REVIEWS: Library and Information Science Research
Electronic Journal ISSN 1058-6768
2003 Volume 13 Issue 1; March.
Bi-annual LIBRES13N1 REVIEWS
\
 

REVIEWS

in this issue:

Marett, Paul (2002). Information Law in Practice.
Reviewed by Travis McDade

Steiner, Emily, and Candace Barrington, eds. (2002) The Letter of the Law: Legal Practice and Literary Production in Medieval England.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Malia

Kirjanov, Daria   (2002). Chekhov and the Poetics of Memory.
Reviewed by H. Rorlich

 


Marett, Paul (2002). Information Law in Practice.
2nd ed. Aldershot: Ashgate, 230pp.
ISBN 0-566-08390-6
$89.95.

Information Law in Practice offers a broad overview of the legal side of many of the information fields librarians now routinely encounter. From a largely British perspective, the book touches on censorship, communications, and the various ways copyright is relevant to most discussions of information (e.g., online music, electronic journals, software, etc.). Marett clearly knows what he’s writing about and he communicates his thoughts well to the lay person; chapters are subdivided into short, topical sections that do a good job of getting at their subject both through explanation and example. Unfortunately, I cannot recommend this book without some reservation.

About ten years ago Marett published the precursor to this book, Information Law and Practice (note the slightly different title). This current work - called the second edition - comes after a wide range of changes in information law. Though this version, like the first, is interesting, readable, and useful, it suffers from one overarching flaw: it is too much like the first.

At the end of that first work, Marett included a section that discussed what the future might hold in store. “We have probably reached a point now when we can reasonably forecast, at least in broad outline, the technological developments in the handling of information which will occur in the next few decades.”(1991, p. 264). That might remind readers of the 1899 quote attributed to Charles Duell, then Commissioner of the U.S. Office of Patents: “Everything that can be invented has been invented.” Marett’s 1991 claim that we could in any way forecast the technological developments in the handling of information was made in the nascent stages of email, the internet, cellular technology and global positioning but failed to take any of them into account.

It goes without saying that the way we handle information today (for instance, the way you’re reading this review) was not in any way ‘reasonably forecasted’ ten years ago. Still, that’s the folly of predicting the future and had Marett learned his lesson it would have remained but a minor glitch in an otherwise good book. But he didn’t – that exact sentence appears in this most recent version (p. 203) at a time when pretending that we can make even broad sketches of what the future of information holds for the next decades is preposterous. That flaw (the reliance on the same basic text of the first edition) is the central problem of this book. Though Marett claims in the introduction that he had to “rewrite and rearrange a very substantial part” (p. ix) of the book, it seems that he did too little of either. The rapid expansion of information law these past ten years deserves a fresh take, instead we get a warmed over version of the same stuff.

For instance, the first edition of the book included a section on copyright in socialist countries, specifically the USSR and Czechoslovakia. This edition contains a similar section but without the country subheadings and under the auspices of looking back at what copyright had been. What that means in practice is that the text is just lifted from the first book and given a different title (“Copyright in a Socialist Environment”). That’s too bad because it would have been interesting and valuable for this section to contain a comparison of the law of the antecedents of present day Russia or the Czech Republic with their current law on the subject. But Marett doesn’t do this, so the text just seems like filler.

Another place where this technique gives us short shrift is in Marett’s treatment of American copyright law. In the first edition he does a rather good and complete job on the subject; it was clear then that he had a good handle on American copyright law and how it stood in 1991. Unfortunately, by 2002 things had changed significantly. These changes are mostly left unmentioned and he adds almost nothing to the original section. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act gets two sentences and, almost unbelievably, the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act gets nothing at all.

As might have been guessed from the copyright section, for anyone interested in the American view of information law, this book is not appropriate. Though there have been numerous significant federal cases in the past ten years touching on every major issue Marett deals with, again, none are mentioned here. Still, for readers in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth (including what he calls the “Former Commonwealth”) this is a valuable resource. And even for American readers interested in international law, the similarity in both principle and practical application of laws in the information field make it an interesting read.

That is what makes this book more frustrating still – Marett clearly has a grasp for information law and a fine way of explaining it. Why rehash the same stuff? More importantly, why mention the laws of various countries around the world unless he plans on giving them fair treatment? The danger is that people who recognize this as a good resource for law in the Commonwealth will think the same judgment applies to the book as source for the laws of other countries.

As the law of information becomes inevitably international, books like this one are going to be very important, but only if they can describe the law as it increasingly exists across borders. In 1991 (when there was still a Soviet Union and publication was still largely in physical book form) an information law book about the Commonwealth could be confident that it was being comprehensive. But now the world is getting rapidly smaller and the lines that used to exist in the law – both geographically and between subjects – have become increasingly blurred. If there is an edition to this book in another ten years it had better start from the ground up, and make no claims about predicting the future.


