Matthew H. Birkhold received his B.A. in German Literature and Cultural History from Columbia University in 2008. As a dual-degree candidate at Columbia Law School and Princeton University, Matthew completed his first year of law school before joining the German Department in 2009 as the recipient of the Perkins Prize and the Blumenthal Fellowship. He has received a Fulbright Grant to Germany (AY 2013-14), where he will be a visiting scholar at the Institut für deutsche Literatur while continuing his legal training at the Juristische Fakultät of Humboldt-Universität.
Currently, Matthew is writing a dissertation on adaptation rights and intellectual property, prospectively titled "Borrowing Werther: The Rise and Regulation of Fan Fiction in 18th-century Germany." Through an examination of the interdiscursive exchange between jurisprudence and late 18th-century aesthetic theories about authorship, creativity, and copying, the dissertation explores authors' attitudes toward literary borrowing and the legal, literary, and customary tools they used to exert control over their texts. By examining the norms that governed the production and consumption of fan fiction, the dissertation endeavors to shed new light on proprietary interests in literary characters and how these interests influenced intellectual property and literature around 1800, thus offering new insight into historical reading and writing practices involving derivative works and the legal problems they raise today.
In addition to German literature, Matthew’s interests include: intellectual property; art, media, and cultural property law; law and literature; history of the book; psychoanalysis; indigenous peoples and the law; international law; digital humanities; Russian literature.
Matthew has published articles on Prussian jurisprudence in the works of Heinrich von Kleist, Freud and child pornography law, international cultural patrimony, US legal history, and Native American law. In a forthcoming article, Matthew uses reader-response theory to shed new light on secrecy law and the CIA's collaboration with filmmakers.
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