Friday, 30 March 2007

Epistolary Literature, Blog and Questions of Identity


Peter writes ...

“In the space of a few hours I had been through a host of situations which the longest life can scarcely provide in its whole course. I had heard the genuine language of the passions; I had seen the secret springs of self-interest and self-love operating in a hundred different ways: I had become privy to a multitude of incidents and I felt I had gained in experience.”

This quote relates not to the internet in general nor to social computing or blogs in particular, but is from the 18th Century French Philosopher Denis Diderot. It is cited in the introduction to the 'In Our Time' presentation of epistolary literature. As Melvyn Bragg and his guests reveal, at the dawn of the age of the novel, authors sometimes felt it important to conceal or manipulate their identity.

Even today, if you think about it, you can be sure of the authorship of very few of the books that surround you in a bookstore. For more, see 'Pen name'; a Wikipedia article written, of course, by persons unknown.

3 comments:

Lei said...

Coincidentally, I was listening to downloaded "In our time" podcast this afternoon. Assumably, most writers use "pen name" to enjoy their 'freedom of speech' and continue living in normal life. Can this be linked to anonymous contribution on wikipedia in some way? Hmm...if possible, I wonder whether I will choose to write my dissertation in anonym?

Peter said...

If you are a fan of 'In Our Time', then you are probably already cleverer than your PhD examiners!

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