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Monday, November 28, 2005

Of Copyright Law and the Public Domain

I was going to make a post about my new-found awe with all things octopus (or octopodi/octopi, depending on your nationality), but I've decided there's something a bit more... hmm... important (?) for me to talk about.

If you go to my web page (no longer updated), and click on the "UNBSJ Stuff" link, and then click on "The 18th Century Periodical Press," you'll find a missing page.

There's a reason for this.

Earlier today, I received this e-mail:

"You are in violation of our copyright for images of
the Athenian Oracle. Merely citing your sources is not
adequate protection. You have no permission to use
these images.

You have 48 hours to respond."

This was sent to me from one Kathie Kemmerer, the person in charge of the web site

I was confused at this e-mail, but immediately took down the site and replied to the e-mail stating I had done so.

Why was I confused?

1. The images I had used were, in fact, from In fact, I stated such on my web page itself, citing that page as one of my sources in a proper academic manner. I even mentioned the fact that the images were from the site. This tends to strike me as falling under the clause "fair use." Except fair use isn't really necessary due to point 2...

2. The Athenian Oracle was published in the 18th century. This means that it, and all the art contained therein, has been part of the public domain for almost as long as there has been copyright law. How can something be in the public domain, and yet subject to copyright, at the same time?

Well, I've been working on an essay for most of the day, during which I've reflected on the issue...

It occurs to me that what Ms. Kemmerer is probably trying to claim is rights over the digital reproduction of the Athenian Oracle emblem.

Unfortunately, this line of thought doesn't work. Not even by draconian U.S. copyright law (to which we in Canada are, sadly, bound via trade agreements) does this work. True, some bone-headed folk south of the border want to extend copyright over works to "forever minus one day," but luckily that isn't the case. According to the 1999 court case of the Bridgeman Library vs. the Corel Corporation, exact reproductions of public domain works are not subject to copyright.

The background of this case is that the Bridgeman Library had published photographic reproductions of a number of famous paintings of antiquity. Corel used these photographs for an educational CD-ROM. The library sued Corel.

Corel won because the court decided that "'slavish copying', although doubtless requiring technical skill and effort, does not qualify" as creative, and thus cannot be subject to copyright.

Hence, people are now supposed to be able to share digital images of beautiful pieces of art (made prior to 1920 or so) on their web-sites and not worry about threatening e-mails. Particularly if the web sites are educational ones (which get all kinds of leeway in terms of fair use clauses, which, again, aren't even necessary when you're dealing with public domain art.)

Except, you know, here I am. Getting threatening e-mails.

I know a little about copyright law, as I believe I've demonstrated. Many people with vaguely artistic inclinations (such as myself), or who find they disagree with the current highly prohibitive and Disney-pandering state of copyright laws (such as myself), can display a similar knowledge. So, why did I take the site down? Let's play multiple choice:

A. Getting a vaguely threatening e-mail from a complete stranger actually scared me a little, though I'm a bit embarassed to admit it.
B. The web page was for a course I took a couple years back, and as such, is now unnecessary, particularly since I'm no longer maintaining my web site per se.
C. I have no idea who Ms. Kemmerer is, or how much money she has available for any kind of a legal battle, but it's a good bet she has more resources available to her than I do.
D. I have better things to worry about right now, like my final paper for my American Poetry class, or continuing my struggle with introductory French.
E. All of the Above.

And as a bonus question: This entire situation, including my handling of it, has left something of a sour taste in my mouth. (T/F)

(I'll probably talk about octopuses next time. Octopodi. Whatever.)

Jesse R enlightened the masses @ 10:43 p.m.


Tuesday, November 22, 2005

ENGL 3621: Fantomina

The moral of Fantomina (ungenerous reading): If a woman dresses like a prostitute and is raped, she has only herself to blame.

Alternately (extremely generous reading), cosplay can keep a couple happy for a long time. At least, until children enter the picture, at which point it becomes awkward.

Jesse R enlightened the masses @ 9:53 p.m.


Saturday, November 19, 2005

Superman Returns

The teaser trailer for the new Superman movie is up here. Looks neat; I get a little bit more excited about this movie with each passing day.

For those of you too young to really know much about the original movie, the voice-over you can hear at the beginning of that trailer is by Brando, and it's from the original. I haven't seen that film, myself, in at least... 20 years or so? Being so young, the whole "savior" angle that was taken in that movie was lost on me, though hearing Jor-El's speech really drives home this angle when I hear it now, with adult ears. "I sent them you, my only son" is pretty blatantly obvious.

At any rate, I'm glad that this movie is going to be following in the tradition of the first (and, partly, the second) Superman movie, and ignoring all the godawfulness that came after.

Jesse R enlightened the masses @ 1:32 p.m.


