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"Honourable" or "Highly-sexed": Adjectival Descriptions of Male and Female Characters in Victorian and Contemporary Children's Fiction
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Languages, Department of English.
2005 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This corpus-based study examines adjectives and adjectival expressions used to describe characters in British children’s fiction. The focus is on diachronic variation, by comparing Victorian (19th-century) and contemporary (late 20th-century) children’s fiction, and on gender variation, by comparing the descriptions of female and male characters. I adopt a qualitative as well as a quantitative approach, and consider factors such as lexical diversity, adjectival density, collocation patterns, evaluative meaning, syntactic function and distribution across semantic domains. Most findings are related to a dichotomy set up between an idealistic and a realistic portrayal of characters. The study shows that an idealistic portrayal of characters is typical of the Victorian material and a realistic portrayal of characters typical of the contemporary material. Further, gender differences are much more pronounced, and reflect traditional gender role patterns more in the Victorian material than in the contemporary material. For instance, a pleasant appearance is typically described for Victorian female characters and social position for Victorian male characters. Moreover, descriptions of mental properties of Victorian female characters are conspicuously rare. Such gendered patterns are less distinct in the contemporary material, although appearance is still more extensively described for female than male characters. As regards how the qualities are attributed to characters, the descriptions of Victorian female characters were found to be the most formulaic compared to the descriptions of Victorian male, contemporary female and contemporary male characters.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Uppsala: Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis , 2005. , 180 p.
Series
Studia Anglistica Upsaliensia, ISSN 0562-2719 ; 129
Keyword [en]
English language, 19th-century English, adjectives, attributive, British National Corpus, characters, children's fiction, contemporary, corpus linguistics, description, evaluative meaning, female, gender, male, part description, predicative, semantic domains, syntactic function, Victorian
Keyword [sv]
Engelska
National Category
Specific Languages
Research subject
English
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-6247ISBN: 91-554-6416-5 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-6247DiVA: diva2:167511
Public defence
2006-01-21, Ihresalen, Humanistiskt Centrum, Thunbergsvägen 3L, Uppsala, 10:15
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2005-12-21 Created: 2005-12-21 Last updated: 2015-11-30Bibliographically approved

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CiteExportLink to record
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Citation style
  • apa
  • ieee
  • modern-language-association-8th-edition
  • vancouver
  • Other style
More styles
Language
  • de-DE
  • en-GB
  • en-US
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  • nn-NB
  • sv-SE
  • Other locale
More languages
Output format
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