“'Tis mine and it is likewise yours”

Curated by Katherine Frank
October 20, 2010

In the preface to the long-awaited publication of “Christabel,” Samuel Taylor Coleridge addresses charges of plagiarism levied against him after the poem, started in 1797, was finally published as a fragment in 1816 and subsequently criticized as resembling works by Sir Walter Scott and Lord Byron. Coleridge first refutes these charges of plagiarism by identifying dates when stages of the still-fragmentary poem were completed. However, later in the preface, Coleridge softens his response and requests, should his verse bear a “striking coincidence” to that of his fellow writers, that they consider the following:

Tis mine and it is likewise yours;
But an if this will not do;
Let it be mine, good friend! For I
Am the poorer of the two.

At a time when copyright legislation was at the center of discussions about authorship and publication, Coleridge points out the tension inherent in these discussions: Who owns the ideas? Is writing ever a solitary act? And if literary genius is a questionable concept, then really, is writing ever free from direct or indirect collaboration? Is it ever not part of a larger conversation?

This collection uses the lens of 21st century writing and its dependence upon and perpetuation of collaboration and communication to examine authorial ownership and appropriation within a contemporary academic setting. Linda Biondi’s review of Teaching the New Writing emphasizes the “collaborative nature of writing when using technology and what it looks like in the classroom.” The links throughout the article, including a YouTube video by educator Anita Benton that combines the lyrics of Natasha Bedingfield’s “Unwritten” with classroom images and reflections on 21st century literacy, feature the conversational and collaborative approach to invention, production, and expression that characterize the new writing.

The other three resources in the collection use both form and content to reveal the interdependent relationship among 21st century writing, conversation, and collaboration from both the teacher’s and student’s perspective. Karen Chichester’s “Cross-country Collaboration: It All Started with Twitter” describes an ideal Professional/Personal Learning Community (PLC) facilitated through Twitter that allowed her to define the conditions of her ideal PLC, and which, through informed and immediate conversation, empowered her to find her own voice as a teacher-researcher and leader. Dave Boardman in “Building on the Voices of Others” and Laura Beth Fay in “The Scratch Community” discuss how joining a larger conversation, adding one’s own voice to this conversation, and collaborating with others in order to determine how to use published and public work responsibly help students think about professionalizing their own writing as they contribute to larger discourse communities.

Each resource in this collection is layered with different voices and perspectives; each models the communicative and collaborative practices it features. Together, then, the resources create a collection in conversation, an ongoing conversation about writing and learning in the 21st century that is much more complex, productive, and realistic than a long-worn myth of solitary genius.

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