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News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Lodovica Braida, Anonymity in Eighteenth-Century Italian Publishing. The Absent Author, Palgrave-Macmillan, 2022

This book focuses on the different forms in which authorship came to be expressed in eighteenth-century Italian publishing. It analyses both the affirmation of the “author function”, and, above all, its paradoxical opposite: the use of anonymity, a centuries-old practice present everywhere in Europe but often neglected by scholarship. The reasons why authors chose to publish their works anonymously were manifold, including prudence, fear of censorship, modesty, fear of personal criticism, or simple divertissement. In many cases, it was an ethical choice, especially for ecclesiastics. The Italian case provides a key perspective on the study of anonymity in the European context, contributing to the analysis of an overlooked topic in academic studies.

The introduction focuses on the aim of the book: to analyse the development of the “author function” (defined as such by Michel Foucault in 1969) in Italian states during the eighteenth century, and, above all, its paradoxical opposite: the choice made by many authors to publish their works anonymously. This absence of the author’s name has its own historical, social and cultural relevance. However, despite the importance of this issue, there are still no studies on the Italian case. There are various reasons why authors chose to publish their works anonymously: the political and religious context in which a work is published, the personal needs of the author or the genre of the work. In this perspective, it is fundamental to study anonymity and the affirmation of authorship as two faces of the same coin, not only because the two possibilities coexist before and after the affirmation of copyright, but also because the same author may choose to publish some works using his name on the title page and others anonymously. A socio-cultural perspective allows us to take into account what a literary and author-centred perspective does not allow. It recounts the story of a proliferation of editions controlled neither by the first printer nor by the author, of a mobility of texts, transformed into different editions, sometimes merged with others. And, unlike the idealisation of texts assigned, in literary tradition, to an author, this perspective invites us to take into account the denial of intellectual responsibility. In other words, the silence of the author.

Lodovica Braida is Professor of History of the Book at the University of Milan, Italy. Her work is devoted to the history of written culture and reading practices in early modern Europe, particularly in Italy, in a perspective of sociocultural history that dialogues with bibliography, literary criticism, and intellectual history.

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