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Pirating Fictions

Ownership and Creativity in Nineteenth-Century Popular Culture
Monica F. Cohen


BUY Cloth · 320 pp. · 6 × 9 · ISBN 9780813940694 · $45.00 · Dec 2017
BUY Ebook · 320 pp. · ISBN 9780813940700 · $45.00 · Dec 2017

Two distinctly different meanings of piracy are ingeniously intertwined in Monica Cohen's lively new book, which shows how popular depictions of the pirate held sway on the page and the stage even as their creators were preoccupied with the ravages of literary appropriation. The golden age of piracy captured the nineteenth-century imagination, animating such best-selling novels as  Treasure Island and inspiring theatrical hits from  The Pirates of Penzance to  Peter Pan. But the prevalence of unauthorized reprinting and dramatic adaptation meant that authors lost immense profits from the most lucrative markets. Infuriated, novelists and playwrights denounced such literary piracy in essays, speeches, and testimonies. Their fiction, however, tells a different story.

Using landmarks in copyright history as a backdrop,  Pirating Fictions argues that popular nineteenth-century pirate fiction mischievously resists the creation of intellectual property in copyright legislation and law. Drawing on classic pirate stories by such writers as Walter Scott, James Fenimore Cooper, Robert Louis Stevenson, and J. M. Barrie, this wide-ranging account demonstrates, in raucous tales and telling asides, how literary appropriation was celebrated at the very moment when the forces of possessive individualism began to enshrine the language of personal ownership in Anglo-American views of creative work.

Reviews:


Engagingly written and sprightly in its moves between texts and ideas, Pirating Fictions is attractive, fresh, and fun.

Clare Pettitt, King's College London, author of Patent Inventions: Intellectual Property and the Victorian Novel

About the Author: 

Monica F. Cohen, Adjunct Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, is the author of  Professional Domesticity in the Victorian Novel: Women, Work and Home.

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