chapter  1
12 Pages

Anonymity, Dialogue, and the Academy

The history of English literature is replete with authors who hid their names from their audience. Should the twenty-first-century academy also follow in this tradition? Jonathan Swift, for example, published all of his satirical writings without revealing his identity to his audience. In the case of his late masterwork, Gulliver’s Travels, a work-as he wrote in a famous letter to Alexander Pope on September 29, 1725-designed “to vex the world rather than divert it,” Swift went so far as to have an intermediary deliver a sample part of the manuscript to his publisher. Not only was the sample probably transcribed by someone other than Swift, but it was accompanied by a letter from “Richard Sympson,” the purported cousin of Lemuel Gulliver, offering the whole manuscript to the publisher for £200.1 Should contemporary academics follow Swift’s lead and publish all of their critical writings anonymously? Should they even put their name on critical assessments of their colleagues? What role, if any, should anonymity play in the contemporary academy?