Tracking the Anonymous in Godwin's Caleb Williams
This chapter explores the poetics and politics of anonymity in William Godwin's Caleb Williams, a text that strongly contrasts with Rousseau's work and yet elaborates similar concerns for the ideology of personhood and the amplification of feeling through narrative form. Whereas Rousseau's anonymous fantasies temporarily entertain a move into the realm of the imaginary, Godwin develops a political strategy out of the aesthetic abstractions first alluded to in the Reveries, imbibing Rousseau's fugitive experiments into his own singular praxis. It is by turning the concept of anonymity into a full-scale political theory in Caleb Williams that Godwin makes his mark: narrative uncertainties and character unravelings intimate that subjectivity is politically viable because it is easily substituted, mobile, and betrayable.
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