"Anonymity and the Public Sphere."


Robert Griffin


    The large question is: why is it that very few literary works are published anonymously today, whereas most novels for example were published anonymously in the middle of the 19th century?  Foucault's answer is copyright, but that doesn't compute, since the copyright law in England was passed in 1710 and Jane Austen  published all of her novels anonymously over a hundred years later.  


    My answer is that we have to look at society as a whole, not just the laws that govern printed matter.  Thus I tie the ebbing of anonymity into a more general liberalization of society, and within that to the emergence of a relatively autonomous literary field in the mid-19th century.  This thesis is set up and framed by taking up Michael Warner and Nancy Fraser's criticisms of Habermas on the public sphere, which are that anonymity, an enabler of equality for Habermas, denies the female and queer body and that not everyone has access to its supposed virtues.  I do not discount these views.  I simply point to the larger context, the way anonymity is still used in our society for protection from retaliaton in the press, in the courts, in whistleblowing situations, etc.