Crossing the Ts


As part of the Chronicle‘s Scholars Talk Writing series, there’s a lovely interview with Deirdre McCloskey here and much to think about.  For example:

Given the many differences you point out in Crossing about how Donald and Deirdre think, felt, and interacted in the world, surely there were changes in your prose style when you transitioned. Can you say something about gender and writing, and how your crossing affected your prose?

I do not want to be accused of essentialism. But as a first- and third-wave feminist (not second wave — e.g., the startlingly transphobe Germaine Greer), I note differences. It’s hard for me to judge, true, because when I read my earlier stuff I’m reading it philosophically for the argument, not rhetorically for the style. The big item I reckon is the style of argument. I still write always with an argument, which might sound male — unless you met my mother, from whom I learned how to argue! But the arguing is less relentless now, more diffident, as arguments should be if you are interested in the actual truth and want to establish it together with your reader.

As a young man I was proud of crushing an opponent in my writing — as though on my high-school football team (of which, by the way, I was co-captain). Now I am trying to make common cause with the reader, and trying also to be truthfully gentle with the “opponents.” It came naturally — not as Rule No. 15 in How to Be a Woman. My joke, though, is that I can’t tell whether any improvement is because I became a woman (within the limits, alas, of biology and life history) … or because I finally grew up.