Speed Reads

What's in a name?

Oops! Time lists Evelyn Waugh among female authors most read in college.

After reviewing the data from more than one million college syllabi, Time published a list of the top 100 female authors read in college classes. Kate L. Turabian and Diana Hacker, both authors of writing manuals, topped the list, appearing in 3,998 and 3,889 curricula respectively. There was, however, a strange inclusion near the end of the list. Coming in at number 97 was Brideshead Revisited author Evelyn Waugh, who, despite his name, is not actually a woman.

Time is not the first publication to get Waugh's gender wrong. In 1928, when The Times Literary Supplement reviewed his first book, it referred to the author as “Miss Waugh.” Waugh promptly wrote a letter to correct the reviewer:

My Christian name, I know, is occasionally regarded by people of limited social experience as belonging exclusively to one or other sex; but it is unnecessary to go further into my book than the paragraph charitably placed inside the wrapper for the guidance of unleisured critics, to find my name with its correct prefix of 'Mr.' [The Times Literary Supplement]

Time's list did manage to get another tricky name correct: No. 10 on the list is George Eliot, the pseudonym of the 19th century author Mary Ann (or Marian) Cross who wrote Middlemarch and The Mill on the Floss. Time has since corrected its error and updated the list accordingly.