Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Emotion, Embodiment, and the Novel: Word-Frequency Characteristics and Dystopian Masterworks
by Fairchild, Theron E., Ph.D., Saybrook University, 2019, 475; 13878304
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation used word-frequency analysis to differentiate the psycholinguistic characteristics of fiction writing, specifically genre writing with a focus on masterwork dystopian novels. The primary research question was: What does a word-frequency analysis indicate about the psychological characteristics of masterwork dystopian novels? This question entailed two primary support questions: Does the dystopian canon of masterwork novels exhibit more psychoaffective distancing than other genres of novels (i.e., is this distancing an individuating characteristic)? Can embodiment be represented and discussed through a quantitative psychological word-frequency assessment?

In the respective literatures, textual embodiment is characteristic of fiction writing, the dystopian genre is partly defined by psychological characteristics, and word usages reveal the disposition of a narrative voice. Addressing this intersection of fiction, genre, and psychology, word-frequency characteristics helped (i) distinguish novels from other types of writing, (ii) measure embodiment and emotional tone in a text, (iii) describe and individuate dystopian fiction, and (iv) differentiate dystopian works and authors.

The study was conducted using the 2015 version of Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC2015), a computer word-counting engine. The word-type variables came from the psychometrically validated categories operationalized for the LIWC dictionary. Comparisons of fiction and nonfiction writing within three corpora of American and British English clearly indicated higher frequencies of emotion and embodiment words in fiction writing. Comparisons between a set of the 101 most canonical dystopian novels of the 20th century and eminent and non-eminent sets from other genres showed significantly lower levels of affect positivity (i.e., more psychoaffective distancing) in the dystopian set. To expand the evaluation, the dissertation compared a selection of novels by eminent authors H. G. Wells and Philip. K. Dick. Affective distancing was characteristic in their dystopian novels, and other characteristics mapped onto the evolution of each writer’s career and publishing successes.

In short, word-frequency studies open paths on how writing is constructed. An examination of textual emotions and embodiment reveals important ways in which readers and writers process fiction, information which might prove beneficial to aspiring authors.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Pritzker, Steven
Commitee: Barrett, Carol, Mendelowitz, Ed
School: Saybrook University
Department: Psychology
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 81/2(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Literature, Psychology, Creative writing
Keywords: Affect studies, Digital humanities, Dystopian fiction, Embodiment, Dick, Philip , Text analysis
Publication Number: 13878304
ISBN: 9781085591317
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