Literary Forensic degree

After reading about Obama/Ayers controversy and how a literary forensics specialist examined both guys writing styles, etc., I am curious how a person goes about becoming a LFs guy?

I’ve thought often about going into the field of QDE (questioned documents examination). Here’s some info from Wikipedia:

I would suspect that “literary forensics” is a closely related field.

My guess is you’d need to major in forensics and english with a focus on the mechanics of the language. The best way to start going about getting it to it though would be to contact someone that does it and ask what educational route they’d recommend.

Read Author Unknown: Tales of a Literary Detective, by Don Foster for the most detailed account by the leading literery forensic specialist.

Thanks, Exactly what I was looking for!

I read Foster’s book when it came out, and I have to say how disappointed I was at how unscientific his methods are. He seems to go with hunches based on unusual vocabulary items (words and phrases). Many of his hunches turn out to be right, of course, but he never bothers to quantify the probability that two different authors might use the same items. If you read the book, you’ll learn that Foster built his career on attributing a certain sonnet to Shakespeare. After the book was published, he was forced to admit the sonnet wasn’t the Bard’s. He’s had other misses as well.

There may be other experts in literary forensics whose work is more quantifiable and more scientific, but I wouldn’t recommend Foster as a role model.

Foster moved into the public eye when he successfully outed Joe Klein as the author of Anonymous.

My mind is pulling a complete blank now but there is a more technical book on the subject that came up in our discussions of whether Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare. Part of the book is on the technical tools that academics use to examine provenance. They all discredit the claims for Oxford, Marlowe and the others, of course. It’s fascinating that not a single one of the Shakespeare is someone else crowd is an actual professor of English or Linguistics or any other relevant discipline and it’s obvious that none of them are aware of these technical tools or have the competence to use them or refute them.

The problem is that I must have taken the book out of the library, because I can’t find it on my shelves. Maybe this will jog someone else’s memory.

But the techniques used are not much different from those Foster uses and I wouldn’t place a much better reliance on their correctness. If there is a science here it’s in its very early days.

Of course, there have been huge headlines in recent days on how absolutely awful real world crime forensics is. CSI is science fiction. Given that crime forensics has a thousand times more people, research, money, and equipment to back it up than literary forensics, any decent success rate has to be looked at as pretty good.

Gerry McMenamin, one of my linguistics professors in college is an authorship expert and has written a couple of books about it. Here a link to his latest book.

Thanks, Tell him I’m buying his book on your recommendation and you should get a broker’s fee.

Holy smoke. At that price you ought to get three college credits.

No worries. I took his class in '97 (I think we called it “Stylistics” back then) and it really is fascinating. I still see him around a couple of times a year at colloquia and other departmental events. I’ll be sure to mention how expensive his book his…

Of course you meant to say “as the ‘Anonymous’ who authored Primary Colors.”