Beginning with nineteenth-century allegations that Hans Christian Andersen lifted the tale of “Lucky Hans” from the Grimm brothers and that the Grimms lifted “The Princess on the Pea” from Andersen, this essay proposes a genealogy of contemporary representations of creative agency, given shape through the regime of authorship and force of law through the regime of copyright. Juxtaposing the author with the folk as two modern figures of creative agency with contrary attributes, the essay argues for their mutual dependence, where the latter is a residual category created through the former’s definition, and therefore its constitutive outside. In this, folklore compares to the public domain, brought into being by the invention of copyright, as its constitutive outside. In fact, folklore and the public domain have been related from the outset—interdependent, coeval, and to a considerable degree coextensive. Studying paradoxes the convergence of copyright and folklore pose, the essay seeks ultimately to move beyond them by conceiving in alternative terms of creative agency. The collector-editor, it suggests, is a more helpful figure for creative agency than either that of the author or the folk, better suited to understanding creativity and the circulation of culture.
Hafstein, Valdimar Tr.
"The Constant Muse: Copyright and Creative Agency,"
Narrative Culture: Vol. 1:
1, Article 3.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/narrative/vol1/iss1/3