ACLA 2015 Seminar: Pleasures and Dangers of Disguise: Heteronyms and Pseudonyms in Art and Literature (Seattle, 3/26-3/29)

full name / name of organization: 
Christine Marks, LaGuardia Community College, City University of New York
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Heteronyms and pseudonyms highlight the gaps between authorship and personal identity. Kierkegaard's imaginary personas, nineteenth-century British women writer's male pseudonyms, and Fernando Pessoa's literary alter egos are just a few prominent examples that illustrate the ways in which a work's reception is shaped by the creative mask through which it is published. The impact of such creative identities has recently been spotlighted in two events: During this year's Whitney Biennial, the Yams, a collective of black artists, withdrew their work in protest of the museum's inclusion of Joe Scanlan's Donnelle Woolford project. Scanlan, a white male artist, has displayed his artwork under the heteronym of the fictional black artist Donnelle Woolford—a persona at times performed by several black actresses. Preceding this event by two months was the author Siri Hustvedt's novel The Blazing World (March 2014), which features a middle-aged white female artist whose work only becomes acknowledged after she decides to publish it through three different male alter egos. This seminar takes these two recent examples as an occasion to rethink the implications of the use of heteronyms and pseudonyms in art and literature—especially in terms of gender and race. How does the creation of alter egos affect the relationship between artist/author and observer/reader? What are possibilities for and limitations of collaboration, containments or releases of agency? Historically, what roles have hoaxes, fakes, avatars, impersonations, or masks played in the creation of art and literature? In what ways have perceptions of heteronymity and pseudonymity changed over time?
Please submit abstracts by October 14 at