no because I know that’s the correct answer but I think that Poe is just so known for his specific gothic style of writing that when we read anything remotely sillier to that style of writing we’re immediately like “Oh! This must be Poe.” I know when I read Washing Irving’s short story “The German Student” I initially thought, “This is definitely by Poe” only to find out nope, it’s by Irving. So, my answer is no, an expression and style of writing can’t be credited to ONE writer however, ONE writer can be known for that specific expression and style which can dominate the style and make it so when people read that specific style they only think of it being by that particular author.

  3. These are definately good and swift guidelines for what we need to expect. Its always nice to read a well thought out bullet list. I for one, am relatively excited about the final project, I think I already have one with great interest thanks to Alex.
    As far as being an author in a modern age, I find it is useful to know these things partially, since as authors of various kinds will know how good they have it. All of the leg work has already been done, and though history repeats itself from time and time again, it’s good to know how these issues got themselves resolved.

  4. Yes, being one of the students who didn’t show up, this explanation of the upcoming project and what needs to be done is very helpful. I think the debate between Poe and Longfellow’s poems can almost be supplemented be contrasting the different editions of Frankenstein’s title pages (and this may be a reach). The way I see it, is that the different editions of the title page, though written by the same person, advocate different readings of the text, yet the author remains the same. In Poe and Longfellow’s case, the situation almost becomes inverse, in that the styles and content of the poems are similar, while the writers are different. What I get from examining it this way is that knowledge of the author shifts the reader’s understanding of a text, so while Poe is known for his eerie writing, the similar content and tone of Longfellow’s poem seems like a copy of Poe’s, rather than it being an entirely separate work all together.

  5. I like what you wrote about whether or not a certain style and expression can attributed to just one person. Some writers are incredibly distinctive in how they write (Poe being one of them), so styles can certainly be associated with one person. At the same time, I don’t think it would be easy for a writer to accuse another of copying their style and actually get anywhere with it no matter how valid the claim is. It’s so different from, for example, one song writer going after another for stealing a melody, or a novelist accusing another writer of stealing their plot. Style is so much more subjective in many ways, and less concrete. So even if to readers it seems very clear that one writer is copying another’s style, I think it would be hard to argue in a legal sense that anything was done wrong. I could be incorrect about this, but this is my impression of it anyway, and I would be very interested to know if I’m wrong.

  6. I keep thinking about that ways in which an author’s name helps to authorize a text, and the which we (as readers) allow that kind of thinking to prosper. I know that for myself, it’s rare that I’m going to pick up a novel whose author I am unfamiliar with or hasn’t been recommended to me by a friend or review that I’ve read. This is probably terrible thinking on my part because of what I’m sure are all those fantastic novels that I’ve been missing over the years. It seems to me that we have started to disrupt this idea that an author’s name can authorize a text, and so it seems that we can use this sort of thinking to examine the ways we (as readers) select and explore texts. What books get read? What books arrive at the bestseller lists? What books become popular solely through the name and fame of their author?

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