Monday, March 15, 2010

Just Doom of Guilty Joys

Today's big news, at least for we literary types, has nothing to do with health care or the Corey Haim (sorry, Corey, you'll be missed). Rather, it has to do with the biggest posthumous comeback since Tupac. A Shakespeare scholar is now claiming that a play which was once thought to be written as a hoax is actually by the big bad Bard himself. Double Falsehood was first performed in the 1700's, and was quickly denounced as a fake. Now it is believed that the play is, in actuality, real Shakespeare, albeit reworked a bit. Now, if we've learned anything from Antique Roadshow, we know not to screw with an original, however shabby. If only they were aware of that three centuries ago.

This news makes me wonder how one goes about proving such a fact...how unique is one's writing style, really? Is it like a fingerprint, individual to each person, or is it more general, manipulated by time period, place, gender, etc.? I performed a quick little test over at the Gender Genie, the online tool which purports to predict the gender of an author by counting "gendered" words (apparently, words like "myself," "she," "should," and "where" are female, while "it," "these," and "more" are male). I used a recent book review I wrote for California Literary Review, minus quotes. The verdict? With a score of 1159 to 591, my writing is resoundingly male.

This only raises more questions. Do I write "male" because I've been taught to? Because I write in a professional capacity? Because the majority of canonical writing is written by a man? Or because my writing is (hopefully) strong and decisive? Are strength and decisiveness in communication particularly male traits? Can words really be gendered...especially in a world where gender lines are becoming increasingly blurred? What do you think? How do you score?

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