Reference:
Marett (1991), Information Law and Practice, Aldershot: Gower.

Travis McDade
mcdade.10@osu.edu
Reference and Bibliographic Services Librarian
Moritz College of Law
Ohio State University

top

Steiner, Emily, and Candace Barrington, eds. (2002) The Letter of the Law: Legal Practice and Literary Production in Medieval England. Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 2002.

Steiner and Barrington have brought together nine essays on the emerging field of law and literature. Their purpose is clear from the title they have given their volume. In the Medieval period, rationality and practicality throve, even in the face of the phenomenon of courtly love. Legal documents have survived in greater number than prose works or poetry from that era. This is a treasure-trove for researchers. The essays illustrate the various ways that writing developed even through the legalistic terminology of a plethora of conflicting courts. More, they show that the actual writing of documents had a profound effect on how legal matters were conducted. Finally, the essays also trace the beginnings of literary efforts.

The Robin Hood ballads, from which we trace the apocryphal story of the man who stole from the rich to give to the poor, are more than just his story. Christine Chism describes them as barometers of the legal situation under King Edward, as well as the popular opinion of leadership. The ballads reflect the corruption of the system of life as it metamorphosed from feudalism to a more modern form of government. They detail the efforts of the king to centralize power while at the same time being dependent upon the local landowners to enforce his laws. To do this, the king had to pay the landowners, either in more land, titles, privileges, or gold. To get the land or the gold, the peasantry had to pay. Thus was born the legend of a dispossessed landowner as the champion of the peasant class.

Drama is apparent in legal proceedings. This has always been true, from the Greeks onward. In the later Middle Ages, drama moved out of the churches and expanded its repertoire. As Emma Lipton explains, drama was also used to maintain social order. She is concerned with the use of language as a monitor of social behavior. Figures familiar audiences appear, such as a summoner and a bishop, as well as allegorical characters, in an effort to illustrate the trouble a poor choice of words can cause. The actual purpose of trials within plays then is to remind the audience of the social rules they live by. The medieval courts allowed different kinds of proof, including rumor and gossip. No account was made for ulterior motives of accusers and witnesses. Accusations and charges could ensue from the "popular voice," or accepted rumors. Punishment could include trial by ordeal. All of these specifics make for exciting drama. Words chosen for their legal interpretation took on linguistic power and thus dramatic effect.

Other topics covered include the forms common to medieval literature such as the fabliau and frequent use of allegory, the writings of the Lollards in their own defense, and even testimony that was performed as speeches. Clearly shown through these essays is the fact that the literature enhances modern understanding of the medieval courts and legalities as well as providing plot material, motivation for characters, and morals for the general population. Each essay is well documented and clearly written, and all the authors clearly know their era and subject matter well. The last chapter is entitled, "The Generation of 1399," and helps to show how politics will take over literature to some extent as the War of the Roses begins and the legitimacy of various kings becomes almost sport for the masses. While this is a good transitionary chapter in terms of literary history, I would have wished for a conclusion from the authors that addressed the forthcoming changes in literary development and styles. This is a good purchase for an academic library that supports a graduate English program.

Elizabeth Malia, MLS
emalia@ewu.edu
Media Services Manager
Eastern Washington University



top

With apologies to the review author. This book review was inadvertently omitted from the first compilation of the March 2003 issue of LIBRES and has been added on May 14th 2003.

Kirjanov, Daria A.  Chekhov and the Poetics of Memory.  Series: Studies on Themes and Motifs in Literature,Vol. 52.   New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 2000.  ISBN 0-8204-4475-8.  $51.95

 Daria Kirjanov's book addresses the issue of the role played by memory in Chekhov's prose, the elaboration of which fulfills attempts to elucidate how the manifest and latent lead to the restitution of memory.

 The book under review is tangible evidence of such an attempt.  As the author herselfpoints out, "the study investigates the role of memory in Chekhov's prose both on a thematic level and as a medium for structuring the poetic fabric of his texts." [p.1]. Drawing on numerous studies in which literature is perceived as a mnemonic art, par excellence, the author offers a novel approach to the ways in which mnemonic imagination and poetic imagination interact in Chekhov's narrative.

 The monograph comprises four chapters (pp.13-151); an introduction (pp.1-11); a conclusion (pp.155-158); notes (pp.159-180); a bibliography (pp.181-187) and an index (pp.189-193).  Kirjanov argues that although numerous scholarly studies discuss various aspects of Chekhov's poetics, the themes of time and memory have not been a subject of attention.  Kirjanov remarks that the difficulty of studying the complexity of the relationship between the past, the present, and the future in Chekhov's stories, magnified by the relative lack of attention given to the study of time-memory interplay in Chekhov' prose, often resulted in a narrow understanding of memory as a simple act of storing. She also emphasizes that some works allude, in very general terms, "to the role of memory in

Chekhov's temporal structures" [p.5]; thus overemphasizing the role played by "the present" in Chekhov's work.

