Kinder Institute: Nora Slonimsky on Copyright and Authorship in the Early American Republic


Kinder Institute: “Copyright before Copyright: The Politics of Authorizing Authorship in the Early Republic”


The Kinder Institute at the University of Missouri, a JMC partner program, will be hosting a colloquium with fellow Nora Slonimsky exploring intellectual property in the early republic, particularly 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:

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.

Friday, October 22, 2021 • 3:30 PM CDT
Jesse Hall, Room 410 • University of Missouri

Free and open to the public.

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Nora SlonimskyNora 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, Professor Slonimsky 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. Her 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.

Professor Slonimsky is a JMC fellow.

Learn more about Nora Slonimsky >>



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