Data Set Review and Initial Findings: A Look at Feminist Thought and Adaption from the 19th to 21st Century

For my final project, my data set consists of:

  • Jane Eyre and two of its prominent adaptations written by female authors that work as the control for examining adaptation and feminism from the 19th to 21st century:
    • Jane Eyre (1847) by Charlotte Bronte
    • Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) by Jean Rhys (prequel to Jane Eyre)
    • All Hallows at Eyre Hall (2014) by Lucia Gray (sequel to Jane Eyre)
  • Three texts, published in the same year as these control texts and also written by female authors, that help to trace feminist thought from the 19th to 21st century:
    • Wuthering Heights (1847) by Emily Bronte
    • Valley of the Dolls (1966) by Jacqueline Susann
    • Big Little Lies (2014) by Liane Moriarty
  • Three pieces of writing, published in each respective century (19th, 20th, and 21st), that are classified as inherently anti-feminist to help provide a contrast:
    • Sex in Education (1873) by Edward H. Clarke
    • Washington Confidential (1951) by Jack Lait
    • Stop Fem-Splaining: What ‘Women Against Feminism’ Gets Right (2014) by Cathy Young

This data set allows me to explore a few different questions. I will initially be able to trace the notion of the adaptation through my three core texts. How does an author stay true to an original story? How does an author diverge from an original story? From looking into these two questions , I believe I will be able to trace a transformation – and possibly continuation – of certain expressions of feminism and begin to analyze why some tactics of feminine portrayal remain, while others were abandoned as time processed into a more modern age. With what I am calling the two sub-corpuses of text, I will be able to support these claims on feminist language in a given decade/century through an analysis of both a hyper-feminist and what could be read as anti-feminist text in comparison with my three core texts. One question I would like to explore but fear will not be possible with this specific dataset is the separation between feminist (or anti-feminist) language utilized by male authors and female authors. It is of interest to me that (with the exception of only one author), all of the “anti-feminist” texts were written by men. What are we to make of this? How do men go about writing that is inherently different than women? I think this will require an additional look at a different subset of texts – though I am not sure this is necessarily needed for looking strictly at feminism and adaptation.

My method for analyzing these texts will be to specifically look at the disparities in the usage of the pronouns “she” and “he” and the corresponding verbs that follow. I will use AntConc to perform these tests, and my preliminary results on my core texts have been promising. Below are my initial findings utilizing the N-Gram function on AntConc for the Jane Eyre-control group. I can then click on each of these hits and analyze where they appear in a given text and how frequently in that text:

We can already note a more passive nature to the women’s verbs in the core three texts, while men’s verbs seem to possess much more action. Moreover, I plan to utilize Voyant to produce comprehensive data visualizations (such as the one below) to show how usage of these pronouns and verbs ebb and flow throughout a given novel and how this correlates to a texts narrative:

Through these visualizations and analyzes, it is my hope to offer forth some kind of thesis relating to the progression of feminist thought in literature and beyond and how adaptations work to support this.

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