Reading the reader from a distance : digital analyses of the construction of age in fiction for different ages
Although children are often surrounded by only a relatively limited network of people of different ages around them, they have been shown to adopt varying age norms at a young age. These ideas may evolve throughout childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, but often are carried with them throughout their lives. The books they read while growing up play a significant part in this process. This thesis looks at how age is constructed in fiction intended for children, young adults, and adults to gain a greater understanding of the implicit and explicit ideologies they carry on several levels; in addition to considering the sociological component of the age of the intended reader, the age of fictional characters is examined from a discursive standpoint. The examination of age ideologies in children’s literature has traditionally involved studying these materials as cultural artifacts, thereby introducing an inherent subjectivity that accompanies the researcher’s interpretation as well as a limitation on the scope of the material that can be analysed. To overcome these hurdles and delve into the multifaceted construction of age in fiction from a fresh perspective, ‘Reading the Reader from a Distance’ takes us on a journey that transforms literature into analysable data through the application of computational tools to 738 texts. The British, Flemish, and Dutch authors whose oeuvres were selected to make up the corpus for this thesis each have their own take on writing for readers of different ages; some keep the age of their intended audience first and foremost in their mind while writing but others claim that their texts are ageless and appropriate for anyone who wants to read them. Interestingly, an examination of surface features and fictional characterisation reveals distinctions between texts intended for readers of different ages regardless of the author’s claims. In the end, our journey through these texts not only revealed intriguing patterns and differences but also showed the magic of using digital text analysis to explore the secrets of literature, shining a light on the hidden connections between stories and the people who read them, no matter their age.
Antwerp : University of Antwerp, Faculty of Arts, Department of Literature , 2023
240 p.
Supervisor: Joosen, Vanessa [Supervisor]
Supervisor: Kestemont, Mike [Supervisor]
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Creation 22.09.2023
Last edited 24.10.2023
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