Imperial authorship and eighteenth-century transatlantic literary production



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My project examines eighteenth-century struggles over literary property and its part in England’s control over its colonies. Debates over literary property set in the context of the larger colonial struggles over ownership help us to understand the relationship between authority and authorship: in the colonies, booksellers and authors worked together to make authority and authorship local, to separate it from England, English constructions of authorship, and the book trade system in London. The figures I analyze––Daniel Defoe, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Johnson, and Mathew Carey––brought new models of print capitalism to the colonies, dispersing an understanding of copyright that was an assertion of local affiliations. In the case of Ireland, these affiliations manifested themselves in a nationalist movement, and in Scotland, in an assertion of equality under the union of Great Britain. In the newly formed United States, the affiliations were among those still struggling for legal recognition after the American Revolution. Using book history in the service of literary analysis, my study is the first devoted to reading the way that liminal figures such as George Faulkner, Alexander Donaldson, Absalom Jones, and Richard Allen have influenced the work of these largely canonical authors, and thus local politics, through their literary production practices.