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Re: <nettime> A Puff Piece on Wikipedia (Fwd)
Keith Hart on Fri, 3 Oct 2003 15:28:58 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> A Puff Piece on Wikipedia (Fwd)

I have been intrigued by this thread for the light it throws on the
question of authorial anonymity. I have been reading a book by Christopher
Kelly, Rousseau as Author: consecrating one's life to the truth (Chicago
University Press, 2003), especially the hilarious first chapter,
Responsible and irresponsible authors, with section titles including
Naming names, Anonymity and responsibility, etc. It seems that Locke,
Voltaire, Diderot, Montesquieu, D'Alembert and company were all in the
habit of publishing anonymously. Jean-Jacques, however, chose to put his
name on the title page of everything he published, even to the point of
including it in the title. This, even more than his other well-known
idiosyncrasies, confused and rattled his friends who had decided that it
was too risky to do so in an age of censorship and political persecution.
Rousseau held that his practice of responsible authorship was a central
part of his recipe for citizenship. He felt that writing was a public act
and as such required the author to take personal responsibility for the
consequences and, paradoxically, to exercise discretion about making
personal revelations from which the public were unlikely to benefit. He
did however make sure that he lived in one country France, was a citizen
of another (Geneva), published in a third (Holland) and sometimes
dedicated his volumes from a fourth (Savoy) as a way of mitigating the
consequences of his bravery.

It is interesting to revisit these questions in an age when most authors
would do anything to get their name on the cover.

Keith Hart

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