Research Seminars

Research seminars

Gendered social structure in 19th century children’s literature: A corpus linguistic approach

anna cermakova (University of Birmingham)

wednesday 17th october 2018

In this talk, I am going to investigate the social structure in 19th century children’s literature with a particular focus on gender representation. By using ChiLit, a 19th century corpus of children’s literature and other corpus resources I am going to illustrate how a range of textual evidence can help us gain access to different layers of society. With the example of how ‘mothers’ are portrayed, constructed, and otherwise present or absent in children’s books published in the 19th century, I will show how a corpus linguistic approach makes it possible to identify some of characteristics of social structures that are shared across children’s books. The shared elements of fictional worlds provide key links to the real world of the time that in turn has influenced contemporary social structures in a profound way. Gender is one of the fundamental structuring principles of our society and as such it is reflected and reproduced in everyday language practice. Everyone grows up into a gendered discourse. However, gender is constructed in different ways in different discourses and the discourses also have a diachronic dimension. In order to understand today’s discourse on gender, we need to understand its origins.