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Presentation Details


The Original Author: How the Author has been Reconceptualized in the Light of Print Technology

Laura Mandell.

The notions we have of the author as a genius and a great man were devised, it has been argued, not by authors themselves but by publishers (18th-c publishers were called "booksellers", since they published and sold certain books, and received profits from the sales, but often didn't themselves actually print them) who wanted to make money by owning copyright. How can you claim that the ideas in one person's mind are not shared by others who may also have thought them? How can you make ideas into some one person's exclusive property? Well, you can say: it's not really the ideas that matter but the particular way that this particular person has of expressing his or her ideas. Publishers fought to proclaim that literary texts – not the printed texts themselves, but the words in them that can appear in any printed text (and now in other media as well) – that literary texts are just like private property and thus can be owned by one publishing house. That fight produced one idea we have of what it means to be a self, a modern rather than a postmodern idea: it produced the idea that individuals have their own unique ways of expressing themselves, that style is a person's soul. Gathering together ideas about authorship and the effects of printing in producing the figure of the author, this web site performs some analytical work on our understanding via juxtaposition of sound, picture, and text, as well as through parsing texts in lexias. This web site shows how useful W3 can be as a method for critiquing illusory imaginary unities.


Laura Mandell  (United States)
Associate Professor of English Literature
Miami Univ. of Ohio

Shortly after getting my first tenure-track position at a University at Miami in 1993, I began working with Alan Liu on The Romantic Chronology ( and with Romantic Circles (, especially on their Pedagogy Page in Features. I enjoy using the Internet as a teaching tool in all my classes, including The Miami MOO (

  • Originality
  • Authorship
  • Print technology
  • Author

(Virtual Presentation, English)