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A multiple-use name is a name used by many different people to protect anonymity. It is a strategy that has been adopted by many unconnected radical and cultural groups, where the construct of personal identity has been criticised.
One of the first multiple-use names was that of Nicolas Bourbaki which first appeared in 1935 and was used by multiple (mainly French) mathematicians to exemplify the collective effort that goes into mathematics.
Other multiple identities in use include Geoffrey Cohen, Monty Cantsin, Luther Blissett, S. Larson and Karen Eliot. These multiple-use names were developed and popularized in the 1970s and 1980s in artistic subcultures like Mail Art and its offshoot Neoism, which coined the multiple-use name concept of the "open pop star."
The avant-garde pre-texts include the pseudonym Rrose Sélavy jointly used by Dada artist Marcel Duchamp and the surrealist poet Robert Desnos, but references in other realms of culture go back much further, e.g. Buddha (which is both a proper noun and a condition that may be achieved by anyone), Poor Konrad (the collective name adopted by all Swabian peasants during their rebellion against taxes in 1514), Captain Ludd, Robin Hood and Captain Swing. As to poetry, there are precedents such as Taliesin.
Theories that authorship of Shakespeare's works were created under a multiple-use name were proposed as early as the mid-1800s. The first published book focused entirely on the authorship debate, The Philosophy of the Plays of Shakespeare Unfolded, by Delia Bacon, appeared in 1857, in which she proposed a "group theory", attributing the works to a committee headed by Francis Bacon and including Walter Raleigh as the main playwright, assisted by others. A group theory was also described in Gilbert Slater's The Seven Shakespeares (1931), in which he theorized that the works were written by seven different authors. In the early 1960s, members of a group referred to as "The Oxford Syndicate" were proposed as participants. Some variants of the group theory include William Shakespeare of Stratford as that group's manager, broker and/or front man.
Examples of multiple-use names
- Home, Stewart (1997). Mind Invaders: A Reader in Psychic Warfare, Cultural Sabotage and Semiotic Terrorism. Indiana University: Serpent's Tail. p. 119. ISBN 1-85242-560-1.
- Cf. autonome a.f.r.i.k.a gruppe, "All or None? Multiple Names, Imaginary Persons, Collective Myths", eipcp.net.
- In 2010 James S. Shapiro surveyed the authorship question in Contested Will: Who Wrote Shakespeare?, marking the first time a recognised Shakespeare scholar has devoted a book to the topic. See page 95.
- Hoffman, Calvin (1960) [First published 1955]. The Murder of the Man Who Was "Shakespeare". New York: Julian Messner. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
- The Shakespeare Claimants (1962), by H. N. Gibson 1962, pp. 18–9, 25, 27, 90.