Words which are ‘very much her own’ – a corpus stylistic analysis of The bloody chamber by A. Carter

  • Anna Pasolini
Keywords: corpus stylistics, literature, fairy tales, poetics, politics


This paper endeavours to carry out a corpus stylistic analysis of the discursive construction of female identity in some fairy tales collected in The bloody chamber and other stories by Angela Carter (1979) with a twofold purpose. More generally, it aims at providing a further example of the application of corpus linguistics methods to the analysis of a literary text. It also purports to emphasise that corpus stylistics can assist the examination of the poetics as well as the politics of a literary text. In particular, corpus linguistics methods will be shown to enable an analysis of the way in which the linguistic configuration of the text can be seen to map power relationships. This investigation addresses two main research questions stemming from corpus-based comparative enquiries, which analyse some keywords as triggers of ideological meanings: • if the fairy tale ‘The bloody chamber’ is computationally compared to what is deemed to be its main source, Pearrult’s ‘Blue beard’, is it possible to show that Carter succeeds in challenging and amending the gender politics underlying Perrault’s text through the use of language? • can the intuitive insight that Carter manages to criticise women’s compliance with patriarchy in their subordination, and to offer empowering alternatives through intertextual and intratextual references be proved with corpus linguistics methods? The first question will be tackled through the computational comparison between the tales ‘The bloody chamber and an English translation of ‘La barbe bleue’ by Charles Perrault; the second through the comparative analysis of the two versions of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ re-written by Carter and included in the same collection – ‘The courtship of Mr Lyon’ and ‘The tiger’s bride’. As regards methodology, three main techniques will be deployed: the study and comparison of the wordlists of the tales through some purposely-generated concordance lines, the analysis of collocations, and – to a lesser extent – that of keywords. The software used for the analyses is WordSmith Tools, which generates statistical data on a text or corpus through three main functions: wordlist, concord, and keywords. Even though it will not be possible to draw general conclusions about Carter’s style or about the ways in which the fairy tale as a genre changes thanks to her revolutionary manipulations (which will hopefully be the focus of future research), sample-examples will be offered of the ways in which a computer-assisted analysis could support, validate, and even enrich an intuitive one performed through the methodological and critical tools offered by cultural and literary studies. In both cases, indeed, intuitive insight will be proved through computer-generated textual evidence and new knowledge will hopefully be gained as well.


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Author Biography

Anna Pasolini
Università degli Studi di Milano / Italy
How to Cite
Pasolini, A. (2015). Words which are ‘very much her own’ – a corpus stylistic analysis of The bloody chamber by A. Carter. Research in Corpus Linguistics, 3, 7-18. Retrieved from https://ricl.aelinco.es/index.php/ricl/article/view/21