Paolo Monella Classical Association Conference 2011, Durham

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At this conference, on 18 April 2011, I delivered a paper entitled Authorship acknowledgement in Ovid and Martial, or how to rethink copyright in the Digital Age:


For centuries, through the Modern and Contemporary Ages, writers have been gaining support through copyright, that is through tight control over the reproduction of the text's physical support. In the Digital Age, such control becomes less and less feasible. This encourages us to reshape the connection between authorship and material support.

A contribution to the debate on this issue may come from an analysis of the framework established, long before the Gutenberg Age, in the sophisticated literary world of the Roman Empire. Ovid's exile poems and Martial's Epigrams offer an extraordinary insight into the relations between literary production, textual diffusion, patronage and the author's material support in their age. In both cases such relations are exposed and discussed because they are endangered: Ovid's prestige is undercut by banishment; Martial's authorship by plagiarism. The banished Ovid evokes his ties with the emperor, his influential friends and patrons, and the wider Roman audience, in the hope that this may help him to regain his political and social status. Martial struggles to make a living and possibly a career through the books market and public declamations.

The model that they shed light on is based on authorship acknowledgment, literary prestige gained through wide textual circulation, exploitation of public performances, aristocratic and imperial patronage. This model is particularly interesting in view of the possible digital scenarios where authorship is acknowledged, while dissemination of the textual resource is fostered. Examples include the many forms of on line texts publication (spanning from large news portals to thematic web sites and blogs), as well as Open Access diffusion of scholarly research.

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