Harry Potter fans have been abuzz this week, after literary analysis by an Oxford professor revealed that author JK Rowling has released a new work under a pseudonym.
Peter Millican, professor of philosophy at Hertford College, said that he compared similarities in writing style between crime novel The Cuckoo’s Calling and works by JK Rowling, PD James, Ruth Rendell and Val McDermid, four British woman authors. He explained that he looked at two texts from each author, The Casual Vacancy and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for Rowling, and crime novels for the others.
Millican said that The Sunday Times, who broke news of the pseudonym, approached him after receiving a tip that J.K. Rowling had written The Cuckoo’s Calling, a crime novel published under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. This tip was later confirmed to originate from Chris Gossage, a partner employed by Rowling’s law firm Russells Solicitors.
At the time, the novel’s publisher, Mulholland Books, acknowledged on its website that the text had been published under a pseudonym, but stated that it was written by a male former military officer.
Millican said that he ran the texts through his unreleased “Signature” software, a program capable of analysing similarities between texts.
Six areas were analysed; word length, sentence length, paragraph length, letter frequency, punctuation and words. Millican said that in almost every test, Rowling’s works showed up most similar to The Cuckoo’s Calling.
Richard Brookes, arts editor for The Sunday Times, said other evidence pointing to Rowling’s authorship of the novel included a shared editor and publisher with Galbraith, and textual detail concerning women’s clothing. Additionally, he noted that the quality of the work was unusually high for a first-time writer. These factors were taken into account, along with a similar textual analysis done by a Duquesne University professor. Brookes explained that he approached Rowling’s agent with the evidence and was given confirmation Rowling had written the novel.
The Sunday Times broke the story on Sunday, and sales of the text soon skyrocketed, as congratulatory remarks towards Rowling from literary professionals and fans poured in.
Art history student Rachel Quist said news of Rowling‘s use of a pseudonym didn’t surprise her.
“Once you come out with Harry Potter, no one is going to let you do anything else,” Quist commented.
Rowling said in a statement that she used the pseudonym because she was “yearning to go back to the beginning of a writing career,” and she plans to continue to write under it.
English student Akshata Stephen said that the news raises her already high opinion of Rowling.
“It makes me see her as more versatile,” Stephen said.
Millican made headlines in 2008, when he published findings that disputed claims U.S. President Barack Obama’s autobiography Dreams From My Father was written by former terrorist Bill Ayers.
The professor said that he plans to continue his work in literary analysis, hopefully releasing Signature in October, and doing analysis on the works of Shakespeare.