“Copyright before Copyright: The Politics of Authorizing Authorship in the Early Republic,” Colloquium with Iona College’s Nora Slonimsky

 10/22/2021

Iona College Gardiner Assistant Professor of History Nora Slonimsky will be at the Kinder Institute on October 22 for a talk exploring intellectual property in the early republic, focusing on how a small group of writers from the era wielded copyright as a tool to establish authorial authority while also working within existing power structures to advance a particular notion of civic belonging (see abstract below). Free and open to the public, the talk will begin at 3:30pm in Jesse 410. 

Abstract

Twenty-first-century debates over the role of intellectual property in United States democracy often revolve around several key issues: questions of access and information; individual compensation and public benefit; and how best to encourage learning and civic engagement. Scholars of copyright, media, and politics have long studied the roots of these in the long eighteenth century anglophone Atlantic, highlighting both connections between the past and what is unique to our current moment. One thread that remains consistent and yet carries considerably different stakes is the premise that people need to be paid for their labor. In the early republic, the process by which writers pursued the legal and commercial status of author was often intertwined not only with the need for compensation but with other intense political stakes, from government policy and partisan affiliation, to property ownership, federal jurisdiction, citizenship, and the very foundations of self-ownership itself. This talk will look at a small group of writers in the late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century United States and consider the ways in which they used copyright as a tool in building their own forms of authorial authority while also drawing on structures of power around them, formal and informal, to advance a particular understanding of civic belonging.

Dr. Nora Slonimsky is the Gardiner Assistant Professor of History at Iona College, where she serves as Director of the Institute for Thomas Paine Studies (ITPS). At Iona, Nora teaches courses on subjects ranging from the Age of Revolution to histories of intellectual property while her work at the ITPS is focused largely on public and digital history. Nora’s in-progress book, The Engine of Free Expression: Copyrighting the State in Early America is forthcoming with the University of Pennsylvania Press and won the Society for the History of the Early American Republic (SHEAR) prize for best manuscript. This project, along with other research in the digital humanities, is supported by the Huntington Library, the Library Company of Philadelphia, the New-York Historical Society, and the America Antiquarian Society, among others. She is also co-editing an open-access volume with Cornell University Press, “American Revolutions in the Digital Age.” Nora serves as the Social Media Editor for the Journal of the Early Republic and the reviews editor for SHARP News. You can follow her on twitter @NoraSlonimsky or check out her website, www.hamiltonsolo.com.