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Male use of a female pseudonym in nineteenth-century British and American literature

Hannah, Heather (2018) Male use of a female pseudonym in nineteenth-century British and American literature. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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During the nineteenth century, male writers in Britain and the United States of America used female pseudonyms much more frequently than is recognised today. The historically accepted understanding is that nineteenth-century women, not men, used cross-gender pseudonyms, a viewpoint commonly justified on the basis of presumed gender discrimination. However, previous historians and scholars have written very little about the male use of the female pseudonym in men’s authorship of literary genres.

Drawing on theories of masculinity and its construction in specific historical contexts, my thesis shows why, between 1800 and 1919, increasing numbers of male writers in Britain and America authored texts under female pseudonyms, categorised by the genres of romantic fiction, juvenile literature, periodical contributions, and poetry. Histories of masculinity offer a context in which to consider how the cultural power of gendered expectations helps make sense of the male use of the female pseudonym. The insight – that male use of the female pseudonym is symptomatic of the limiting strictures of conventionally gendered boundaries in the social, professional and domestic realms – informs my thesis. Furthermore, this understanding enriches my appraisal of the more widely documented female use of the male pseudonym and enables my thorough comparison with male use of the female pseudonym.

My thesis presents the first substantive catalogue and survey collating the particulars of men (forty-nine from Britain and forty-one from America) who used a female pseudonym in the nineteenth century. The thesis organises the motives that underpin the male writers’ practice of using a female pseudonym into three broad categories: personal, ideological, and commercial. It teases out these categories into numerous specific motives in order to describe, interpret, and evaluate the complexities of individual cases. Furthermore, it offers a nuanced analysis of the gendered coding of writing practices during the period, and overturns the standard narrative that the use of cross-gender pseudonyms during the nineteenth century was largely the preserve of women.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Arts
Supervisor(s): Webster, Andrew and Surma, Anne
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