Date of Award

Spring 2001

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Patricia Sullivan


In keeping with its recognized function of non-identity through the suppression of proper name recognition, anonymity is not recognized as "essential" to nominalist consciousness or to intersubjective action through language. The founding philosophical discourses of identity, authority, and community reveal an "anonymous function"---a transgressive discourse of impersonation, authenticity, and immunity---which this dissertation traces in phenomenology, discourse theory, poetics, rhetoric, and composition.

The first two chapters draw from phenomenology (Schutz and Natanson), and discourse theory (Foucault), to propose a theory of anonymity as integral to any understanding of personal identity across the entire performative range of self/other orientations. Chapter three draws on literary theory and history (Forster, Foucault, and Docherty) to propose a history of anonymity that reverses the dominant position accorded to authority and the author-function. Three ancient texts---The Book of Genesis; the Epic of Gilgamesh; and The Odyssey---demonstrate the "anonymous function." Chapter four adapts Blanchot and Bakhtin to suggest a rhetoric of anonymity in which audience and community function anonymously. "Contact zone" theory and practice (Pratt, Bizzell, Miller, hooks) is then reviewed and redescribed to propose in chapter five a pedagogy of anonymity---one devoted to merging composition-rhetoric's conflicting demands for "structure" and "agency" in student writing. Anonymous composition logically extends the rhetorical mandate of the course evaluation exit document. 20 pieces of anonymous student writing on identity politics are analyzed for functions of impersonation, veracity, and immunity.