But I am happy to say that my participation in the roundtable, "Productive Anachronism," at the Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo this last Thursday evening inspired me to return to this blog and post the text of my paper. I hope to conjoin this paper with ones posted by fellow participants Rick Godden, Robin Wharton, and Anna Wilson, so that more potentially "productive" conversation can be had in the blogosphere.
Fruits and Flowers for Pedagogical Thieves
As my contribution to the roundtable, I want to characterize the late medieval pedagogical tradition of reading, glossing, and rewriting Aesopic fables as a premodern form of intellectual theft, usually associated with certain types of academic thievery, such as copying and pasting, full scale textual appropriation, and silent citation, that have become increasingly visible in this early digital age. On the one hand, acknowledging the poorly kept secret that so-called innovative or seminal work always comes from somewhere else threatens to weaken our claims to "credit" for a particular research finding or publication. On the other, we have developed rigorous criteria for citing our sources, such as footnotes and endnotes that simultaneously recognize and marginalize the material we rely on, all the while retaining our rights to authorship to this compiled corpus we have assembled.
If we recognize our scholarship as a remixed object of previous scholastic work, we are in a position to understand the long history of textual appropriation, which is productively embodied by the dissemination and production of the most popular version of Aesop's fables after the twelfth century, the elegiac Romulus, a series of sixty verse fables that survive in at least 170 manuscripts and fifty printed editions published in five countries by the end of the fifteenth century. In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries throughout Europe, students and their teachers paraphrased and elaborated upon this collection through extensive glosses, making them flexible works in progress, ripe for correction and appropriation, rather than finished products to be consumed "as is."
I want to trouble our common claims to original authorship and explore the affinities that these medieval practices of fable revision share with the pervasive digital practice of remixing. Remixing, as a recognized enterprise, has been occurring for decades behind the closed doors of publishing houses, music studios, and film editing rooms, but the emergence of read-write platforms such as blogs and wikis render such media mashups much more visible. Raffaele Simone predicts that such remixing will lead to the disintegration of textual corpora, in which "the protective membrane of the texts will decompose and they will once more become open texts as in the Middle Ages with all the standard concomitant presuppositions." The digital practices of creating new texts out of old ones complicate the copyrighted claims to authorship or "membrane" in ways that anonymous medieval fable writers, commentators, and glossators would have considered necessary for their own textual production or classroom pedagogy. As Kathleen Fitzpatrick has recently suggested, the characterization of scholarly work as remixing might shift us "away from a sole focus on the production of unique, original new arguments and texts to consider instead curation as a valid form of scholarly activity, in which the work of authorship lies in the imaginative bringing together of multiple threads of discourse that originate elsewhere." Refashioning the production of knowledge as a form of "curation" would acknowledge the creative appropriations that scholars and teachers already tacitly embrace, effectively making transparent their conversion of old texts into new ones.
The expansion and canonization of Aesopic fables would have been impossible without the capacity to selectively remix textual corpora. And in at least one sense, "mixing" and "appropriation" have always been central values of fable writing and reading. Take for example the opening lines of the prologue to the elegiac Romulus, which employs horticultural language to express the ways in which fables are composed and then used by their readers:
Ut iuvet et prosit conatur pagina presens:
dulcius arrident seria picta iocis.
Ortulus iste parit fructum cum flore, favorem
flos et fructus emunt: hic sapit, ille nitet.
Si fructus plus flore placet, fructum lege, si flos
plus fructu, florem, si duo, carpe duo. (1-6)
[This present work ventures to be pleasurable and useful; serious things are more alluring when they are embellished with sport. This garden brings forth fruit with flowers. The flower and the fruit win favor, the one by its flavor and the other by its beauty. If the fruit pleases you more than the flower, steal the fruit; if the flower more than the fruit, steal the flower; if both, take both].
This fable writer characterizes this enterprise as one that mixes the serious with the playful, and more precisely the serious "embellished" by the playful. The word used here is picta, which would normally refer to something "painted," implying that the sport inherent in fable telling serves as a veneer for what lies underneath. Yet, the fruit (the serious message) is not privileged over the flower (the aesthetic attributes of the fables). Instead, the fabulist uses the aggressive verbs lege (steal) and carpe (take) to explain what readers might do to the fable text, taking either the fruit or the flower, or both. While we might expect that readers would select particular aspects of a text to take away, the writer perceives his material as an open source, in which "both" or "all" may be taken.
