Many well-known female authors have published their works under male-presenting or gender-neutral pennames; Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot), The Brontë Sisters, J.K. Rowling. In the male-dominated world of literature, it was a way to have their works heard. In more recent times, however, we are seeing an increase in men publishing under neutral or female-presenting names. Todd Ritter, who published "Final Girls" under the name Riley Sager, Dean Koontz who published as Deanna Dwyer, Ian Blair as Emma Blair, and so on. There have been arguments that these are to create a neutral approach to the story, or to simply distance the author’s personal life from their work. However, many people have expressed dissatisfaction with this, saying that men’s voices are already dominant, and it’s not right for men to take up more space by publishing under a female pseudonym.
This topic asks: is it alright for an author to disguise or misrepresent their gender in their name? Does that thought apply only to men writing under female names? And if it is determined to be acceptable, does that effect similar discussions around ethnicity and heritage?
I really like this topic! Definitely a discussion to be had about how the book market has arguably shifted away from cis white male voices, towards more diverse perspectives. When women chose male / gender neutral pen-names in the past, it was tied to the public not taking women seriously as authors. Men have always been taken seriously as authors... so why the sudden shift? – SBee1 year ago
I like this topic, too! I don't think I really have a solid opinion; I want to say a person should be able to write under the alias of their choice but that can complicate things when people are looking for specific authors. For instance, would it be fair for a white man to be on a list specifically for Hispanic writers? Of course not, but what if they're using the surname of someone they admire or simply love the meaning behind the name and impersonating another ethnicity was never their intent? This makes for a topic that can prompt a lot of other scenarios, too. What if the "man" happens to be a closeted transgender woman? What if they're writing about a topic such as romance and are afraid that female readers will skip over them because of their gender? (Although this was never a problem for Nicholas Sparks!) This makes for a very intriguing topic! – emmywrites981 year ago
This is just my opinion (as someone who writes under a pen name). But I feel it should not matter. I personally would want people to judge me for the quality of my writing and not my personal life, as my personal life is not their business. I have never been a big fan of how people put so much weight on a persons gender, race, religion, sexuality, etc. when discussing the quality of their work. I can acknowledge that there has been discrimination in the past (and that there probably still is discrimination going on even today.) and I see why some feel they need to write under a pen-name. But, when I choose a book to read, movie to watch, or game to play, I personally do not care what combination of chromosomes the creator has. I do not care how much melanin they have or what parts of the human body get them sexually excited. I care about their ability in the field they choose pursue. Many of my favorite artist (Yoko Taro, Banana Yoshimoto, coolkyousinnjya, and Aimer) have hidden their identity at some point in their career.Some of the artist I listed have revealed their identity (like Yoshimoto and Aimer), but it does not change my opinion of their work. It would not matter to me if they were writing about other races, genders, sexualities or cultures (which both coolkyousinnjya and Yoshimoto have done). What would matter is how well they portray topics outside their personal experience. – Blackcat1301 year ago
I love this topic and I hope to see it get picked up! I would love to see how a writer tackles the aforementioned issue of authentic identities; do pen names lend authority? What are contemporary examples of successful pseudonyms? What does market research say about pen names and their effects on consumers? – jessamross8 months ago
How does the act of writing self-help help writers? The benefits of writing are widely documented, as are the benefits of teaching others. This, combined with the growing popularity of autoethnography, provides an opportunity to examine self-help authors and their relationships with their material. What benefits (or issues) arise from the act of writing self-help? For example, Sarah Knight (author of the No Fucks Given Guides) says her writing reflects what she has learnt about managing her own anxiety. However, was she already codifying her strategies while learning to deal with anxiety? Did writing help her, or was she simply out to fill a gap in the market?
Maggie Nelson's 'The Argonauts' is a great piece of autoethnography that the potential writer could look at when approaching this topic. – Samantha Leersen1 year ago
There's something here for sure. I would probably be interested in doing some research on this and writing it – mmbranagan1 year ago
I second Samantha's suggestions on The Argonauts. Maggie Nelson's most recent work, On Freedom, also ventures into her personal experience with anxiety, making art, motherhood, and the act of writing and creating in her own life as she meditates on the world around her. – kkenny1 year ago
That is a seriously interesting topic. Perhaps, the writer could write self-help to see how much helped themselves? :D – Paddy1 year ago
The classics read in most English classes have little to know queer representation within them. Although LGBTQ literature is on the rise, it is still not something that is taught in schools across America. Why is that? What can be done to ensure this doesn’t happen going forward?
This sounds like a really good idea to explore. It is also important to discuss how queer characters may have been changed to appeal to heteronormativity (think "historians say they were best friends"). – annasamson1 year ago
We can also argue that the current literature and compulsory reading is pretty much anti-queer, talking about people in gender-specific roles more often than not, and how that impacts us. – rosewinters1 year ago
I like this topic and I think this is the reason why most people are still homophobic. I am not only referring to the American society but the entire world. If we introduce works of literature and visual media about LGBTQ issues in schools, I am sure people will start changing their minds about it and be more willing to accept sexual minority groups. Education is always the key to enlightenment and tolerance. I like how you are inviting the author to explore the reason behind the fact it is not getting implemented in schools. I recommend that you develop more questions as what novels should be introduced in the classroom that may have the potential to change their minds. – Malak Cherif1 year ago
One of the main wide-spread literature that we read, not only in high schools but in Literature degrees to is Shakespeare, and SO much can be said of queerness in the plays. There exists a plethora of resources to make this topic accessible, and many contemporary theorists work on it too. You can check out 'Shakesqueer' which can be a good companion. – Dash1 year ago
There's a bunch of YA and romance novels that write queer representation really well. I can offer ideas if you need somewhere to start. – Jordan1 year ago
With much said about how the male gaze affects female characters ("men writing women"), and with more media now being presented from the female perspective, what are some common threads among male characters written by women? Examples could come from various mediums, like Speckle from Tuca and Bertie (TV) and Khalid from Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin (literature).
It might be fun to compare and contrast men from Austen, Bronte, Shelley, etc. to more modern literature. – noahspud1 year ago
I’d figure that an analysis on ambiguous ends in literature seems to warrant some serious thought.I’d like somebody to write about the psychology related to an open-ended plot..Movies could do as well.Anime is also an option
Do you have specific works in mind? Choosing some might help anchor the topic. – Stephanie M.6 years ago
Before We Go is a great movie with an ambiguous ending. – Munjeera6 years ago
Like the ending in Kidnapped or David Copperfield? – RedFlame20006 years ago
Looks good under the topic of writing as the discussion could be the value of an ambiguous ending using various examples of how it works in various mediums. – Munjeera6 years ago
Before We Go is a Chris Evans movie about two people who meet in New York. He is on his way to connect us with the love of his life who has become an old flame and she is deciding to end her marriage. I can't say the ending because it will be a spoiler but the ending is ambiguous. Unusual for a romantic comedy. – Munjeera6 years ago
An ambiguous ending to a novel will undoubtedly leave open the window to future renditions. Even in a happy-ending scenario, there is potential for reversal of fortune (leading to another compilation). There is always the possibility that the reader massaged the original plot into a flavor consistent to their unique palate; one the author could conceivably exploit into several more chapters, or sequels. An unresolved ending builds the kind of tension and momentum that brings loyal readership back to the watering hole, so to speak. That is not to say that critics won't take notice either, for ambiguity fuels their ire as well. – lofreire6 years ago
Damn! You beat me to it. I was going to suggest a very similar topic. On a personal note, I rather enjoy ambiguous endings or those that credit the audience with enough intelligence to work things out for themselves. We are all too often given spoon-fed answers that discourage us from thinking...and we are a thinking species after all! – Amyus6 years ago
Are ambiguous endings sometimes done so as to leave the way open for a sequel? Or it can be a sci-fi device... – JudyPeters6 years ago
When online publications release a video or an article that covers a controversial topic or expresses a provocative opinion, more and more frequently the moderators of the website decide to preemptively disable the comments section. Is this a smart idea, given that some topics on more popular websites will inevitably draw internet trolls or similar undesirables to flood comment sections with useless vitriol that overpowers legitimate discussion? Or is this an idiotic action that stifles any chance of legitimate discussion for fear of having to deal with hateful or useless material? Are moderators afraid of being accused of fostering a hateful environment if they allow this material to be presented in their forums? This is especially relevant given that many websites feature a voting system for their comment sections which allow audiences to give relevant comments more visibility based on the opinions of the people actually reading the article or watching the video, thereby allowing audiences to self-regulate what material they choose to engage with.
I would suggest being wary of using qualitative terms like "brave" or "idiotic" without strong supporting data (statistics, news headlines, polls, website usage data, etc.). What defines "brave" or "idiotic" is subjective. This feels like it could include a bigger discussion about freedom of speech, censorship, cyber bullying, and hate speech. I would be very interested if this focused on one platform like a case study (YouTube, Twitter, Twitch, 4chan, etc.) because it might be a lot of work to do a broader examination of online commenting. – Eden4 years ago
If the comments are very/all negative, then you absolutely must disable them. Of course, if the content is disturbing or shouldn't be seen and it causes public outrage, then disabling them seems redundant. However, for something innocent or religious, disabling comments would definitely be necessary. – OkaNaimo08193 years ago
Interesting topic! You could possibly explore reasons why disabling comments would be appropriate or argue that it is never appropriate depending on your stance. – Dena Elerian3 years ago
This is such a relevant, yet interesting topic! Especially with today's internet culture and the prevalence of "cancel culture", it would be interesting to discuss how social accountability versus an intolerant space with no room for growth extends into the realm of hate comments and the action of disabling them. – miagracen2 years ago
Great topic. I have to wonder, though, how often "legitimate discussion" actually occurs in those online comment sections. – JamesBKelley2 years ago
If approaching it from the angle of qualitative terms like brave vs. something else, I encourage veering away from "idiotic," as that is an ableist term. – the.liquid.kid2 years ago
Life writing (memoirs, essays, autobiographies and biographies, auto-theory, etc.) is inherently personal in nature. These writings focus on personal stories that can be confronting for the reader to read, AND for the writer to write. They intend to communicate some form of personal, human truth.
But what role does narrative distance play in these works? Does life writing have to be first-person perspective that recounts events exactly as they transpired? Or, can a writer distance themselves from the writing and still achieve the same intimacy of life writing?
A range of texts could be discussed here; texts that approach life writing very differently.
Some examples could include clear-cut autobiographies written in the first-person (of which there are many), or works of fiction where a made-up character represents a real person (semi-autobiographical works, like Jane Eyre or Frost in May). A more out-there example could be cook books — these often express personal stories under the guise of recipes. Travel writing, too, can often be an inadvertent style of writing about the self whilst maintaining some narrative distance.
Good topic! If I may, The Essays, of Michel de Montaigne could, perhaps, be a relevant example. Indeed, the goal of Montaigne was to depict himself in such a way every reader could find a bit of himself through the pages. In the preface, he wrote: “I am myself the matter of this book […] Every man has within himself the entire human condition”. Montaigne, under the cover of an autobiographical work, tackles, however, many subjects, whether it is social analysis ("Of Cannibals", for instance) or philosophical thoughts, through references to many ancient thinkers. The fact that it is a rather old book (1570-1592) and a French one, may also stress another aspect of narrative distance. – Gavroche3 years ago
What causes someone to choose a "nom de plume" ("pen name")? While living in the Internet age, most people are completely comfortable with the idea of identifying themselves online with names other than those they were born with (i.e. usernames). When it comes to writers, the Brontë sisters all used male pseudonyms in order for their work to be taken more seriously. J.K. Rowling was encouraged to hide her sex when the Harry Potter series was initially published because it was feared young boys would not read her work otherwise. Later, J.K. Rowling herself disguised her world-famous name with the pseudonym "Robert Galbraith" when she departed from Harry Potter-related works. However, it is not only women who take up a "pen name." Lewis Caroll, Mark Twain, and George Orwell are just some examples of this. Much like a "stage name" can serve to reinvent oneself into a more exciting character than one’s birth name would initially suggest, what are the myriad reasons for which authors choose nom de plumes? What do they seek to change or perhaps maintain? Have the reasons for pen names changed over time? If so, how?
Hi, I'm not trying to steal your thunder, but I made a very similar topic suggestion a while back: https://the-artifice.com/whats-in-a-non-de-plume/ Might be worth combining both topic suggestions, as we essentially ask the same questions. – Amyus3 years ago