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Literature and Copyright

Spring 2017 Seminar Series

Organised by The Open University’s Book History Research Group and the Institute of English Studies, University of London.

Venue: Senate House, Malet St, London, WC1E 7HU. Tel: 0207 8628675
Time: Mondays, 5.30-7.00pm (dates and room allocations below)

About the series: This season’s seminars will examine the intersection between literature and regimes and concepts of intellectual property and “proprietorship” across a broad range of historical periods. Speakers will ask questions such as: how have copyright regimes affected the process of authorial canon formation? What impact have different intellectual property regimes had upon print circulation, both within and beyond national boundaries? How has copyright legislation affected the formation and constitution of reading audiences, the creation of new modes and genres, and the circulation of existing ones?

This year’s programme.

Monday 30 January 2017

William St Clair (Institute of English Studies)

Room 104, Senate House

“The Viewing Nation in the British Romantic Period”

William St Clair will discuss how in the late eighteenth/early nineteenth century, a sense of the imagined community of 'nation' was carried to readers by illustrations in books. He will show, with quantification, how the political economy structures of copyright and technology, new and unique to that age, enabled huge new constituencies to imagine the 'nation' both topographically and as a cultural entity existing across time. Besides images in PowerPoint, participants will be able to see examples of the actual materiality.

Monday 20 February 2017

Edmund G. C. King (The Open University)

Room 243, Senate House

“Editing, Connoisseurship, and Attribution in Eighteenth-Century England: Editing William Shakespeare; Compiling William Hogarth”

Connoisseurship was originally developed by art critics as a discourse for authenticating paintings and drawings. In the early eighteenth century, literary editors began to draw upon it as an analogy for representing authorial style. However, this paper will argue, the convergence between art criticism and textual criticism involved more than a simple exchange of metaphors. Connoisseurship offered critics new ways of looking at artworks and assessing their genuineness, modes of vision that could be applied as readily to plays as to paintings. The eighteenth-century art market relied upon the expertise of the connoisseur, who could guarantee that a given painting stemmed from the hand of a particular master. The Tonsons’ copyright monopoly over Shakespeare likewise came to depend on the expertise of the editor, who could reliably identify Shakespeare’s personal style and distinguish the genuine from the spurious.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Lise Jaillant (Loughborough University)

Room 243, Senate House

“From New York to Shanghai: Global Modernism, Cheap Reprints and Copyright”

Like the postcolonial authors who made the journey from local to global recognition, modernist writers such as James Joyce and Virginia Woolf saw their texts move out of the coterie towards the international market. But this transition did not happen magically, and the story of global institutions of modernism has yet to be written. This talk focuses on the international expansion of modern literature in the early twentieth century through the examples of cheap reprint series published in the United States (the Modern Library), Britain (the Phoenix Library) and Continental Europe (Albatross). In my previous work, I have shown that cheap reprint series created in the fifteen years from 1917 to 1932 opened up new markets for texts by Joyce, Woolf and other writers previously associated with little magazines and small presses. Books have no borders, copyright issues aside. And copyright proved a big headache for the owners of these series, leading to honest mistakes and serious disagreements. My central point is that copyright problems limited the reach of cheap reprint series and slowed down the international expansion of the new literature. It is not a coincidence that one of the most dynamic markets for modern literature was the Far East, where Anglophone publishers could trade books without restrictions. Continental Europe is another example of a market where the low barriers to access stimulated intense competition and the launch of innovative series such as Albatross Modern Continental Library.

This richly-illustrated talk includes numerous anecdotes about the obstacles that publishers faced to market modernism to the world, and the rewards that they enjoyed when their books were made available to readers from New York to Shanghai.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Room G35, Senate House

Abigail Williams (University of Oxford)

“An agreeable variety: attribution and authorship in eighteenth-century miscellany culture

Monday, 3 April 2017

Room 243, Senate House

Will Slauter (Université Paris Diderot/Institut universitaire de France)

Copyright and the Newspaper, 1710-1911

With respect to copyright law, newspapers have followed a different trajectory than books. The timing of copyright claims, and the extent to which these claims were respected, depended upon evolving attitudes toward the different genres of writing that made up the periodical press, as well as shifts in the business of publishing. In the absence of clear legislation, editors sometimes policed each other, arguing over what could be copied and how such copied material should be acknowledged. Meanwhile, individual contributors and publishers experimented with existing copyright laws, or actively lobbied for changes to them, sparking debates about how public policy affected the circulation of knowledge and culture. Drawing examples from the UK and the US during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, this paper will discuss the complex history of copyright for the newspaper press.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Room 246, Senate House

Lawrence Warner (King’s College London)

“The Sign of Pinkhurst, the Mark of Kane: Owning Middle English Poetry”

This paper considers three interrelated episodes in the history of pre-copyright-era literature's engagements with the concept of ownership: the use of decorative motifs as supposed signatures by the celebrity scribe Adam Pynkhurst; the production of the brief poem to “Adam Scriveyn,” whose narrator attempts to wrest control from the hapless scribe; and the modern use of diacritical brackets to signal emendation—and in effect to secure copyright—by George Kane. Taken together these episodes expose a fault line in modern approaches to Medieval English literary production, so foreign and similar, both, to our own treatment of literary ownership in the digital age.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Jonathan Gibson (The Open University)

Room 243, Senate House

“Textual Ownership, Elizabethan Miscellanies and the ‘Stigma of Print’”

In this paper, I will re-examine the thesis, influentially advanced last century by J. W. Sanders and more recently contested by Steven W. May and others, that the Elizabethan period was characterised by a ‘stigma of print’ inhibiting the print publication of work by aristocratic and gentry authors. My discussion will link the debate about the stigma of print to the vulnerability of early modern ‘pre-copyright’ textual ownership and will focus on the genre of the printed verse miscellany, in particular the pioneering approach of John Bodenham’s England’s Helicon (1600). 

Monday, 22 May 2017

Ian Gadd (Bath Spa University)

Room 246, Senate House

“© Shakespeare”

In February 1594, John Danter had his claim to the publishing rights to Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus approved by two of the officers of the London’s Stationers’ Company—and with this, the story of Shakespeare’s copyright begins. This paper explores exactly what rights were being granted to Danter and those who followed him in securing the publishing rights to Shakespeare’s other works, and how those rights fundamentally shaped Shakespeare's subsequent publishing history. By tracing the ownership of these rights from the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries through to the late eighteenth century, the paper will demonstrate how any history of the emergence of modern Anglo-American copyright needs to understand the changing commercial realities of the London book trade as much as the more well-known legislative and legal landmarks.

Organisers: Dr Edmund G. C. King, Research Fellow in English, The Reading Experience Database, 1450-1945 (RED), Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The Open University and Dr Jonathan Gibson, Senior Lecturer in English, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, The Open University.

Book History at the Open University

E-mail: Edmund.King@open.ac.uk; Jonathan.Gibson@open.ac.uk