This article explores the connection between modernismo, a literary movement that relied heavily on imitation and intertextuality, and accusations of plagiarism, copying, and appropriation. It contextualizes the analysis within a nineteenth-century legal moment in which intellectual property protections were just beginning to take hold at the international level. It examines claims of authorship in the absence of meaningful intellectual property legislation, and in an asymmetrical context in which European authors were widely reprinted and read in Latin America but Latin American authors were barely read in Europe. And it considers performances of plagiarizing and of being plagiarized—that is, the unease expressed by one who suspects his work has been copied. Specifically, the article analyzes an accusatory epistolary exchange between Enrique Gómez Carrillo and Manuel Díaz Rodríguez; the novel El hombre de hierro (The Iron Man; 1907) by Rufino Blanco Fombona, which was interpreted as a copy of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary but justified by its local character; and the very curious case of Rafael Bolívar Coronado, whose writing implodes the category of authorship that underlies intellectual property legislation. Taken together, the three cases demonstrate the development of the notions of authorship and plagiarism in Venezuelan literature at the turn of the century.

You do not currently have access to this content.