"Authorship Attribution of ‘Might is Right or The Survival of the Fittest’ by Ragnar Redbeard"

by Becky Lenton, University of Warwick

Update: the event has now finished (Jul 14th 2021).


This project will aim to draw from the computational linguistics based AAI field of research, and determine why the author of The Sea Wolf, White Fang and Call of the Wild Jack London, and the relatively unknown author/reporter/agitator Arthur Desmond have been identified as the more preferred masterminds behind the aggressive and egoist anarchistic text, titled Might is Right or Survival of the Fittest (henceforth referred to as MiR). The authorship of MiR, originally published in 1896 under the pseudonymous name Ragnar Redbeard, has been in dispute since its original publication; with the more favoured of the two suggested authors being Arthur Desmond[1]. This work will address the potential style attributes which have been associated with each author, inclusive of an in depth analysis of each individual’s style of writing; thereby providing a new argument either for or against their attribution based on statistical and quantifiable critical analysis rather than the speculative/interpretive research which has been conducted so far by external parties. The overall methodology of this project is to create a corpus based approach through the implementation of free computational linguistic software named AntConc and the Stylo in R Package. By incorporating these two different pieces of software, there is a likely chance that a more conclusive argument can be made either in favour or against one or both authors.

Speaker’s bio

Becky Lenton is an alumna from the University of Wolverhampton, having studied a BA (Hons) in English with a 2:1 award, and then the Masters with Merit in the Practical Corpus Linguistics course, headed by Dr Sara Moze. As she was one of the few attendees in the group who was not bilingual, she approached the programme from a literature student’s perspective, choosing to analyse classic literature through the use of AntConc and (for her dissertation) Stylo in R package. Dr. Michael Oakes served as her dissertation supervisor, as he has a keen interest in the research surrounding disputed authorship. Being a fan of puzzle solving, and eager to see if she could add her own ingenuitu into this realm of study, her dissertation focused on two (maybe more) authors who were claimed to have penned the text Might is Right. She now works in the Doctoral College at the University of Warwick, about to undergo a further training programme (albeit in a more practical pursuit) in coaching and mentoring.


University of Wolverhampton
Wulfruna Street
Wolverhampton, WV1 1LY
United Kingdom