Collaboration has existed for hundreds of years, and still
continues to play an important role in the construction of
written work today. Although our present culture tends to
put emphasis on the author as a single person far more often
than as a collective group, it is unreasonable to discredit
the advantages and accomplishments of the collaborative method.
Documented, collaborative efforts in writing began as early
as the Elizabethan era in England and continued well into
the 1600's, when William Shakespeare's claim to individual
authorship expressed "the always-already present
desire to possess what one has written" (Masten 369).
An examination of theatre during this era suggests "the
was written by more than one person, produced through
collective forms of thinking" and therefore emphasized
authorship as a pluralized phenomenon (357).
Jeffrey Masten examines collaboration that took place during
this time period through the idea of conversation in its relevance
to authorship. Conversation can be defined in the era as both
"sexual intercourse or intimacy" and as an "exchange
of ideas" (360). Conversations held between opposite
genders (other than within marriage) were always regarded
as taboo in the Elizabethan era, however conversations between
males were much more accepted, despite the common linkage
between "the exchange of ideas and homoerotic intercourse"
(360). The example of physical intimacy suggests the emotional
intimacy and trust that was inherently part of a collaborative
partnership between authors of the century.
This collaboration can be observed in many casual instances
with conversation. As playwright Thomas Kyd recalled, attention
brought to "an opinion affirmed by Marlowe to be his,
and shuffled with some of myne" attributed confusion
to the idea that he and fellow playwright Marlowe were working
together closely and therefore naturally inclined to form
a collaborative mind (360). Although Masten does not insist
that speculations of Kyd and Marlowe's living together are
true, he brings attention to "shuffled" and "some
occasion of our wrytinge in one chamber" to suggest the
intimacy that could be equated with the pair's collaboration
Playwrights Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher were involved
in a relationship similar to Kyd and Marlowe. Beaumont and
Fletcher lived under one roof and shared "a wonderful
consimility of phansey
which caused the dearness of friendship
between them" that inevitably extended into the playhouse
(365). This closeness of authors during Fletcher's life even
extended into his death where he "and collaborator Philip
Massinger were buried in the same grave." (366)
Despite the congenial attitudes towards collaboration, the
Elizabethan period of literature also began to demonstrate
a dramatic change in how an author's work was valued or credited.
Previously, art was considered property of the larger group.
Playwrights were "employees of acting companies"
and their writing automatically became property of the playhouse,
or collaborative team (367). An author's name on a script
was not used for the purpose of personal recognition, but
rather as "a selling point" for the play and its
entire team of participants (367).
Although collaboration started as a casual, friendly gesture,
rather than an act of purely business, the desire to seek
singular royalties or recognition for one's work in the theatre
began to grow. Alvin Kernan confirms that theatre in the Elizabethan
period did become "a business, one of the first to be
organized in terms of venture capital" and Andrea Lundsford
observes that "playwrights did write for profit-or at
least the hope of a livelihood-in mind" (Lundsford 80-81).
As the desire for singular authorship and ownership has continued
to become pronounced, issues surrounding collaborative work
and its appropriate documentation have also expanded.
Contemporary authors participate in a collaborative atmosphere
whose familial relationships are reminiscent of the Elizabethan
era. In regards to "The Wasteland" by T.S Eliot,
the author mentions in his journals the poet Ezra Pound, "who
helped pare and sharpen the poem when Eliot stopped in Paris."
(Nelson) Pound confirms this relationship through his own
editorial notes. Pound's relationship with Eliot was like
a mentor; he provided both literary and financial support
during Eliot's developmental years. The well-known poet William
Wordsworth also participated in a collaborative effort with
Samuel Taylor Coleridge of "Lyrical Ballads" that
was possibly "the most famous coauthored book in the
English language." (Miller)
Contemporary fiction also features collaborative examples.
Recently disputed, were the efforts between writer Raymond
Carver and his editor Gordon Lish. While Carver received attention
for being one of the best short fiction writers of all time,
Lish spoke out after Carver's death, insisting that as the
editor, he had also maintained an authorial role that had
not been publicly credited. In addition, Carver's wife, the
poet Tess Gallagher, also claimed authorship of his stories,
stating that her deceased husband's ideas had stemmed from
her own. (Miller)
Although collaboration between professional writers has produced
mixed emotions, Lundsford has chosen to examine the generally
positive reaction to collaboration from writers whose primary
vocation is something other than writing itself. She looks
to the psychologist Albert Bernstein who readily admits "when
I work with other people
I feel that I do a much better
job than I would have done alone" (29). This suggests
that the collaboration in his written work allows for a "richer"
product. Lundsford also looks at chemist George Irving's most
prominent "collaborative venture," which he found
"exciting and satisfying" despite the fact the project
did not inspire the desired reaction from the audience (30-31).
Collaboration in scientific writing is particularly interesting
because it is considered to be the norm, but methods of recognizing
individuals within the collaborative group, or the group as
a whole, are constantly being challenged and changed. Singular
authorship in genres other than science is developed from
an idea that the individual creator used his own intellect
and exertion to create a work. Science writing differs from
this idea because "scientists buttress their new claims
by connecting them as much as possible to the body of previous
scientific literature" in order to bring about technological
advancement (Biagioli 257).
In the case of copyright, tangible items or unique thoughts
are clearly defined, but less tangible ideas or scientific
theory are often difficult to assign ownership and authorship.
An artist or a writer can use paint or words as his building
blocks, but a scientist must base his own novel contributions
on the claims of hundreds before him. Colors and words are
clearly in the public domain, but ideas in science are less
clearly defined, and therefore singular authorship or ownership
is extremely rare.
