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So earlier this morning I sat down to read Sidney's "The Defence of Poesy" and was reading the introduction and there was a really interesting bit on Renaissance writing and imitation. English Renaissance literature--prose and poetry--grappled with imitation as they came out of the Continental European Renaissance and its preoccupations with classical culture; you can see this particularly in the concurrent shift in reading practices (intensive to extensive) where you go from reading the Bible and Aristotle to reading the Bible, Aristotle, Cicero, Herodotus, contemporary pamphlets, etc. etc. etc. You have a shift not just in texts but in how to *read* the texts: from memorization to being able to crossreference or gloss.

There's three forms of imitation: Greek mimesis, which is imitation of representation (drawing an apple, say); Latin imitatio, which is literary and stylistic imitation from a model (an argument using Cicero's rhetoric); and emulation, what is believed to be readerly imitation (reading Sidney and then writing an essay).

So we have this entire humanist vocabulary for dealing with adaptive texts. This is why you also have the rhetorical devices of "I heard this story" or "I found this source" for wholly fictional works, because that was what was respectable for a lengthy period of time. It wasn't until we got to the Romantics with their emphasis on valorizing self-expression--and of course, the accompanying image of the heroic (dare I say Byronic? I dare! I dare!) and struggling author--that we truly shift to the modern preoccupations with "originality." It is also worth noting that this is concurrent with the development of copyright culture; where print culture is truly modern in that only printed books are "published" and the circulation of written material is directly tied in with ideas of professional authorship and ownership and livelihoods.

And so OF COURSE I had to tie all this in with our contemporary attitudes to adaptation and, of course, fan works. I recently picked up Diana Gabaldon's newest book; she had a rather famous spat with fandom a few years ago (I'm linking to the Fanlore wiki because a lot of the original stuff has been scrubbed from the internet); the gist of which is that she felt that fanfic was like raping children (yep, actual words) and then she backed off only slightly when people called her on her crazy. Anyways, in her newest book, there's a cameo with Natty Bumppo, you know the hero of the Leatherstocking Saga, or, if you prefer, young Daniel Day Lewis in The Last of the Mohicans (y'know, either/or). And what I find continually interesting is how the use/re-use of famous characters becomes imminently respectable if done in a "literary" fashion--eg. legit publication, the bigger the author and the publishing house, the more legit it is.

I mean, when we quote Henry Jenkins, we always talk about "textual poaching" in the context of fan writing, but what about the textual poaching in publication? I mean, sure, Fifty Shades of Grey and other Twifics began life as fic, but once they got bought up and published by various presses, they become (magically!) adaptive texts, in dialogue not only with Twilight but with the other texts. (Archontic literature at its finest?) Once it's been bought and paid for, it's no longer "fan" writing; it's legitimizing bastard texts, if you will. And people complain about all this, rightly or wrongly, but that doesn't change you have an entire body of work in conversation with each other and with a clear line of descent. In comparison or contrast, you can look at Cassandra Clare's Mortal Instruments books, which originated in Harry Potter fic--and her HP fic that, itself, quoted extensively (and some places where it wasn't quoting so much as cutting and pasting...) a number of other media texts including Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (I maintain a major weakness of the film version was there were no Whedon actors involved; imagine if Jace had been played by a CGI de-aged James Marsters, and how much more sense everything would have made then!!!)

In conclusion: the cultural capital we assign various works varies greatly depending both on time period and material, and--at least seemingly--happenstance.

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