Patent inventions : intellectual property and the victorian novel
Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2004, IX-341 p.
Although much has been written about the history of copyright and authorship in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, very little attention has been given to the impact of the development of other kinds of intellectual property on the ways in which writers viewed their work in this period. This book is the first to suggest that the fierce debates over patent law and the discussion of invention and inventors in popular texts during the nineteenth century informed the parallel debate over the professional status of authors. The book examines the shared rhetoric surrounding the creation of the ‘inventor’ and the ‘author’ in the debate of the 1830s, and the challenge of the emerging technologies of mass production to traditional ideas of art and industry is addressed in a chapter on authorship at the Great Exhibition of 1851. Subsequent chapters show how novelists Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, and George Eliot participated in debates over the value and ownership of labour in the 1850s, such as patent reform and the controversy over married women’s property. The book shows the ways in which these were reflected in their novels. It also suggests that the publication of those novels, and the celebrity of their authors, had a substantial effect on the subsequent direction of these debates. The final chapter shows that Thomas Hardy’s later fiction reflects an important shift in thinking about creativity and ownership towards the end of the century. Patent Inventions argues that Victorian writers used the novel not just to reflect, but also to challenge received notions of intellectual ownership and responsibility. It ends by suggesting that detailed study of the debate over intellectual property in the nineteenth century leads to a better understanding of the complex negotiations over the bounds of selfhood and social responsibility in the period.
Clare Pettitt, lecturer, Newnham College, and Lecturer in the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge.
Axe de recherches :
- Équipe 2 : Activités économiques, dynamiques sociales, échanges