Thursday, November 17, 2005

ENGL 3621: Concerning Frances Burney...

...and NOT Francesca Bruni.


I've read snippets of her journals in a previous class (and by snippets, I truly mean snippets -- twenty pages of this book, tops), so I was not unfamiliar with her journal writing style. The letters were completely new, however.

Thoughts that occurred to me while reading this through, in no particular order (of importance or otherwise):

There's certainly a profound irony in the fact that she is pretending that nobody will read her thoughts; yet today she’s very widely read within academic circles. I wonder if, had she known the eventual fate her journal was to have, she would have written it differently.

On a related note, I’m given to wonder at a possible theatrical element to her journal writings. (The incident with Mr. Barlow’s proposal in 1775.) This is something she worried about herself, of course, in fleeting moments of self-doubt: “How truly does this journal contain my real & undisguised thoughts?”

Her father obviously had a huge effect on her, and a great deal of sway over her even in her adult life. She was quite willing to take on all comers in the matter of Mr. Barlow’s proposal, frex, as long as it didn’t include her father: "I felt the utter impossibility of resisting not merely my father’s persuasion, but even his advice." Mind, ultimately she chose to marry d'Arblay against her father's wishes, so I suppose his influence had limits.

"My dear, faithful, ever attentive Nobody" I’m tempted to start writing out my blog entries with a "dear Internet," as an imitative polar opposite of Burney’s own dedications.

On second thought, nah. It's not nearly as witty as I thought it would be on first blush.

I can’t figure out whether or not she actually likes Swift. She’s frequently quoting him, but the context in which she uses those quotes have an ironic spin; using a quote from "The Furniture of a Woman’s Mind," for example, to upbraid a misogynist.

I forgot just how much Samuel Johnson seemed to adore her. (this sticks out in my mind because I’m something of a Johnson fan). The respect seemed to be mutual. I'd never previously read their first encounter, though; he didn't seem to make much of a good impression upon her at first.

The contrast of Burney’s reception to those of previous women authors is sharp; she was embraced and celebrated by the (male) literary giants of her time, where others suffered from rebuke. Similarly, she was admitted into literary circles and given respect for her achievements, though I often get the impression that she was often regarded as something of a "junior" member by virtue of her age, gender, or both. Regardless, this allowed her to be quite prolific, to the point where the critics noted her ten-year literary silence later in life. In previous times, the norm seemed to be to make one publication (if that), and then return to silence for good.

On Ms. W----, whom Burney converses with at Bath: I’m convinced that this woman has been reincarnated as a goth. Either that, or an RPG gamer. But then, after the 90’s, there’s been quite a bit of crossover between those categories, so the difference might not be particularly meaningful.

Incidentally, I find I really like the descriptive phrase, "a young and agreeable infidel."

The encounter with the king in the gardens is still as hilarious as the first time I read it.

Similarly, her account of her masectomy is as compelling as it was the first time I read it.

Sorry for the rather random order of the insights. By way of apology, allow me to show you a glimpse of what I did this halloween:

Dr. Victor von Doom is from eastern europe, where they really know how to party. He's on the look-out for a few good minions, so watch out! No meddlesome bunch of do-gooders, and certainly no bedrooms, can stand before his unbridled genius. All will serve Doom, baby!

Turn-ons include: World domination, unholy mixes of magic and science, ancient castles, and the i-pod nano.

Turn-offs include: Big rock-skinned morons, anybody who dares think himself the equal of Doom, meddlesome do-gooders in general, and squirrels.

Jesse R enlightened the masses @ 12:22 a.m.


Tuesday, November 08, 2005

English 3621: Essay

Just finished my essay; since the syllabus says that we have to blog about the process, I figured I'd get that out of the way before I print it off and put it in my bookbag in preparation for passing it in this Thursday. (Are we supposed to put the essay itself up on our blog, too? I vaguely recall something to that effect being said, but I can't quite recall.)

My essay topic is an examination of the means in which Mary Wroth and Margaret Cavendish each create an authorial "vision," that is, a literary voice implied by their works that they seek to emulate, and how each measures up to this author-function (I know, "author-function" is a loaded Foucaultian term and I'm not using it precisely as it's meant to be used in this regard, but I find the term serves within this context.) My claim is that, despite the fact that both Cavendish and Wroth often write of similar issues (the silence and marginalization of women, frex), their voices manifest in very different ways, and they each attempt to achieve different things with their works. Wroth, for example, follows very traditional strategies and forms, to the point that many of her critics claim that she is far too derivative to be of much value (a claim I debunk in my essay, by the way), and her single foray into the world of widespread publication ended in disaster -- her authorial voice is frequently very tentative, and much more at home in a coterie setting. Cavendish, on the other hand, is very bold and confident, eschews things such as tradition and authorial genealogy (and even, to a degree, education), and it would be impossible to imagine her works as being anything other than designed for widespread public consumption without altering them (and their implied intent) considerably.