 As Kirjanov writes in her introduction, this book is an attempt, and it is a successful one, to address "the ethical dimensions of the distinction which Chekhov makes between the poetic function of memory in art and its role in the process of living" [p.11].  As Kirjanov makes clear throughout the book, the main focus is to provide a new perspective on the rules that govern the process of remembering reflected in a number of Chekhov's works, which have been rather carefully selected to illustrate "Chekhov's treatment of memory as a connecting link between reality of spirit and the reality of matter" [p.2].

 

The first chapter, entitled Memory and the Journey, is aptly devoted to the discussion of the connection between memory and the journey.  To support her contention, Kirjanov selected a number of Chekhov's stories, such as "Holy Night, "A Rolling Stone," "The Steppe," "My Life, "The Student," and "In the Cart", which best illustrate the recollective journey" as "movement in time".  The main thrust of Kirjanov's argument is the role played by memory "as a journey of self-discovery", and as a "unifying structural principle in Chekhv's prose" [p.13].

 

 At its core, chapter two entitled, The Recollective Journey in "The Bishop,” offers an extended treatment of Chekhov's story "The Bishop," which Kirjanov considers " a paradigm for Chekhov's poetics of memory" [p.37].  In "The Bishop," the fusion of the past, the present, and the future is used as the organizing principle of the story.  According to Kirjanov, in "The Bishop" memory as a recollective journey becomes the crux of the story.  In this chapter, Kirjanov places more emphasis on refuting the notion of the so-called "spiritual stagnation" and lack of "temporal movement" in Chekhov's prose.  The notion of "zastoi" (stagnation)--rather common in the writings of some of the pre-revolutionary Russian critics and philosophers, among them Zinaida Gippius and Lev Shestov--is rejected by Kirjanov.  She argues that memory in Chekhov's prose is a dynamic element and the passage of time is one of the most tangible manifestations of memory.

 

Chapter three, The Memorability of Place, appears to be the central chapter in the book. Here Kirjanov is especially sensitive to the ways in which memory and time are treated in some of Chekhov's pre 1887 stories, such as "He Forgot," "Green Braid," The Crooked Mirror," "Nerves," and "From the Memoirs of an Idealist."  Although the concepts of "time" and "memory" are only sketched , the characters' perception of past, present, and future begin to enter a new frame of reference.  The interplay between remembering and forgetting on the one hand and time recollection on the other does not produce a semantically significant opposition.  In Chekhov's later stories, such as "Kashtanka," "Verochka," "Lights," "The Black Monk," and "The House with a Mezzanine," the two planes of reality, space and time both participate together in the work of memory.  As  Kirjanov points out, the programmatic unity of objective reality--the present and the subjective associated with the character’s inner life-- is best rendered in "Kashtanka, where "the act of perceiving time and space in a mnemonic state of mind expands the boundaries of the visible world…" [p.65].

 The final chapter, Static and Dynamic Modes of Remembering, brings to the fore issues of Chekhov's characters' inability to grasp the working memory resources expressed in the "dynamic continuity between the past and the present" [p.118]; this inability ultimately leads to mnemonic stagnation.  Stories such as "A Boring Story," "The Story of NN," "At Friends," The Lady with a Lapdog," and "Rotshild's Fiddle" are used by Kirjanov to illustrate this contention.  As Kirjanov makes clear throughout the book, in Chekhov's prose, the memory undoubtedly has an important role to play.  In examining the artistic treatment on memory in Chekhov's stories, Kirjanov makes ample references to a number of works written by noted authors who in one way or another dealt with the very issue of memory.  Among them psychologist, William James, and philosophers, Henri Bergson, Mircea Eliade, and Lev Shestov.

 Throughout Kirjanov's  book there are numerous extended discussions of the interrelationship between past, present and future from both the cognitive and the social perspective, and how "memory" functions both as a trope and as a referential sign.

 As the decipherer of the complexity of the dynamic aspect of remembering as an act of retrieval, Kirjanov's book is a timely and important contribution that should be noted by the students of Russian literature, for it might be a point of departure for further scholarly research where ars memoriae would  be considered in a much larger theoretical and cultural context.  For some reason, a number of rather important sources and monographs are not included in the bibliography; although they are referred in the notes.

 H. Rorlich, Ph.D.
University of Southern California
rorlich@usc.edu

 

top