The limits of distinctive words: Re-evaluating literature’s gender marker debate

Thumbnail Image
Gender_Markers_Article.pdf(5.3 MB)
Accepted version
Weidman, Sean G.
O'Sullivan, James
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Oxford University Press (OUP)
Published Version
Research Projects
Organizational Units
Journal Issue
The ongoing dispute in literary studies concerned with gender and writing style is wide and varied. Our preliminary analyses lend evidence to the claims that such gender differences are evident in writing across periods. While we follow in the methodological footsteps of such studies, particular those completed by Hoover (Textual analysis. In Price, K. M. and Siemens, R. (eds), Literary Studies in the Digital Age. Modern Language Association of America, 2013) and Rybicki (2016), we have shifted the focus of our investigation away from style, in the macro-analytical sense, to period and its relation to gender-differentiable terminology. Doing so recognizes the limitations of approaches like Zeta and Delta, while simultaneously benefiting from their affordances. Accepting that one can never have too large or robust a data set for this type of macro-analytic case study, we attempt to build on the foundations set down by Hoover and Rybicki, analyzing gender markers across a selection of male and female authors, and doing so crucially with a concern for the evolution of gender markers over specified canonical literary periods.
Digital Humanities , Gender Studies , Stylometry , Literature
Weidman, S. G. and O’Sullivan, J. (2017) 'The limits of distinctive words: Re-evaluating literature’s gender marker debate', Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, 33(2), pp. 374-390. doi:10.1093/llc/fqx017
© The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of EADH. This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in Digital Scholarship in the Humanities following peer review. The version of record is available online at: