I Write Like lots of folks (and reflections on biblical authorship) 6

I am late to the party here but I thought I would try and experiment. Do I always write like the same person?

  • First I put in the opening paragraphs from my paper on Boaz from MAR-SBL. The result? I write like Kurt Vonnegut.
  • Next I pasted in a portion from a sermon for 6 Easter  2009. The result? I write like James Joyce.
  • Finally, I used a portion from this blog, specifically where I was discussing the iPad. The result? I write like David Foster Wallace.

This puts me in mind of the essay by C. S. Lewis (was it Fern-Seed and Elephants and Other Essays on Christianity? I can’t remember) where he discusses the debates about Pauline authorship. As I recall he points out that the arguments from writing style do not hold up since if one were to analyze his various works, Narnia, academic essays, apologetics, etc., one would think there were at least 4 different authors at work. Without getting into the debate about Pauline authorship or J, for that matter, I think this serves as a reasonable caution. Who among us does always write in the same style? And none of my examples include any dialogue with characters expressing distinct voices or views.

All in all, these are not bad folks to be in company with (although I haven’t read any Wallace). The site never claimed to be accurate, Margaret Atwood apparently doesn’t write like herself, but it is a bit fun and perhaps I nice reminder that our own literary critical abilities are probably not much better.


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6 thoughts on “I Write Like lots of folks (and reflections on biblical authorship)

  • Steve Caruso

    Don’t worry too much. That site thinks I write like Dan Brown on my blog, but like David Foster Wallace when I write business copy.

    Methinks it has a screw loose. 🙂

    Also you’re absolutely right. People write differently in different contexts, especially when dealing with different audiences. The clues to authorship in those contexts will be more subtle and rely more heavily upon unique quirks and mannerisms rather than general patterns.


  • Carl

    I came to a similar conclusion as you with regard to this ‘experiment’ and its relationship to Pauline authorship. While this is not flawless investigation, it should at least give a moment of pause before making any sweeping conclusions.

    I was, however, unaware of the CS Lewis book that you mentioned; but now I’m thinking I need to make myself aware of it–or, at the very least, finding out if that is the book containing the discussion.

    • Chris Brady Post author

      I admit I don’t remember the source. It has been 20 years at least since I read it and I cannot find my copy of Fernseeds and Elephants. As I recall though that is one of the primary sources for his discussion of criticism (as opposed to apologetics).

  • Rick Wright

    Blog post: Stephen King. Sermon: Cory Doktorow. (Hunh? Who?) Article: Isaac Asimov. Different sample from same article: Dan Brown.

    I’m not complaining. Except Dan Brown. That’s just rude.