Sunday, October 22, 2006

Hey! What's With the Pseudonym?

Hugo Schwyzer has invited pseudonymous bloggers to explain their choice to write under a Nom de Blog on a thread at his site. I've commented at Hugo's site occasionally, but this time I thought I'd answer the question over here. Seems like you guys would like to know my reasons more than Hugo's readers would. Besides, there's been a whole anonymous/pseudonymous brouhaha on the internet that I'd like to address a little, too.

So, here are Hugo's questions: If you blog or comment under your full name, why? First name only? If you use a pseudonym, how did you choose it? What impression do you imagine your "handle" gives to others?

Choice of Pseudonym:
1) I am an Old English dork. I thoroughly embrace my dorkishness, as many of you have already ascertained from reading my posts. There was never a question that I'd want my pseudonym to be in Old English.

2) I've never been a huge fan of post-modern fiction, but I really found Joyce Carol Oates' short story "& Answers" quite powerful. I knew that if I ever were to write something public yet informal I'd want to do what Oates did. I'd want an interlocutor implied even if not present (though I've been lucky enough to have great interlocutors), and I'd want the words to be the means of transmitting personality. I'm not a generative writer, and so the only personality I have to convey with these words is mine.

3) There's an awful lot of 'he said' going on in the world. There's certainly a lot of 'he said' in the literature I read. I am not a 'he.' Ergo, 'She Said' translated into Old English. I am she.

Impression my Pseudonym Gives:
I really don't know. I've explained the meaning in the blurb at the top there, so I know that anyone who drops by knows what the words mean. I've also given basic ideas of who I am. People could be thinking "what an obnoxious woman, to pick a name in a dead form of the language" or "hey, cool" or any number of things in between. Eh, somebody else will have to answer this for me.

Why a Pseudonym at All?:
1) I'm a grad student. That means that my professors can basically end my career if they don't like my shoes.
2) My story is not exclusively mine. There are many other people (family, friends, professors, colleagues, lady who sells me coffee in the morning)involved in almost all my stories, and they'd probably prefer not to have their business on the interwebs.
3) I'm a teacher. I need to be able to be impartial in the classroom, and even though I do that, open partiality on the interwebs that is attached to my name would be a pain. I'll bet you $20 my students would immediately start writing to either agree with or oppose my views, rather than considering their own. That would make grading papers deadly dull for me.
4) I do not want to invite stalkers and other unsavory types into my life.

The Honesty Question (Raised elsewhere):
In the aforementioned brouhaha, it was suggested that pseudonymous bloggers could be dishonest. Well, sure. We could be. I could be. You have only my word that I am a woman and a graduate student. You have only my word that I'm a feminist and an American. I could be a 15 year-old boy from a patriarchy-first cult in Eastern Timor for all you know. You'll have to use your judgement.

My experience is that I'm at least as honest on the blog as I am in person. Part of that is my total lack of the patience required to be dishonest. I generally remain silent when I know I can't say what I think without shooting myself in the foot. Or else, I go ahead and shoot that foot. Depends on the day. (Extra bit of information: Today, I shot my foot. Badly. Tomorrow, I'll be trying to do damage control.) The other part is my ability to say what I think is true about my life as I write. That opinion could change, it often has in the past. There may be serious inconsistencies in my blog, because there are serious inconsistencies in me. Very often my take on certain things will change with the mood I'm in, the kind of week I've had, whether I have chocolate in the house... ad infinitum. You may choose to see that as evidence of my dishonesty if you please, I don't mind. You'd find the same evidence if you knew me personally.

Walt Whitman had some thoughts on just that, I think.
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
"Song of Myself"

Hey, free poetry bits in a general blogging post. I'm pretty good to you, after all.


Ancrene Wiseass said...

I love you, Heo. I really do.

Dr. Virago said...

You know, as a medievalist I really don't understand this obsession with "the author." What is this "author" that they speak of? Don't they know that one only has authority if one writes in Latin and is named Jerome or Augustine? Sheesh.


If I commented/wrote under my first name, I'd say: because Marie de France did too. :)

anhaga said...

Heo: There's an awful lot of 'he said' going on in the world. There's certainly a lot of 'he said' in the literature I read. Amen. Here's to the women with voices who claim them! And particularly in Old and Middle English.

Dr V: If I commented/wrote under my first name, I'd say: because Marie de France did too. Brilliant!

And as for those pesky author things everybody's always talking about -- yeah, I definitely always wondered about that Death of the Author article. I'd hate to think Anonymous had died. Who'd write all the OE poetry?

medieval woman said...

This is a great analysis of your blog identity! And I think that all of your reasons are completely valid and it's why most of us blog pseudonymously - no one wants administrators, profs, and students breathing down their necks!

great post -

HeoCwaeth said...

Thanks AW! It's great to know that one of the bloggers who inspired one's own efforts approves of said efforts.

Dr. V and anhaga,
Yeah, this author obsession is really too much. I love the Marie de France reasoning.

Medieval Woman,
I'm really glad I didn't go with my first post idea now, which boiled down to "Hey, you anonymous-haters! Your name isn't Joe McCarthy, and I owe no "accounting for myself" to you, ya big busybodies. Here's all the interior life of mine you'll get me to make transparent for your approval: Bite me.

That might have been less productive.