"Enlightened Anonymity"
William Warner
UC/ Santa Barbara
Professor Warner is author of Licensing Entertainment: the Elevation of the Novel in England, 1684-1750
In comparing 18th century public culture and contemporary public culture, nothing is more striking that our epoch's reticence about publishing anonymously, our slavish obedience to the dreary requirement that we take "responsibility" for what we write by signing our name to it. By contrast, the public intellectuals of the Enlightenment understood that anonymous publication often enhances the performative invention and generic variety, the truthfulness and wit of public culture. In this short presentation, I will explore some celebrated instances of Enlightenment anonymity, and ask questions about the possibilities for practicing enlightened anonymity in our own day. For example, what sort of on-line user interface would make enlightened anonymity both possible and consequential?