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Title: The Scriblerians Uncensored: Libel, Encryption, and the Making of Copyright in Eighteenth-Century Britain and Ireland
Authors: Podhurst, Suzanne Joy
Advisors: Grafton, Anthony
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: Arbuthnot
Subjects: European history
British and Irish literature
Intellectual property
Issue Date: 2012
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: The Scriblerians, a group of satirists whose principal members were Jonathan Swift, Alexander Pope, John Arbuthnot, John Gay, and Thomas Parnell, saw in a broad range of eighteenth-century censorship apparatuses opportunities to elicit recognition and unprecedented compensation for their texts. Arguing that censorship was a necessary condition of copyright, this dissertation examines how the Scriblerians transformed various textual restrictions into modes of exercising authorial ownership. They did this in part by treating censorship as they did modern scholarship: as a hindrance to free and clear communication, and thus to learning itself. By making strategic uses of defamation, encryption, and Irish printing, they used censorship mechanisms instrumentally to argue for proper learning, and ultimately to establish terms of intellectual proprietorship. The first chapter charts how the Scriblerians exploited the complex array of contemporary defamation regulations, and argues that by engaging in and stretching the boundaries of legal defamation, the Scriblerians appropriated ownership as authors via their status as potential defamers. The second chapter explores how letter interception at the post office and custom-house prompted the Scriblerians to encrypt and later to publish their correspondence, and argues that by doing so they removed letters from the realm of intelligence and situated them within that of property. The third chapter examines the effect of book-trade regulations on authors' self-identifications, arguing that the Scriblerians' evocations of piracy and plagiarism helped establish criteria for authorial ownership. The fourth chapter examines how the Scriblerians responded to the intellectual censorship that the process of compilation imposed upon source-texts, and argues that by disaggregating claims of literary-property rights from those about the labor of arranging information, they helped establish new criteria for literary ownership. The fifth and final chapter analyzes the effect of Irish book-trade practices on the development of copyright, and argues that the Scriblerians exploited commercial restrictions on Irish-produced books to control how their works were released and ultimately to strengthen copyright protections in Britain. Throughout, this dissertation endeavors to recover the rich context of the Scriblerians' world and to show how this singular group of authors put censorship into the service of learning--and copyright.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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