Essays On Language And Gender

Essays On Language And Gender-89
The first is that gender divisions between characters have become less sharply marked over the last 170 years.

The first is that gender divisions between characters have become less sharply marked over the last 170 years.

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Some aspects of this pipeline are relatively fragile.

In using only proper names to identify characters, we miss out on characters who are exclusively referred to in generic terms, such as "the footman"; uncommon nicknames (such as "Pip" for Philip Pirrip) may result in a single character sometimes being divided into multiple roles.

Even when a single character is split into multiple roles, Book NLP usually assigns gender to each role correctly, guided by names and honorifics ("Mr," "Lady," "Miss").

First-person narrators constitute a significant exception, because there are no signs of gender attached to the pronoun "I." So first-person narrators won't be considered in this study; further research will be needed to determine if they have a different history.

Gender can certainly be more complex than these categories suggest, and flexible ontologies can be designed to illuminate the complexity.

But this essay is inquiring about the history of conventional roles, not about the truth of personal identity, or the underlying processes that produce gendered behavior.This makes it possible to pose several interesting questions.To start with a simple and obvious one: How much space did writers devote to men and women, respectively?But broadly, and taken as a whole, our evidence is shaped by the book-buying practices of academic libraries (with additional contributions from the Library of Congress and New York Public Library).It doesn't include everything published in the period, and certain important sites of publication (pulp magazines, for instance) are known to be underrepresented.We will cast light on those questions only indirectly, by showing that public signs of gender had a fluctuating and uncertain significance.To trace the representation of character across 104,000 books, we needed a way to identify the characters in a work and separate them from each other.We are working with a collection of 104,000 works of fiction.They are spread over 306 years, from 1703 to 2009, but the vast majority are dated from 1780 to 2007, and that's where we will focus our attention.This essay explores the changing significance of gender in fiction, asking especially whether its prominence in characterization has varied from the end of the eighteenth century to the beginning of the twenty-first.We have reached two conclusions, which may seem in tension with each other.


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