Title

'Initiators of Discursive Practices': Authorship, attribution, and intent in the debates between philosophes and anti-philosophes

Publication Date

2012

Journal

French Forum

Volume

37

Issue

4

First Page

15

Last Page

30

Abstract

This article focuses on the “social side” of pseudonymity—on how writers and readers compete to influence the critical destiny of a pseudonymous work. By analyzing pseudonymity and attribution in both the specific context of Voltaire’s 1760 staging of the play, Le café ou l’écossaise, and in larger debates in the emerging fields of anonymity, pseudonymity, and attribution studies, I hope to show how literary scholars at present can address the individuality of each pseudonymous case while not letting go of trans-historical, general problems of anonymous strategies.

Voltaire’s use of multiple pseudonyms before and after releasing L’Ecossaise, a comédie sérieuse in which Voltaire attacks his enemy Elie-Cathérine Fréron, supports his philosophe friends at a crucial moment in history, and exemplifies his emerging taste for serious comedy and British drama calls into question traditional takes on pseudonymity, anonymity, and attribution by refusing to fit into the binary arguments of anonymous vs. attributed and authorial intent vs. the reader’s control.

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