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Call for Papers: Anonymity, Un-Originality, Collectivity – Contested Modes of Authorship

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An Interdisciplinary Conference

Confrmed Keynote Speakers:

Tom Geue (University of St Andrews)
Nicholas Thoburn (University of Manchester)

Hosted by the Institute of Advanced Study, University of Warwick, UK.

20 – 21 May 2022

Organised by Leonello BazzurroMelissa PawelskiAlessandra Tafaro, and Leanne Weston

The figure of the author is almost a ‘universal’ category, which, ‘enduring profound social and economic transformations’, can be easily exportable through ages (Netz, 2020: 100). Since classical times, the author’s name has had a canonical force that still exerts its own fascination in contemporary literatures and scholarly debates. Romanticism constructed the author as an ‘original genius’, an exceptional individual who is ‘solely responsible’ for the creation of an ‘unique work’ (Woodmansee, 1984). Conceived as the ‘origin’ of the work, the modern author was subsequently recognized as the private owner of the work. Following American New Criticism, French Structuralism and Post-Structuralism have famously made an array of critiques against the ‘name’ and the ‘function’ of the romantic/modern author. Barthes’ ‘The Death of the Author’ (1968) and Foucault’s ‘What is an Author?’ (1970) question the ‘cult of the author’ and the meaningfulness of the interpretive category of the ‘author’ as such. Since the 1960s, increasing attention has been paid to the written artifact, copying techniques and mechanisms of re-appropriation, and complex webs of intertextualities. Yet nearly all contemporary literatures and arts are constructed around authors’ names, the myth of their originality, and the liberal conception of these authors as private owners of their work. The individual author’s name, biography, personality, and geniality are strongly promoted in the academy, the editorial market, the art and film industry, and the media (for the centrality of the power of authorial names in contemporary debates, see Carla Benedetti, 1999). Furthermore, producers of literature and knowledge (writers, artists, filmmakers, musicians, academics) must adopt strategies of self-promotion or self-branding in order to receive institutional recognition of their own name and work (Lee Wong, 2017).

Recent scholarship has demonstrated how alternative models of authorship may influence critical approaches, modes of production and reception of texts. New critical interests across different disciplines, ranging from Literature, Philosophy, Translation Studies, Poetry and Performance Studies, Visual Culture and Fan Cultures, have addressed the study of anonymous and pseudonymous texts, practices of collaborative and participatory authorship (such as fan fiction), co-authorship, as well as communal and collective modes of ownership of the work in question. These approaches challenge the centrality of authorship in the production, reception, and consumption of texts/works in several ways as well as the contemporary conceptualisations of literary, philosophical, and artistic canons.

The conference will attempt to deconstruct the politics and power dynamics of the author’s name by discussing issues of anonymity, pseudonymity, and ownership across disciplines. It aims to ask what new ways of interpretation may emerge in the absence (whether ‘intentional’ or ‘accidental’, ‘primary’ or ‘secondary’) of a named author and of a secure historical context of textual production and circulation. Furthermore, it aims to investigate how anonymity and pseudonymity influence the readers’ reception. Anonymous and pseudonymous texts have long been at the margins of classical scholarship, but they have recently witnessed a rehabilitation in scholarship (Peirano, 2012; Geue, 2019; Kayachev, 2021; Geue, 2021). Authorial names prove crucial for establishing the literary canon and for the circulation of literature in classical times (Netz, 2020). As recent studies have emphasised, however, anonymous and pseudonymous texts challenge traditional ways of reading classical literature and raise new important methodological and theoretical questions about issues of originality, authenticity, aesthetic value, and the validity of literary canon (Kayachev, 2021).

We also wish to critically reflect on the status of the modern author as the individual owner of their work. As Saint Amour (2011) notes, modern writers became increasingly aware of their role as holders of copyrights and have expressed this issue within their own literary production. However, it is only with the influence ofappropriation practices during the 20th century (in the form of re-mixing, assembling, re-writing, sampling, non-creative writing, creative plagiarism) that the individual author challenges their status as the exclusive creator, and, therefore, the private ownership of their work. The author as ‘remixer’ and an ‘un-original’ genius (Perloff, 2010; Goldsmith, 2011) becomes, instead, an ‘appropriator’ of words/images/sounds made by others. Drawing on post-structuralist philosophy and conceptualist poetry, contemporary critics and writers attempt to reconceive the property regime of the author by proposing an aesthetics and ethics of ‘disappropriation’ (Rivera Garza, 2015). By disappropriating their own property, the author affirms the ‘communal being’ (Thoburn, 2016) and the collective and ‘transindividual’ roots of all literary, artistic, and intellectual creation. Understood as collective and communal property (Ostrom, 2015; López Cuenca, 2014), the work challenges the liberal conception of intellectual property as well as conventional copyrights inscription, commonly known with the phrase ‘all right reserved’ (Vaidhyanathan, 2001). Instead, the ‘copyleft’ work is meant to be Open Access and to circulate freely within the community (Lawrence Lessig, 2004).

Against this theoretically and methodologically diverse background, this interdisciplinary conference aims to bring together thought-provoking and critical presentations addressing the various forms in which the critique of authorship becomes pertinent in scholarly, political, social, cultural, and linguistic debates. We invite abstracts for 20-minute papers from scholars at any career stage, but are particularly interested to hear from postgraduate and early career researchers.

Suggested areas of focus may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Theoretical, philosophical and methodological perspectives on and approaches to authorship and
    diachronic shifts in scholarly debates;
  • The extent to which different forms of authorship may spur new perspectives on the consumption
    of literature, philosophy, and art;
  • ‘Un-original’ practices and examples in literature, visual arts, philosophy, film studies and
    translation studies (creative plagiarism, appropriation techniques, re-mixing, assembling, etc.);
  • Examples of transgressive collective pseudonyms and anonyms in the (post)modern age;
  • The property regime of the author, copyrights versus copyleft debate;
  • Models of collective, multiple, collaborative, distributed and co-authorship;
  • The politics of anonymous and pseudonymous authorship; ‘intentional’ or ‘accidental’, ‘primary’
    or secondary’ anonymity and pseudonymity;
  • Methodological approaches and theoretical perspectives on anonymous texts and
    pseudepigrapha; problems of contextualisation, transmission and reception; questions of
    authenticity, originality and intentionality;
  • Invisibility, betrayal, fidelity, the translator as author;
  • Audience’s responses to different modes of authorship;
  • Authorship in the digital era, contested modes of digital authorship.

Important Information:

This two-day conference will be held in a hybrid format to allow in-person and online attendance. Please express your preferred mode of attendance upon abstract submission.

Submitting your abstract:

  • There is no registration fee
  • Interested participants are requested to submit the following information to authorship2022@gmail.com by 12th March 2022:
    • your name and
      institutional affiliation
    • A title and 300-word abstract
    • A 150-word biographical statement
    • Your preferred mode of attendance (online or in person)
  • Proposals should
    be submitted in the English language.
  • We will inform you by 19th March 2022 whether your proposal has been selected.
  • Please feel free to contact us via email for further information or with any queries at authorship2022@gmail.com