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Style and chronology: a stylometric investigation of Aphra Behn’s dramatic style and the dating of The Young King

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journal contribution
posted on 2018-04-20, 10:23 authored by Mel Evans
Aphra Behn’s dramatic outputs are recognised for their diversity and responsiveness to trends in Restoration drama. A stylometric approach is used to investigate the linguistic dimension of Behn’s dramatic style, with a particular focus on evidence of chronological change. Quantitative analysis (most frequent words, function words, zeta) suggest that Behn’s drama falls into three periods. A qualitative analysis indicates that the periodisation may reflect a change in the construction of Behn’s dramatic worlds, from an abstract psychological focus to a more grounded, interactive and social representation. The study considers the problematic dating of Behn’s tragi-comedy The Young King. Although critical opinion holds that this play was the first that Behn wrote (i.e. pre-1670), the stylometric analysis suggests that Behn heavily revised, or indeed, penned, the drama in the mid-to-late 1670s, mid-way through her writing career. The paper demonstrates the potential for stylochronometric techniques to complement other linguistic approaches to style, and enhance our understanding of how literary writing evolves.

Funding

This work was supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council [AH/N007573/1].

History

Citation

Language and Literature, 2018, 27(2), pp. 103 - 132

Author affiliation

/Organisation/COLLEGE OF SOCIAL SCIENCES, ARTS AND HUMANITIES/School of Arts

Version

  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Published in

Language and Literature

Publisher

SAGE Publications (UK and US), Poetics and Linguistics Association

issn

0963-9470

eissn

1461-7293

Acceptance date

2018-02-04

Copyright date

2018

Available date

2018-09-08

Publisher version

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0963947018772505

Notes

The textual data used for the present analysis will be available through the public-facing project website

Language

en

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