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In Praise of Copying

In Praise of Copying

Marcus Boon
Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    In Praise of Copying
    Book Description:

    German critic Walter Benjamin wrote some immensely influential words on the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction. Luxury fashion houses would say something shorter and sharper and much more legally binding on the rip-off merchants who fake their products. Marcus Boon, a Canadian English professor with an accessible turn of phrase, takes us on an erudite voyage through the theme in a serious but engaging encounter with the ideas of thinkers as varied as Plato, Hegel, Orson Welles, Benjamin, Heidegger, Louis Vuitton, Takashi Murakami and many more, on topics as philosophically taxing and pop-culture-light as mimesis, Christianity, capitalism, authenticity, Uma Thurman's handbag and Disneyland.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-05842-2
    Subjects: Philosophy, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[viii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    The pilgrims line up for miles and miles around the mountain. They have come here from all over the world to this fabled place, at the edge of a swamp. Individuals, couples, families. Some first came when they were children. Now they bring their children. Or their children’s children. Some look anxious, others bored; others are full of gleeful anticipation. My palms are sweating—I don’t exactly know why. The line moves slowly and we enter the darkness of a tunnel. Inside I can hear the whirring of machines. As with anything that one is scared of, there is a...

  4. 1 What Is a Copy?
    (pp. 12-40)

    Brooklyn, New York, April 2008. A row of street stalls in front of graffiti-covered iron gates. Tables full of merchandise: Louis Vuitton handbags and wallets, with their familiar “LV” monograms; brown and beige; white with multicolor fruit-like designs. You can find them for sale on Canal Street in New York, in the night markets of Hong Kong and Singapore or the covered market in Mexico City, and in many other places around the world where the urban poor go to shop—“LV” articles piled up alongside the Patek Philippe watches, Chanel perfume, North Face jackets, and Adidas shoes. Copies, fakes,...

  5. 2 Copia, or, The Abundant Style
    (pp. 41-76)

    The word “copy” comes to us from the Latin word “copia,” meaning “abundance, plenty, multitude.”¹ Copia was also the Roman goddess associated with abundance. Very little is known about this goddess, but she is mentioned in Ovid’s Metamorphoses at the point where Achelous transforms himself into a bull in order to overcome Hercules, who responds by breaking off one of his horns. “But the naiads filled it with fruits and fragrant flowers, and sanctified it, and now my horn enriches the Goddess of Plenty.”² Copia is depicted on a Roman coin with this horn of plenty, overflowing with the bounty...

  6. 3 Copying as Transformation
    (pp. 77-105)

    The Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu tells the following story: “Once Chuang Tzu dreamt he was a butterfly, a butterfly flitting and fluttering around, happy with himself and doing as he pleased. He didn’t know he was Chuang Tzu. Suddenly he woke up and there he was, solid and unmistakable Chuang Tzu. But he didn’t know if he was Chuang Tzu who had dreamt he was a butterfly, or a butterfly dreaming he was Chuang Tzu. Between Chuang Tzu and a butterfly there must be some distinction! This is called the Transformation of Things.”¹

    What does this story really mean? At...

  7. 4 Copying as Deception
    (pp. 106-141)

    “Chinese Market Awash in Fake Potter Books,” reads a recent New York Times headline. The article goes on to describe the proliferation of unauthorized Harry Potter books in China, in the days leading up to the publication of the seventh book in the series. As the author of the article says, these fake books are “copious.” It is worth quoting the description of the books in full:

    There are the books, like the phony seventh novel, that masquerade as works written by Ms. Rowling. There are the copies of the genuine items, in both English and Chinese, scanned, reprinted, bound...

  8. 5 Montage
    (pp. 142-175)

    So far, we’ve been concerned with copies that more or less involve a whole imitating a whole. It’s true that Elias Canetti’s observations on the different degrees of transformation already suggest a difference between a mere surface or superficial imitation and a total interior and exterior transformation. But even in these situations, one assumes the presence of a whole. Canetti’s donkey dressed in a lion skin is either taken to be a lion or revealed in fact to be a donkey. Kafka’s ape says he has no choice but to consider himself a man now. According to the film Divine...

  9. 6 The Mass Production of Copies
    (pp. 176-203)

    You can see them on the factory conveyor belt in Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times. What are they? Rectangular slabs of metal with two metal knobs growing out of them. They emerge out of a machine in an apparently infinite number, all exactly the same. They have no identity or purpose other than to make life hellish for the factory workers whose job it is to assemble something from them, but they are clearly copies. The workers themselves become twitching machines, each devoted to a single action on the assembly line, a gesture they repeat endlessly until it is all they...

  10. 7 Copying as Appropriation
    (pp. 204-237)

    I remember the first time I taught my class at York University on copying, the week we came to discuss appropriation, plagiarism, and the like. I gave students my definition of “appropriation”—the act of claiming the right to use, make, or own something that someone else claims in the same way. Thinking about appropriation enables us to ask: Who has the right to make a copy? Which people have the right to prohibit someone else from copying them or that which they believe belongs to them? A student raised her hand and said that if this was the definition,...

  11. Coda From the Right to Copy to Practices of Copying
    (pp. 238-248)

    The copy shop in Toronto where I’ve had coursepacks made for a number of years was busted recently, and the books used to make the coursepacks were confiscated, along with the coursepacks themselves. The store’s owner gave me the number of Access Copyright, the organization responsible for the bust. When I called the number and spoke to one of the agents there, I was informed that the copy shop apparently lacked a license to make coursepacks, and that in the future I should frequent copy shops that have licenses. My books were shipped back to me, along with a list...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 251-276)
  13. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 277-278)
  14. Index
    (pp. 279-285)