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date: 03 March 2021

Anonymitylocked

  • Robert J. GriffinRobert J. GriffinTexas A&M University, Department of English

Summary

Anonymity is defined as the absence of the author’s name on a title page, or in any other paratext of a publication such as a preface or dedication or manuscript colophon; pseudonymity is included because it presents a false name to the reader while concealing the author’s name. A theory of anonymity establishes the general conditions of possibility for anonymous authorship, and thus has a different object than a literary history that describes the variable causes of anonymity: the decisions of authors, editors, or publishers, or the fact that the author was either originally unknown or has come to be unknown over time. In the most general sense, the conditions of anonymity are inherent in language itself, and especially so in writing; the writer is separated from the written. While writers have always exploited this knowledge in practice, the fullest theory of the anonymity of language was developed extensively by the linguists, critics, philosophers, and historians of culture associated with structuralism and poststructuralism in mid-twentieth century France. While the concerns of the problematic of enunciation—who is speaking, and from what place?—were central to this group of thinkers, and are indeed familiar under the headings of the critique of the cogito and the relation between writing and death, it is less widely recognized that an explicit theory of anonymity as a condition of speech and writing was constructed in the movement that can be traced economically from Benveniste to Barthes, and then to Derrida and Foucault.

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