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The Anonymous Renaissance: Cultures of Discretion in Tudor-Stuart England Hardcover – May 15, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0226594378 ISBN-10: 0226594378 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"The Anonymous Renaissance offers a paradigm-shifting look at print culture in early modern England. North demonstrates through sound historical discussions and readings that anonymity was one of the defining practices of Renaissance authorship. It is difficult to overstate the originality and importance of this new study."-Jennifer Summit, Stanford University

The Renaissance was in many ways the beginning of modern and self-conscious authorship, a time when individual genius was celebrated and an author's name could become a book trade commodity. Why, then, did anonymous authorship flourish during the Renaissance rather than disappear? In addressing this puzzle, Marcy L. North reveals the rich history and popularity of anonymity during this period.

The book trade, she argues, created many intriguing and paradoxical uses for anonymity, even as the authorial name became more marketable. Among ecclesiastical debaters, for instance, anonymity worked to conceal identity, but it could also be used to identify the moral character of the author being concealed. In court and coterie circles, meanwhile, authors turned name suppression into a tool for the preservation of social boundaries. Finally, in both print and manuscript, anonymity promised to liberate an authentic female voice, and yet made it impossible to authenticate the gender of an author. In sum, the writers and book producers who helped to create England's literary culture viewed anonymity as a meaningful and useful practice.

Written with clarity and grace, The Anonymous Renaissance will fill a prominent gap in the study of authorship and English literary history.

About the Author

Marcy L. North is an assistant professor of English at Florida State University.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (May 15, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226594378
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226594378
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,383,315 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Richard M. Waugaman on June 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Marcy North makes the crucial observation that nature seems to abhor an authorship vacuum. Scholars of the early modern period lose interest in anonymous works. This leads them to correctly attribute, misattribute, or ignore them. "Much anonymous literature from the first two centuries of print has been assigned a conjectural author or forgotten... [A]nonymous texts from the period are [falsely viewed as] far inferior to those of known authors" (10-11).

Most early modern plays were published anonymously. As North puts it, "Anonymity's importance as a Renaissance convention... the frequency of its use, and especially its cultural meanings remain critically undervalued... Few early modern authors avoided anonymity entirely" (3). More than 800 authors from 1475-1640 are known to have published anonymously, in addition to all the pseudonymous and not yet identified works. North observes that even when an author's name is printed in a book, that name may still be "a fiction created by the author, that is subject to interpretation and that is unreliable historically" (19). Our understanding of anonymous authorship will never be the same again, after scholars digest and ponder the far-reaching implications of North's thoroughly documented and carefully reasoned book.

North traces early modern anonymous authorship to the medieval tradition out of which it grew. Intellectual history is riddled with misleading false dichotomies. North shows that there was more continuity from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance than some historians have implied.

Readers will search North's book in vain for a simplistic answer to the question of why authors published anonymously or used pseudonyms. Instead, North offers a wealth of often overlapping motivations.
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