Here’s one way to mark the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in 1818: I’m delighted to announce the publication of my new book The Medium Is the Monster: Canadian Adaptations of Frankenstein and the Discourse of Technology. It’s published by Athabasca University Press, and it’s available in hardcover, paperback, and open-access PDF.
To order, see Indigo, Amazon, or UBC Press (AUP’s distributor).
To read the open-access PDF, see AU Press’ webpage for the book and click the Free PDF tab.
Briefly, the book argues, first, that Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel Frankenstein effectively reinvented the meaning of the word “technology” for modern English; and, second, that Marshall McLuhan’s media theory and its adaptations in Canadian pop culture (by icons like David Cronenberg, William Gibson, Margaret Atwood, and Deadmau5) have popularized this Frankensteinian sense of technology.
James Rovira’s just-published book, Rock and Romanticism: Postpunk, Goth, and Metal as Dark Romanticisms (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), includes my chapter “‘Little crimeworn histories’: Nick Cave and the roots-raves-rehab story of rock stardom.” (That chapter’s a full treatment of an inkling I first shared here nearly a decade ago.)
Rovira’s book is also accompanied by its own iTunes playlist that I was happy to help build and curate (and, in the process, encounter some great music I’d not previously known about); and the editor’s also got a whole blog post with listening samples and other links related to topics covered in the book.
For my part, I’ll just leave here a link to the video for the song that my chapter takes its title from: the exhilaratingly evil, deliriously demonic “Deanna”:
when the designer of your book’s cover (detail shown here) knocks it out of the park on the first try.
#TheMediumIsTheMonster: forthcoming April 2018 from @au_press.
My new Literary Studies course for Athabasca U’s MA program is now open for enrollment.
Illustration from 1897 edition of Marsh’s The Beetle. (Public domain image via British Library.)
The 19th-Century Novel: Gothic Transformations assigns readings in major English novels like Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1818), Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White (1860), and Richard Marsh’s The Beetle (1897) and explores how British fiction in the nineteenth century both was influenced by and also adapted Gothic themes and elements, like supernatural horror and psychological suspense.
Gothic fictions and those that adapt the Gothic represent important cultural mediations of the social, political, and economic issues and transformations that characterize Britain during the rise of industrial capital and the global expansion of England’s empire: the transformation of literary production (e.g. serialization, copyright change, circulating library distribution); the advent of public education, industrialization and class conflict; imperial expansion; feminism (e.g. the “New Woman” discourse); and developments in science and technology (e.g. new recording media).
Professor Michael Gamer (U Pennsylvania) has alerted me to an error in my recent article “The Cento, Romanticism, and Copyright” (ESC 38.2 ). My claim that “the statutory copyright term was doubled” in 1808 (74) is taken from William St Clair’s The Reading Nation in the Romantic Period (2004). Dr. Gamer points out that “the bill introduced in 1808 was read twice in Parliament but then – or so I’ve long thought – never passed,” and has referred me to
a synthetic summarizing essay by Ronan Deazley … “Commentary on Copyright Act 1814,” Primary Sources on Copyright (1450-1900). Deazley starts the narrative of the aborted 1808 and successful 1814 Copyright acts with Basil Montague, who in 1804 found in the Cambridge University Library only a 5% deposit rate for books published in 1803. He concluded that booksellers had effectively ceased depositing new books after a 1798 legal case, Beckford v. Hood, had raised questions about whether the deposit requirement could be enforced. This raised a bit of a fire storm that led to the 1808 bill, but questions arose during debate and it was tabled.
I am grateful to Dr. Gamer for contacting me about the error.
Gamer, Michael. E-mails to author. 28 Jun. 2013.
William Hazlitt (1778-1830), prose centonist
My article in the new issue of English Studies in Canada
brings some historical perspective to the copyfight, and suggests some precedents for fair dealing in the work of Romantic writers usually identified as exemplars of originality: William Hazlitt and William Wordsworth. The article focuses on the curious case of the cento – a genre of poetry made from quoted lines of other poems – and its various uses in literary production during the Romantic period. This was a very interesting period for copyright: neither before nor since has the term of copyright protection been as brief, and arguably as accommodating (to users and
writers), as it was from 1774 to 1842. The article belongs to a special section in this issue of ESC
on Romantic and Regency authorship, featuring some exciting new work on the period’s print culture – and its implications for cultural production and copyright today.
“The Cento, Romanticism, and Copyright.” English Studies in Canada 38.2 (2012): 71-101. [Published June 2013]
Published journal version (for readers with university library access)
Open Access version (for readers without university library access)
Abstract: This article excavates the obscure literary genre of the cento – a genre of poetry defined by its wholly derivative composition from quotations of other works – and its supplementary relation to Romantic literature and the period’s transformations of copyright regulation. The cento’s Romantic reworkings position this genre as a precedent for later appropriation art, especially digital culture’s sampling and remix practices. Specific uses of the cento form by the essayist William Hazlitt and the poet William Wordsworth suggest precedents in the period’s culture of literary production for fair dealing, the “user’s right” to the limited appropriation of copyrighted works that has more recently become ensconced in copyright law. By investigating the place of the cento in Romantic literary production, this study argues for the importance of fair dealing to both creative and critical forms of writing, and contributes historical context to the present-day “copyfight.”
The Open Access version of “The Cento, Romanticism, and Copyright” is made available with the author’s grateful acknowledgement of English Studies in Canada for the original publication of the article.
The British Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies’ Media Reviews site has published my review of Dave Morris’ Frankenstein, an interactive fiction app for iOS. It’s an arch adaptation of prior adaptations, and a teachable text. (I particularly like the subtle nod to Blade Runner, but identifying it here would be a bit of a spoiler.)