Celebrity and Anonymity

Celebrity Porn and Anonymity

Looking through some mail (I just can’t keep up on listservs anymore) I found some interesting discussion on C-18L. A question was raised by Ellen Moody regarding the dominance of women’s first names being taken as titles for novels, whereas novels named after male characters are usually given as two names— Pamela, Emma, etc., vs. Robinson Crusoe, Joseph Andrews, etc. The rule has many exceptions, such as Moll Flanders, et. al, but it would be easy to argue that for feminine heroines, first names clearly dominate. One idea proposed by Moody is that this was standard because women changed names after marriage, so it was less confusing this way.

However, Olaf Simons countered by asserting that it was not gender specific. Prior to the second decade of the eighteenth century, it was commonplace for heroes and heroines to be named in the “romantik” fashion, with one name only. Simmons argues that the differentiation in names occurred largely because of demands of the marketplace. When authorial identity became a salable commodity, women were as quick as men to establish two names for both themselves, and their characters.

Moody countered with a bit of a challenge, asking that Simons name single-named male characters, but also refined her question to suggest that the use of single names for women reflected their lower status. Elvira Casal provided an interesting twist to the issue, suggesting that single names were more intimate and private, whereas full names were a more public presence. Therefore, the choice of single names reflects the more intimate and private nature of the novels named for female heroines. Interesting stuff— I agree that naming affects the construction of identity.

All this lead to the discovery of Simons’ site, Pierre Marteau’s Publishing House. Named for a fictitious, anonymous Dutch publisher from the eighteenth century, it’s under construction, but full of good stuff. For those interested in anonymity, Margaret Jacobs’ The Clandestine Universe of the Early Eighteenth Century is a great read. I was struck by some interesting parallel behaviors. Remember all the noise about the porn industry as a model for Internet business development a year or so ago? It seems that the porn industry was also instrumental in the early days of the novel:

Pierre Marteau’s earliest French language publications were primarily anti-French and anti-Catholic polemics that could have been written by devout Protestants. Almost simultaneously, the genre of Marteau’s books became experimental, as if the authors were trying to write in the new fictional style we now call the novel.
The precise nature of French corruption and decadence required narrative description: young nuns and Jesuits, readers were told, use dildos to give one another pleasure, although their actual intercourse finally occurs on the dunes near The Hague. The Capuchin monks are said to run a “university of cuckcoldry.” Marteau’s books also particularly targeted the French aristocracy. Illicit love among the great and the noble clearly sold books.

. . . According to the clandestine literature no social group could be as debauched as the Catholic clergy. Sometimes a woman was claimed to be the author of a tell-all account of the passions of Catholic nuns, whether in Portugal or France. In these Marteau books monks appeared as especially evil sorts, and their erections and masturbation with one another — “all the diverse emotions are rendered visible by the erection . . . ” — were recounted with relish for the supposedly naive public.

I was reminded as well of the fact that pornography was also important in the development of photography. In the early days, pornographic pictures of prostitutes sold for more money that the prostitutes themselves. Maybe Internet porn isn’t such an outlandish model after all. But more than that, perhaps how we name ourselves has an impact on how we are perceived as public or private personalities on the Internet.

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