One reader who embraced this fable thievery was the fifteenth-century Scottish schoolmaster Robert Henryson, who composed one of the earliest and most influential fable collections in English known as the Morall Fabillis. In his own version of the Romulan prologue, Henryson offers the following line, translated almost directly from his source: "And clerkis sayis, it is richt profitabill / Amangis ernist to ming ane merie sport" (20-1). By claiming that he learned this mantra from "clerkis," he characterizes the elegiac Romulus as a collection collaboratively compiled by a number of unnamed authorities. Perhaps more interestingly, he alters the relationship between "sport" and "ernist" ["serious things"] slightly, moving away from the Latin "seria picta iocis," or “sport painted upon serious matter,” towards a more balanced "mix," the result of Henryson's "to ming." He appears to endorse appropriation and remixing as characteristics of fable writing, but his next use of "ming" a few lines later is accompanied by a direct citation of a singular authority (26-8). The naming of Aesop reflects a growing tension between the diversity of Henryson's source material, the compilers and commentators who contributed to the elegiac Romulus, and the location of authority in a single author. On the one hand, it was conventional to cite Aesop as the origin for fables, but on the other, Henryson had just attributed the sentiment of "serious things mixed with sport" to anonymous "clerkis." This is a contradiction, but if we read on, contradiction is not the only problem: Henryson offers three different versions of this line within the space of ten lines. In the first instance, he offers a fairly faithful rendering of the aphorism, making just one significant substitution: rather than translate dulcius as "sweeter" or "more alluring," he selects “richt profitabill,” which privileges the moral profit of the fables over their aesthetic delights. The second version, however, offers a more qualified perspective than the first: rather than suggest that any kind of frivolity may be mixed with serious things, he revises it slightly, saying “With sad materis sum merines to ming.” As if he is dissatisfied with either translation, his third version is the original Latin line itself. While this kind of translation and citation might seem repetitive and contradictory, this redundancy reflects the redundant nature of many fable collections, which offered multiple versions of the same fable in the same manuscript. Henryson may have been influenced by his immersion in this pedagogical tradition, but it is also important to note that his three renderings of the line cleverly mimics the three levels of appropriation encouraged by the Romulan prologue: stealing one, seizing another, and then taking the whole thing. Understood this way, Henryson steals the fruit, seizes the flower, and then, having decided he wants them both, he takes both, offering his own remix of the Aesopic mantra.
This anachronistic application of remix culture should encourage us to reconsider our own perceptions of scholarly originality, ownership, and even the very nature of critique. On the practical level, we might support the efforts to taxonomize digital remix culture or develop responsible reforms to copyright law. Yet, I believe that any resistance to copyright restrictions must be accompanied by changes in intellectual dispositions, away from myths of individuality and genius, and toward good faith collaboration and appropriation. That is, research would acknowledge its roots in the rich work it draws from, and then disseminate that research publicly through creative commons licensed work, open-access journals, wikis, and blogs. This reorientation toward our work as an assemblage would necessarily lead to revisions in our approach to critique as a destructive process of unveiling what had previously been obscured. As an alternative, Bruno Latour offers a disposition he calls "compositionism": "a reuse of critique; not an even more critical critique but rather critique acquired secondhand – so to speak – and put to a different use." Jamie "Skye" Bianco takes Latour's compositionism a step further by asking, "what might happen if this critical impulse, described as "reuse" (remix) and "secondhand" (mashup), operated not through creative destruction but creative construction, or . . . composing creative critique?" As I hope I have expressed here, I do not merely believe this "might happen." The production of the Aesopic corpus during the Middle Ages depended upon its status as an open resource, in which writers and readers intimately interacted, actively revising and expanding fable collections, blurring the boundaries between the text and its critics.
 Léopold Hervieux, ed., Les Fabulistes Latins depuis le siècle d'Auguste jusqu'à la fin du moyen âge (New York: Burt Franklin, 1960), 1:472-684 and 2:602-31; Gerd Dicke and Klaus Grubmüller, Die Fabeln des Mittelalters und der Frühen Neuzeit: Ein Katalog der deutschen Versionen und ihrer latenischen Entsprechungen (Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 1987), lxvi-lxviii; Edward Wheatley, Mastering Aesop: Medieval Education, Chaucer, and His Followers (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000), 3.
 Raffaele Simone, "The Body of the Text" in The Future of the Book, ed. Geoffrey Nunberg (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), 239-51, at 249.
 Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy (New York: New York University Press, 2011), 79.
 My quotations from the Morall Fabillis are from The Poems of Robert Henryson, ed. Denton Fox (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981).
 For example, one fourteenth-century Austrian manuscript, Codex Vindobonensis Palatinus 303, is a veritable cornucopia of Aesopica, containing five different collections (and one solitary fable). Even one set, known as the prose Romulus, appears twice. The first time the prose Romulus fables appear, they appear as prefaces to the elegiac Romulus. Given their appearance later in the manuscript, it is likely that these prefaces were written by students to demonstrate their knowledge of the fable tradition, including the variations of each fable.
 If we move beyond Henryson's prologue, we find that he applies this practice of remixing to texts beyond the fable tradition. As Jill Mann has recently argued, Henryson is not content simply to rewrite Aesopic mainstays. Rather he merges the fable genre with another animal corpus that centers on the exploits of one Reynard the fox, the Roman de Renart. See Jill Mann, From Aesop to Reynard: Beast Literature in Medieval Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 262-305.
 Lawrence Lessig, Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy (New York: Penguin, 2005).
 Bruno Latour, "An Attempt at a 'Compositionist Manifesto,'" New Literary History 41.3 (Summer 2010): 471-90, at 474.
 Jamie "Skye" Bianco, "The Digital Humanities Which Is Not One," in Debates in the Digital Humanities, ed. Matthew K. Gold (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012), 96-112, at 107.