Cover: In Praise of Copying, from Harvard University PressCover: In Praise of Copying in PAPERBACK

In Praise of Copying

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$31.00 • £26.95 • €28.95

ISBN 9780674072527

Publication Date: 03/11/2013


304 pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches


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Much has been written on the subject of the copy in recent years, none of it so singularly illuminating as Marcus Boon’s In Praise of Copying. Where the contemporary intellectual-property debate seeks endlessly to distinguish between good copies and bad, Boon cuts straight to the fatally unasked question at its core: What is a copy? From the evolution of counterfeit handbags to the confounding multiplicities of Being, Boon pursues his answers through rich fields of popular culture, technological history, and philosophy both Eastern and Western. A vast, secret life of the copy is here revealed, a road map through the deepest meanings of our age of mechanical reproduction.—Julian Dibbell, Wired Magazine

Despite its title, Marcus Boon’s book is not so much a manifesto as a philosophical meditation on…a world in which Chinese sneaker manufacturers make original Nikes during the day and fake Nikes at night; in which private copyright enforcers ‘bust’ copy shops for selling unauthorized university course packets, while Google Books posts the same texts online with impunity; in which a young student in Rwanda might use a laptop provided free by the Gates Foundation to distribute illegal copies of Microsoft software. In the midst of an astonishing abundance of copies, and almost limitless networks of duplication—what Boon calls copia, from a Latin word meaning plenitude—we suffer from a near-hysterical fear of unchecked duplication, in the form of ‘fakes,’ bootlegs, plagiarized assignments, counterfeit, or pirated goods… In Praise of Copying is too important, and too ambitious, to ignore.—Jess Row, The New Republic online

German critic Walter Benjamin wrote some immensely influential words on the work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction. Luxury fashion houses would say something shorter and sharper and much more legally binding on the rip-off merchants who fake their products. Marcus Boon, a Canadian English professor with an accessible turn of phrase, takes us on an erudite voyage through the theme in a serious but engaging encounter with the ideas of thinkers as varied as Plato, Hegel, Orson Welles, Benjamin, Heidegger, Louis Vuitton, Takashi Murakami and many more, on topics as philosophically taxing and pop-culture-light as mimesis, Christianity, capitalism, authenticity, Uma Thurman’s handbag and Disneyland.—Miriam Cosic, The Australian

In some ways the disarming modesty and accessibility of Boon’s prose—something of a rarity in contemporary scholarship in the humanities that issues from academic presses—disguises its profound ambition. In Praise of Copying ranges widely in its interests and seriously and knowledgeably invokes the Western metaphysical tradition, contemporary post-structuralist theory, and the tradition of Mahayana Buddhism to suggest that commonplace distinctions between ‘genuine’ and ‘fake’ or ‘original’ and ‘copy’ compromise rather than enable a comprehensive and responsible understanding of ourselves and the world around us… Boon has a gift for turning the material of the mundane world into the matter of sophisticated intellectual investigation… [This is] a book that deserves real attention and consideration, both in academia and the larger world.—James Williams, PopMatters

The issues this excellent book discusses can only become more urgent as a generation comes to power that simply takes a free exchange of information for granted.—Bradley Winterton, The Taipei Times

Boon takes a stand in praise of copying, seeing it not as a limitation but as a fundamental, if unappreciated, human preoccupation… The aim of this work is to demonstrate the historical, political, and philosophical advantages of rethinking the how and why of copying, thereby uncovering the roots of its power to help people understand themselves and the world they live in.—J.M. Boyle, Choice

Bringing Buddhist insights into a startling and necessary conversation with critical theory, Boon challenges our given notions of copying by dissolving them into an illuminating interdependence. From Glen Gould to Louis Vuitton bags (and ‘Louis Vuitton’ bags), from the exuberant mimesis of hip hop to the wisdom of dispropriation, In Praise of Copying delves far beneath the legal surface of today’s copyright wars to discover a phenomenon that not only defines human culture, but is intrinsic to reality itself.—Erik Davis, author of Techgnosis: Myth, Magic, and Mysticism in the Age of Information

At last—a taboo-breaking ‘Western’ humanities scholar who doesn’t just discuss Buddhism, but employs it in a profound rethinking of what it means to copy. Marcus Boon is that very rare thing, someone who doesn’t stop thinking for no good reason. Brimming with fresh, accessible insights beckoning the reader into strange depths. Despite its title, In Praise of Copying is unique.—Timothy Morton, author of The Ecological Thought and Ecology without Nature

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