Anonymity, Corporate Authority And The Archive: The Production Of Authorship In Late-Victorian England

Rachel Sagner Buurma , '99, Swarthmore College


This essay considers the persistence of collective and corporate models of literary authority within late-Victorian literature and print culture. While modern critics often understand Victorian authorship to be individually centered and governed by a dynamic of secrecy and disclosure, the periodical debates about anonymity that intensified in the fin de siècle suggest that Victorian readers and writers embraced a more flexible, collective notion of authorship. The plot, language, and paratext of Mary Elizabeth Hawker's pseudonymously published Mademoiselle Ixe, as well as the author-publisher correspondence concerning the novel, offer a representation of the corporate and collective interpretive modes that would have been familiar to late-Victorian readers, if not to recent critics. Hawker's text and the archival material it brings to light also suggest that modern readers might productively turn to the Victorian past to expand the definitions of authorship that circulate throughout nineteenth-century scholarship today.