The Third Paradigm
Chapter 2: Oral-formulaic tradition, popular culture and iconic characters
Where the oral-formulaic tradition takes the stage as a foremost example of cumulative and collaborative creativity. The most notable cases of pre-copyright creativity here spread from a continuous lineage of reuse that juxtaposed pre-existing expressive content with new ideas. The discussion extends to the genre of epics as a powerful example of the productivity of a constant chain of openly reused literary stock. Imitation and rewriting – characterizing mediaeval literature, chansons de geste and romance literature – favoured the creation, development and promotion of iconic characters. The free reuse and remodelling of iconic characters – which were constantly adapted to different social and cultural backgrounds – have had an extraordinary propulsive capacity throughout the history of literature. A parallel can be drawn with the modern cultural realm to highlight the incapacity of iconic characters to play the pivotal role they used to play in the past. Nowadays, characters and cultural icons are locked into the dungeons of copyright, the constant enlargement of which has tightened their chains. Putting premodern borrowing and copying in context with the post-modern mass-collaborative mechanics of Internet-based remix practices possibly calls for reconnecting modern knowledge-based policies with the traditional mechanics of creativity and the idea that creativity is a collective and cumulative act.
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