Synopses & Reviews
From the origins of modern copyright in early eighteenth-century culture to the efforts to represent nature and death in postmodern fiction, this pioneering book explores a series of problems regarding the containment of representation. Stewart focuses on specific cases of "crimes of writing"--the forgeries of George Psalmanazar, the production of "fakelore," the "ballad scandals" of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the imposture of Thomas Chatterton, and contemporary legislation regarding graffiti and pornography. In this way, she emphasizes the issues which arise once language is seen as a matter of property and authorship is viewed as a matter of originality. Finally, Stewart demonstrates that crimes of writing are delineated by the law because they specifically undermine the status of the law itself: the crimes illuminate the irreducible fact that law is written and therefore subject to temporality and interpretation.
"It has become an article of faith in history and literary studies that the best way of understanding the text is to look at the margins, the best way to understand the norm is to look at that which is designated abnormal, deviant and reprehensible. The difficulty with applying this article of faith, is that it requires an extraordinary patience and skill with texts and historical records if it is not to be a justification for self-indulgent grotesquerie. In this book, Susan Stewart shows how fascinating this technique can be when applied by a careful and lucid scholar. In a series of meticulously researched essays, she helps us to understand authorship and text by focusing on a variety of "crimes of writing"--graffiti, pornography, forgery and literary imposture. At the same time, she shows how law is both implicated in and threatened by "the containment of representation."--James Boyle, Washington College of Law, American University
"Susan Stewart is one of the most extraordinary cultural critics writing in America today. Her rich and detailed accounts of the symbolic texture of cultural life are at once always surprising and unfailingly persuasive."--Stanley Fish, Duke University
"Stewart's work provides an oasis in contemporary criticism, a place where theory and poetry, systematic reflection and the essayistic plunge into particular cases, come together in a refreshing synthesis. Crimes of Writing is a worthy successor to Nonsense and On Longing.--W.J.T. Mitchell
"Stewart's formidable scholarship enables her to range over a broad range of case studies without losing theoretical substance or analytical depth."--Canadian Folklore
"Stewart's formidable scholarship enables her to range over a broad range of case studies without losing theoretical substance or analytical depth."--Comptes Rendus
Eight essays that examine particular issues in the relations between subjectivity, authenticity, writing, speech and the law.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 291-310) and index.