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date: 16 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

Most eighteenth-century texts appeared without the author’s proper name on the title page. This absence could signal a writer’s modesty or scurrility, or the absence could result from various forms of suppression that modern attribution studies have done much to reverse. However, anonymity and pseudonymity were also deliberate gestures prompting readers to distance authorship from biography or to differentiate fiction as a conceptual category from truth and lies. Authors including Alexander Pope, Daniel Defoe, and Frances Burney purposefully omitted their names to complicate textual ownership and copyright, manipulate market conditions, or pursue ethical questions. Famous authors like Samuel Johnson and Laurence Sterne made open secrets of their anonymity, collapsing the apparent need to sign a name to make a name. When the authorial name becomes a counter rather than the simple solution to a puzzle, even signing a proper name—“onymity”—is revealed as a strategic authorial subject position.

Keywords: anonymity, pseudonym, proper name, onymity, attribution, copyright, open secret, authorial name, authorship

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