Visual Cultures of Secrecy in Early Modern Europe (Early Modern Studies Book 11)
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Their domestic focus meant, of course, that hostile readers accused mercuries of disseminating false news and misinformation, not to mention libelous and treasonous opinions. They were read as satirical whether they were or not. Aulicus will needs venture his soule upon the other halfe sheet, and this week he lies as compleatly as ever he did in two full sheets, full of as many scandalls, and fictions, full of as much stupidity, and ignorance, full of as much tedious untruths as ever; and because he would recrute the reputation of his wit, he falls into the company of our Diurnalls very furiously, and there layes about him in the midst of our weekly Pamphlets, and he casts in the few squibs, and the little wildfire he hath, and there you may finde him raging, and railing, and beating his braines against them, and dashing out his conceits.
In an attack in the same year, Britanicus Vapulans exposes the satire in Mercurius Britanicus , only to characterize it as wit wasted on the ignorant:. Distinguishing the serious from the satirical in mercuries of this period is almost impossible, given the level of partisan politics, fault-finding, invective, and sheer imitation in this subgenre. Mercurius Britanicus 29 [March 25—April 1, ], p.
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This confusion of mercuries generated a new awareness of authorship. Although mercuries remained strictly anonymous, their titles were personified into colorful authorial figures, each eager to complain about the confusion of mercuries around him. Aulicus and Britanicus address each other as distinct individuals and portray themselves as such.
One could say that Britanicus , in fact, is partly responsible for creating the character of Aulicus within their debate, transforming the news reporter into an author.
The Mercurius titles thus functioned as satirical pseudonyms, distinguishing personalities and political affiliations but also unifying these works in an ongoing political debate. As Britanicus recognized, those eager to join the debate found the generic label Mercurius and the even more specific Britanicus easy to mimic. The conventional anonymity of news writing still functions in this environment as a counterpoint.
The more satirical a mercury narrator became and the more his title functioned as a pseudonym, the more likely it was that he would be associated with biased rather than with informative news. In this climate, news authors had to negotiate between the popularity of satirical rhetoric and the very real market for information.
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Mercuries claiming to have more accurate news appeared regularly, only to further crowd the bookstalls. Indeed, its tone is less satirical and the news items are more prominent than in other mercuries, although its truth claims may be exaggerated. Much sifting was left to the readers, who, like Mercurius Aulicus in his snide examination of Mercurius Britanicus , embraced the challenge of parsing opinion and information.
Looking back at the spectrum of satirical authorship in late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century England, anonymity appears not so much to hide or reveal authors but to connect work to work, thus demonstrating how even ephemeral pamphlets participated both in very topical debates and larger transhistorical literary conversations. The intent of this article was not to pigeonhole anonymity as a formal rhetorical trope or a type of literary persona, but rather to define it as a dynamic practice.
This balance is more likely to be achieved when the focus of analysis is not simply on the author behind the text, but also on the ways anonymity was employed, interpreted, borrowed, and transformed by collectors, publishers, readers, and censors, among others. What satires teach us about early modern anonymity more generally is that it was rarely if ever just a bibliographic characteristic of a text. But what pseudonyms do explicitly, anonymity regularly does implicitly. The functionality of even the most inconspicuous instances of anonymity is often enabled and rendered interpretable by some combination of immediate crisis and familiar tradition.
Given the many rich readings that anonymous texts offer to scholars of early modern culture, it is baffling that such works receive only a fraction of the critical attention afforded to attributed texts. The study of early modern English literature is still organized primarily around authors and their careers, even though historicist, book-historical, and feminist scholarship has expanded the canon considerably and legitimated less author-centered investigations such as the study of readership and collaboration, investigations of early print and manuscript culture, and the recovery of female-authored literature.
So is the very practice of anonymous publication and authorship. We may be missing key contexts for the study of canonical and noncanonical authors because we cannot sufficiently recover the experience of reading their works anonymously. The book remains a call for critics to reexamine the modern fixation with attribution and to reimagine, to the extent possible, a more anonymous literary culture.
As this article has demonstrated, the uses and interpretations of anonymity are often historically and generically specific, even when they borrow traditions from the past. This fact makes it challenging for scholars to produce broad studies of anonymity that cross periods or span geographic areas. Faces of Anonymity: Anonymous and Pseudonymous Publications from the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Century includes articles from different periods of English literary history with a particular focus on the Restoration and eighteenth century.
Early Modern Studies, Sixteenth Century Essays & Studies, Peter Martyr Library
Laird, Leah Price, and James Raven qualify the myth of the modest and repressed female author, lament the pigeonhole in which authorship studies often leave women writers, and initiate a critically important conversation about how anonymity studies might illuminate women writers and the conditions of their writing. There are a surprising number of other edited collections, several of which focus on continental literature.
What these recent collections suggest is that interest in literary anonymity as a subject is growing, and future research could serve the field well by comparing the anonymity from various periods and literatures. The study of anonymity may require scholars to balance historical and cultural specificity with an awareness of shared traditions and uses, but studies that do so will earn anonymity a place in broader research fields such as the history of the book and the history of the author. Halkett and J.
Hugh Craig and Arthur F. Kinney, eds. David Gerard, ed. For a counterargument, see Steven W. Eric Vivier also illustrates how shared rhetoric, mocking, and mimicry connect texts in satirical conversations. See also Newcomb, Reading Popular Romance , 47— Robert J. The stinginess of patrons, the failure of the patronage system, and the sycophantic language of desperate patronage seekers is parodied in these and other facetious dedications. See also Raymond, Invention of the Newspaper , 7, for the censorship of domestic news. Thomas Scott was later credited with the translation.
See also Raymond, Invention of the Newspaper , — Robert DeMario et al.
Visual Culture in Early Modernity
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Sign in with your library card. Search within Satirical Anonymity and the Pseudonymous Author The conspicuous anonymity of much early modern satire has been readily acknowledged in focused studies of particular authors and controversies, but it remains understudied as a tradition in itself.
News Satires and the Anonymous Reporter The seventeenth century saw the slow development of an industry devoted to news collection and dissemination and the eventual institutionalization of news periodicals in the mid- to late seventeenth century. A3 In detailing the cultural products of this unnamed land, B.
T1] In an attack in the same year, Britanicus Vapulans exposes the satire in Mercurius Britanicus , only to characterize it as wit wasted on the ignorant: … your squibs do so flye about the streets here in London, and your wit-crackers so amuse the poore boyes and women when they are at leasure to forsake the Ballad-singer and heare you, that truly my Lord Maiors show or a Bone-fire is not more admired. Britanicus Vapulans, , p. Ff1] This confusion of mercuries generated a new awareness of authorship.
Directions in the Study of Anonymity Given the many rich readings that anonymous texts offer to scholars of early modern culture, it is baffling that such works receive only a fraction of the critical attention afforded to attributed texts. Notes: 1 Andrew Bennet, in The Author Abingdon and New York: Routledge, , offers an excellent survey of modern theories and histories of authorship. Marcy L.
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