“Cultural Geographies of Intellectual Property: Turnpikes and Copyrights”
In this interdisciplinary essay, I combine literary and cultural-studies approaches to the relationship between road-making and copyright in the context of the new turnpikes. The enclosure of lands and the construction of turnpikes and canals not only broadened opportunities for travel and navigation but also accelerated the dissemination of commodities of all sorts. These geographical developments expanded, sometimes beyond the point of recognition, familiar notions of place that were framed by a parish or estate or even a metropolis. By poising the Foucauldian and economic views of the implications of the turnpikes, I argue that the turnpike road system fragmented geography while simultaneously reshaping this fragmented geography into a more organized network of improved roads. Highlighting the spread of turnpikes and canals and the laws of copyright in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century that defined how literature could be owned and exchanged, I aim to contribute to the history and theory of copyright in the intersection of geography and literature. In a telling phrase which chimes through “the great thoroughfare of the Brain,” Daniel Defoe establishes a sense of the place that locates authors within specific circuits of information, particularly within the turnpike road system as the medium and outcome, the precondition and embodiment, of the modern production of space. Crusoe’s voyage beyond the island of Juan Fernandez enfolds a return to the present Britain to reconfigure Defoe’s sense of the cultural geographies of intellectual property.