Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series is a sort of fantasy about literature. Much of the story line about the books and literary characters that appear in this series is obviously made up, but there is at least one clear reference to real-world literary studies: a recurring argument over the authorship of Shakespeare's plays. Are there other debates over historical authorship of literary works in the real world that are referenced in this series?

If there are too many to list, please restrict this question to the first book in the series, The Eyre Affair.


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There really aren't that many authorship debates, since an author's name will usually become associated with a story whether or not they actually wrote the work in question --- such as Homer (leading to the Homeric Question) or Aesop --- and with the invention of the printing press, they'd usually get their names on the cover to boot. Pretty much the only way we find out about authorship controversies is if those debates themselves enter the historical record, such as with Alonso Fernández de Avellaneda; lacking further evidence, we might have come to the conclusion that de Avellaneda was a real person. Wikipedia lists all of twelve authorship debates, none of which appear in Jasper Fforde's books except for the Shakespeare authorship debate. So I think the answer to your question is no, no other debates over historical authorship over literary works are referenced in the Thursday Next series.

The question of the existence of certain works is an interesting one for the Thursday Next series, given that one of the books in that series, The Great Samuel Pepys Fiasco, doesn't actually exist! Looking through Wikipedia's list of literary forgeries, I don't see anything mentioned by Fforde, even such famous frauds as Ern Malley, but there's probably some in there I don't remember or haven't connected with fraud specifically. I'd love to know if anybody thinks of others!

  • Thanks. Yes, I was afraid the revision made it too narrow to have an interesting answer, but apparently I couldn't accurately formulate the question I wanted to ask.
    – Kimball
    Commented Jan 23, 2017 at 23:47
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    I'm not sure I could ever figure out what you were asking -- I tried to answer as best I could, but I was hoping someone would come along and say "no, that's not what they're asking, it's ..." and beat me with a better answer :). Please ask as many Jasper Fforde questions as you like -- they're terribly fun to answer!
    – Gaurav
    Commented Jan 24, 2017 at 3:19

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