Revolution Lullabye

May 8, 2009

Rose, Authors and Owners

Rose, Mark. Authors and Owners: The Invention of Copyright. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1993.

Copyright is a modern phenomenon, rooted in both the development of capitalism and the pervasive concept of the individual author/genius. These two forces – economic and philosophical – drove the development of copyright law in early modern England, starting with the 1710 Statute of Anne. Rose uses historical court cases, bills, Parliament and legal records, essays and broadsides arguing about copyright from the era, and other histories of copyright law to write his history, which focuses on the development of copyright law in 18th century England. Rose explains the evolution of copyright from a printer’s privilege that acted as a form of government censorship to an individual author’s free and independent right to his property, which was deemed original due to his personality. Copyright reifies both the individual author and the individual work/text, is equated with real estate/landed property, and is used to distinguish between public and private works. Though copyright now is extended beyond literary texts and prevents the rapid, affordable circulation of texts (what it was supposed to protect and allow for), it’s not going away any time soon because both our economic system and our vision of our selves as individuals are so tied up in the system.

Quotable Quotes

“Copyright is not a transcendent moral idea, but a specifically modern formation produced by printing technology, marketplace economics, and the classical liberal culture of possessive individualism” (142)

Why don’t we “abandon copyright as an archaic and cumbersome system of cultural regulation” (142) – explains why we can’t

“The institution of copyright stands squarely on the boundary between private and public” (140)

“The attempt to anchor the notion of literary property in personality suggests the need to find a transcendent signifier, a category beyond the economic to warrant and ground the circulation of literary commodities” (129)

“The House of Lords bore witness to the radical instability of the concept of the autonomous author. After all, authors do not really create in any literal sense, but rather produce texts through complex processes of adaptation and transformation. Literary property is not fixed and certain like a piece of land…All forms of property are socially constructed and, like copyright, bear in their lineaments the traces of the struggles in which they were fabricated” (8)

Notable Notes

the modern marketplace as the “circulation of signs”, like paper notes instead of hard currency (129)

three levels of public/private covered by copyright: 1. unprotected commons v. privated protected 2. unprotected ideas (like patents) and protected expression 3. unprotected fair use and protected

copyright is cartography, not geography – a perspective, an orientation to look at the world (141)

perpetual v. limited copyright

comparision of copyright to patents (14 year limit) – is authoring like inventing? Hierarchy of mental and manual labor, mechanical v. divine inspiration, ideas v. expression

18th century emergence of paternity metaphors…plagiarism (kidnapping)

copyright is actually a compromise – either authors should have perpetual or not, so a limited term seems arbitrary

English booksellers holding on to guild system (Stationers’ Company) vs. Scottish printers wanting to compete in a capitalist model….

16th century- texts as actions (needing censorship), society bound by fidelity, patronage
18th century – texts as objects (someone’s property), society ruled by capitalism

dual concepts of property and propriety…why copyright was necessary

Donaldson v. Becket (1774) – copyright not perpetual

John Locke

move to establish authorship beyond the materiality of the pen and ink. What does it mean to author a work? To own a work? What do you author or own? Removing the work from the social fabric from which it was made reifies the author (88)

March 9, 2009

Wysocki, The Sticky Embrace of Beauty

Wysocki, Anne Frances. “The Sticky Embrace of Beauty: On Some Formal Problems in Teaching about the Visual Aspects of Texts.” In Writing New Media. Eds. Anne Frances Wysocki, et al. Logan, UT: Utah State UP, 2004. 147-198.

Wyscoki argues for an alternative understanding of beauty, aesthetic, and form that is grounded in the local and the particular rather than universal generalities and maxims that visual designers use for composing images and texts, universal rules that were developed first through Kant’s philosophy. Kant believed that the judgment of beauty is inherent and universal, happening when a person sees and appreciates its structure in terms of its formal relations. This allows the object (or body) deemed beautiful to be made abstract and distanced, a dangerous ethical situation. Wysocki, seeing this tension, argues that composition teachers, instead of just teaching students about design by instructing them in general, accepted rules for visual arrangment, should question the social and cultural practices that deem something efficient, pleasing, or visual, analyzing and creating to make what we take for granted unfamiliar to us so that we might appreciate and understand its particularities. In this way, she shows how form is rhetorical, informed and mediated by choices grounded in history and cultural context.

Quotable Quotes

How can we teach visual communication in such a way “That form does not override content, so that form is, in fact, understood as itself part of content, so that, finally, I better understand how to support students (and myself) be generously and questioningly recipricoal in our designings” (144)

“Form is itself always a set of structuring principles, with different forms growing out of and reproducing different but specific values” (159).

“If we believe that to be human is to be tied to place and time and messiness and complexity, then, by so abstracting us, this desire dehumanizes us and our work and how we see each other. This is dangerous.” (169)

“The web of social and cultural practices in which we move give us the words and concepts, as well as the tastes, for understanding what we sense” (171).

Notable Notes

Kant Critique of Judgment

The New Yorker Peek advertisement – woman’s body

design elements aren’t neutral – design values can’t just be looked at analytically….ours are grounded in industrializaiton, standardization, linear, order, efficiency (Nazi memos)

assignments ask students to learn design principles deductively by gathering designs. Also, redesigning web sites and textbooks

reciprocal relationship – we need “approaches that see form as this kind of recognition, tying us to others and to our times and places” (170)

February 19, 2009

Barthes, The Death of the Author

Barthes, Roland. “The Death of the Author.” In Authorship: From Plato to the Postmodern. Ed. Sean Burke. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP Ltd., 2000. 125-130.

Barthes argues that it is not the author who speaks in a text, but rather, language itself. The concept of a single (male) author is one rooted in Enlightenment individualism, an idea so powerful that it reduced the text to an explanation and an understanding of the author. Instead, Barthes claims, an author and a text are born simultaneously (126); the former does not give birth to the latter, for the act of writing is not an act of reporting ideas but, rather, a performative act. Writing and texts do not have single, solitary lines of understanding: they are multivoiced and understanding them can only be a process of disentangling the lines, not completely deciphering them or figuring them out (129). The work of assigning meaning to a text, of compiling the voices into some sort of understandable whole, does not belong to the author/writer. It is the duty of the reader. Barthes calls for “the birth of the reader” at the expense of the Author. (130).

Quotable Quotes

“The birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author” (130).

“A text’s unity lies not in its origin but in its destination” (129) author-reader

“Everything is to be disentangled, nothing deciphered” (129)

“Life never does more than imitate the book, and the book itself is only a tissue of signs, an imitation that is lost, infinitely deferred” (128).

A text is a “multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash” (128)

“Writing is the destruction of every voice, of every point of origin…Writing is that neutral, composite, oblique space where our subject slips away, the negative where all identity is lost, starting with the very identity of the body writing” (125).

“The voice loses its origin, the author enters his own death, writing begins” (125).

Notable Notes

not assigning an ultimate final meaning to a text is to refuse God (and reason, science, and law) – very postmodern (129)

assigning an author limits a text, closes it, allows it to be criticized as an object

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