The reason I chose these two authors... Well, I've always loved Cavendish, even moreso than Lanyer. She's just too eccentric to not find fascinating, and though her work can be a little rough around the edges at times, it displays a vibrant energy that's so often lacking in her Jonsonian counterparts. I wanted to deal with Wroth because I've never done so before, and I found myself interested in her as a result of this class (which is odd since she's bored me whenever I've dealt with her in the past). As for the reason of the essay topic, I frequently find myself drawn to the extratextual, implied literary "space" surrounding works and authors. In fact, as far as my critical interests go, it's right up there next to things like examinations of narrative and genre discord, or the use of language and what it represents. Of course, I don't deal with these things too often -- it requires a lot of effort for me compared to, say, a focus on gender issues, or a freudian examination of a text, both of which have become fairly old-hat for me by this point (at least, in terms of the levels expected in undergraduate english courses -- I expect they'll become more complicated should I deal with such things during my Masters studies.)

Anyway... As soon as my topic was chosen, I faced a dilemma. I didn't have access to Wroth's full text of her prose narrative "Urania," which I felt was integral to my thesis, but rather I only had access to the excerpts found within the Longman Anthology of British Literature. Additionally, unlike Cavendish, Wroth never spoke of authorship directly (at least, not that I could find), so in constructing an authorial vision for Wroth I needed to do a lot of reading between the lines, so to speak. To help facilitate this, I sought out more secondary material for Wroth than I bothered to do for Cavendish -- four secondary sources among various literary journals compared to the latter's one.

In writing the essay itself, I put a great deal more focus on Wroth's publication history than on Cavendish's, since the former's was much more rocky. I get the idea that the legal troubles caused by Wroth's "Urania" essentially scared her away from mainstream publication, since pretty soon she was attempting to have the book recalled (unsuccessfully), and even went so far as to make the dubious claim that it was published without her consent (this claim was also unsuccessful, if the majority of critics are to be believed. Which, for simplicity's sake, they are as far as my essay is concerned). Wroth was also a lot less prolific than Cavendish, though she never stopped writing until quite late in life, so this also gave me less to work with (and re-emphasized the need for more secondary sources).

In the end, it's not the best essay I've ever written, but I'm fairly pleased with the result. I believe I accomplished what I set out to do, though admittedly I think my take on Cavendish (with whom I deal in the second half of the essay) is a tad stronger and more concise than my take on Wroth.

Either way, though, it's done with, which gives me a tremendously satisfying feeling. Another assignment out of the way, which leaves (I think) only one other outside of my stupid intro-to-french-course that's-the-only-thing-I-need-to-graduate-at-this-point.

Jesse R enlightened the masses @ 3:57 p.m.


Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Okay, I'm Big Enough to Admit It.

I was wrong.

The last class I spoke about a trailer I'd seen, advertising an upcoming movie about a fictional romance between Don Juan and Frances Burney. I was, in fact, wrong on both counts, for different reasons.

The "Don Juan" part was simply a matter of crossed wires in the brain -- in fact, it's Casanova who's the lead character of this film. Yes, one was real and the other wasn't, but my brain still associates the two as being the same sort of rogue.

The error I made on "Frances Burney" was based on a mistake in hearing the character's name pronounced on screen. In fact, it's "Francesca Bruni." Which is a mistake anybody could make. No, really. Honest mistake.

*ahem* Little bit red-faced, here.

Anyway, there you have it. Basic premise of the movie stays the same, though given the context (I understand Francesca Bruni was an italian seamstress who Casanova actually met and exchanged letters with) it's obviously not nearly as absurd as it had initially struck me. I mean, it's loosely based on something that didn't really, but could have actually happened, whereas the movie I thought it was, was just downright wacky.

The real movie's titled "Casanova," by the way.

Sorry 'bout that one, folks. In my defence... um... Hey! What's that on your shoulder?

*runs and hides*

Jesse R enlightened the masses @ 7:57 p.m.


Man, I Hate French Back when dinosaurs roamed the...
When Squirrels Attack! I know that I was supposed...
Of Copyright Law and the Public Domain I was goin...
ENGL 3621: Fantomina The moral of Fantomina (unge...
Superman Returns The teaser trailer for the new S...
ENGL 3621: Concerning Frances Burney... ...and N...
English 3621: Essay Just finished my essay; sinc...
Okay, I'm Big Enough to Admit It. I was wrong. T...
Teh Funnay! What if Fox News had been around thro...
English 3621: Makin, Astell, and Wollstonecraft ...
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