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Everywhere and Nowhere

Anonymity and Mediation in Eighteenth-Century Britain

2018
Author:

Mark Vareschi

Everywhere and Nowhere

A fascinating analysis of anonymous publication centuries before the digital age

Everywhere and Nowhere considers the ubiquity of anonymity and mediation in the publication and circulation of eighteenth-century British literature—before the Romantic creation of the “author”—and what this means for literary criticism. Drawing on quantitative analysis and robust archival work, it reveals the long history of print anonymity so central to the risks and benefits of the digital culture.

Literary critics, asked to summarize their research, are often asked, ‘Who are your authors?’ Everywhere and Nowhere cleverly baffles this question and turns our attention to anonymity. Bracketing out the author, Mark Vareschi brings into sight other features of publication: namely, networks of writing and reception and a complex of print and performance. He works impressively with bibliographic records, booksellers’ catalogs, advertisements, and paratextual material, like tables of contents. His careful bibliometric work establishes changing percentages of anonymous publication across decades and genres. This is fresh, compelling, detail-rich scholarship and essential reading.

Brad Pasanek, author of Metaphors of Mind: An Eighteenth-Century Dictionary

Everywhere and Nowhere considers the ubiquity of anonymity and mediation in the publication and circulation of eighteenth-century British literature—before the Romantic creation of the “author”—and what this means for literary criticism. Anonymous authorship was typical of the time, yet literary scholars and historians have been generally unable to account for it as anything more than a footnote or curiosity.

Mark Vareschi shows the entangled relationship between mediation and anonymity, revealing the nonhuman agency of the printed text. Drawing richly on quantitative analysis and robust archival work, Vareschi brings together philosophy, literary theory, and media theory in a trenchant analysis, uncovering a history of textual engagement and interpretation that does not hinge on the known authorial subject.

In discussing anonymous poetry, drama, and the novel along with anonymously published writers such as Daniel Defoe, Frances Burney, and Walter Scott, he unveils a theory of mediation that renews broader questions about agency and intention. Vareschi argues that textual intentionality is a property of nonhuman, material media rather than human subjects alone, allowing the anonymous literature of the eighteenth century to speak to contemporary questions of meaning in the philosophy of language. Vareschi closes by exploring dubious claims about the death of anonymity and the reexplosion of anonymity with the coming of the digital. Ultimately, Everywhere and Nowhere reveals the long history of print anonymity so central to the risks and benefits of the digital culture.

Everywhere and Nowhere

Mark Vareschi is assistant professor of English at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Everywhere and Nowhere

Literary critics, asked to summarize their research, are often asked, ‘Who are your authors?’ Everywhere and Nowhere cleverly baffles this question and turns our attention to anonymity. Bracketing out the author, Mark Vareschi brings into sight other features of publication: namely, networks of writing and reception and a complex of print and performance. He works impressively with bibliographic records, booksellers’ catalogs, advertisements, and paratextual material, like tables of contents. His careful bibliometric work establishes changing percentages of anonymous publication across decades and genres. This is fresh, compelling, detail-rich scholarship and essential reading.

Brad Pasanek, author of Metaphors of Mind: An Eighteenth-Century Dictionary

Everywhere and Nowhere is that rare thing: a genuinely interdisciplinary study, capacious and illuminating, of how anonymous authorship impacts meaning across genres and media. In Mark Vareschi’s hands, anonymity is transformed into a lens for reexamining the most fundamental literary concepts (authorship and intention, medium, textuality) and renovating them—not just in the domain of print, but across the rich media ecologies of the eighteenth century.

Michael Gamer, University of Pennsylvania

Everywhere and Nowhere

Introduction: Everywhere and Nowhere
1. Anonymous as Author
2. “Acting Plays” and “Reading Plays”: Intermediation and Anonymity
3. Attribution, Circulation, and “Defoe”
4. Motive, Intention, Anonymity
Epilogue: Anonymity and Media Shift
Acknowledgments
Appendix
Notes
Index