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Copying the "Old Masters" : Wilkie Collins, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the transatlantic politics of art Shin, Jacqueline

Abstract

In "Copying the 'Old Masters': Wilkie Collins, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and the Transatlantic Politics of Art," I explore the depiction of the copying of the "Old Masters" in Collins's "A Rogue's Life", "Hide and Seek", and Hawthorne's "The Marble Faun", and attempt to position these representations within a wider transatlantic field of power. I take up questions of originality and imitation, tradition and innovation, the authentic and the fake, cultural maturity and immaturity, the Old World and the New, and map the ways that the tensions and unresolved relations between originals and copies within the space of the text reflect a larger struggle in which economic, cultural, and symbolic power are fundamentally at stake. In my introduction I set forth my argument and provide a critical context for my reading of these three works. I also offer a close reading of Collins's "Considerations on the Copyright Question, Addressed to an American Friend," in order to demonstrate the rhetorical coding of relations of power and the way that texts often exceed authorial control. Each of my three chapters then explores a specific text and locates it within a transatlantic framework. The first chapter considers "A Rogue's Life" in relation to British accusations of American "piracy," while the second explores "Hide and Seek" and argues that the novel can be read as reflecting a concern over the growing American literary "canon." The third chapter brings together the issues of copyright and literary tradition through an analysis of "The Marble Faun". I conclude this study with a postscript that positions these texts and my discussion of the transatlantic field of power within the context of representational shifts that were taking place during the nineteenth century. I argue that the impossibility of drawing clear distinctions and constructing strict dichotomies in Hawthorne's novel reflects a far wider condition of instability in which traditional relations of power, whether between originals and copies, the Old Masters and the modern masters, or the Old World and the New, were being reconfigured, tested, and reformed within the fictional space of representation.

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