The multi-authorship in science writing is necessary in order
to credit the range of people and tasks involved in a project.
Not only is the writing itself, but also research, experimentation,
development and editing are significant components in the
production of a collaborative project, . Science can often
"produce articles with hundreds of names stretching the
author's byline over a few pages" (253).
The multi-authorship system is fueled by candidate hopefuls
entering various scientific disciplines. Because of time limitations,
science committees and review boards have a "tendency
to rely on quantitative assessments of a candidate's publications"
rather than their content (255). As a result, members of the
scientific field could have a prolific name in publications,
but a limited contribution in each of the individual projects.
Lengthy bylines can cause confusion as to the definition of
an author. In addition to lesser-known participants who are
listed for lesser-known reasons, there are also the well-known
scientists who "unaware that their names had been added
to an author list (a sort of 'inverse plagiarism' aimed at
increasing the publication chances of the article" are
used for a promotional purpose (262). The lengthy, abstract
listing of authors can often cause confusion in the defining
parameters of a collaborative project.
Scientific achievement is regarded as "professional recognition
that can be transformed in to money...but is not money like-in
and of itself" (254). Achievement is the primary purpose
of providing recognition to scientists, and although this
recognition could serve as a vehicle toward financial gain
in the future, newer scientists strive for publication in
order to become known and respected among colleagues. Achievement
as "such a reward is not bestowed by one specific nation
(according to its law) but by an international community of
peers" suggesting that claiming authorship or ownership
in science is often based on the subjectivity of people already
established in scientific realm, rather than a strictly documented,
legal code (254).
Drummond Rennie and his collaborative team are attempting
to solve some of the challenges in scientific collaboration
through "substitution of the word 'concept contributor'
for the word 'concept author'" as a more diplomatic representation
of scientific authorship (265). Contributions for each author
could also be calculated in a precise percentile, in order
to limit any confusion, as well as eliminate the outdated
process of name order on the byline.
The CDF (Collider Detector at Fermilab) has also conceived
a system to overcome collaborative challenges. At CDF, each
individual publication will feature names in a "Standard
Author List" in order the emphasize collaboration and
limit any superfluous acknowledgement of those outside the
lab. In order to qualify for the list, each CDF contributor
must apprentice for his first year without receiving intellectual
credit (270). After the individual has proved his ability
to produce viable information, not only does the individual
begin attaining credit, but he also continues to receive authorship
rights a year after departure from the lab.
Collaboration in our society does not begin in the professional
environment, because it is introduced at an earlier stage.
In education circumstance, collaboration is often associated
with various imitation techniques, such as students imitating
professors, text book authors, or even other students. While
some might consider this collaborative type of learning a
form of plagiarism, Lundsford argues that collaborative teachings,
specifically imitative ideas, are introduced to children at
a very young age. She notes that Jean Piaget's work "demonstrated
that children learn through interaction with others"
in order to explore the world around them (111). Imitation
is a natural step out of interaction, providing a precise
tutorial for many age groups.
College Student Jennifer Markson says she writes down "word
for word what the professor says" (Howard 27) in a classroom
environment in order to absorb completely the meaning of the
lecture. Jennifer is in a sense participating in a collaborative
act with her professor by using the teacher's words in order
to facilitate her own learning process.
Rebecca Howard notices that a subtle "patchwriting: copying
from a source text and then deleting some words, altering
grammatical structures, or plugging in one synonym for another"
is taking place on college campuses throughout the country,
in addition to numerous professional situations (1). While
at first she was shocked at the sheer volume of this "copying"
at one particular institution, she recognizes that patchwriting
is so ingrained in our learning system, it is excused in many
types of situations.
Howard examines a specific professional instance when Gerhard
Joseph patchwrites a piece of Thomas McFarland's Originality
and Imitation in order to use McFarland's authorship ideas
as a vehicle for his analysis of Charles Dickens and international
copyright (6). While Joseph uses McFarland's linguistics and
basic ideas, he adds on to McFarland's work by creating his
own territory for the reader. This type of patchwriting, or
indirect collaboration is comparable to patent law in regards
to tangible items and allowance of progress.
If accomplished writers are participating in patchwriting
as a form of imitation, it is no wonder that learning institutions
also teach imitations as a standard component of the curriculum.
As Martha Woodmansee says, one must naturally start from an
imitative perspective in writing to "earn his flying
wings" before venturing out into more individualistic
While our society continues to place emphasis on singular
authorship, we are actually undermining the natural state
of writing. Linda Brodkey observes the irony of writing as
an inherently "social act" that is nonetheless portrayed
in present society as "solitary" (Lundsford 20).
By examining these writing techniques, it is revealed that
collaboration is the normal "social act" in the
process of creation.
Biagioli, Mario and Peter Galison. Scientific Authorship:
Credit and Intellectual Property in Science. New York:
Howard, Rebecca Moore. Standing in the Shadow of Giants:
Plagiarists, Authors, Collaborators. Stamford: Ablex,
Lundsford, Andrea, and Lisa Ede. Singular Texts/Plural
Authors: Perspectives on Collaborative Writing. Southern
Illinois University, 1990.
Masten, Jeffrey. Playwriting Authorship and Collaboration.
New York: Columbia mp, 1997.
Miller, James, James Wald, Stephen J. Harris, David Bollier,
and Benjamin Mako Hill. Collaborative Literary Creation
and Control, A Socio-Historic, Technological and Legal Analysis.
Nelson, Cary. An Online Journal and Multimedia Companion
to Anthology of Modern American Poetry. Section from Garraty,
John A., and Mark C. Carnes. American National Biography.
New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. <http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/a_f/eliot/life.htm>
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