Gendered Topics: Boyhood and Girlhood in a Century of (Cotsen) Children’s Literature

Caballero, AnneMarie [Browse]
Senior thesis


Princeton University. Department of Computer Science [Browse]
Class year
Summary note
In order to examine themes across a century of children’s literature, the Cotsen Children’s Literature (CCL) dataset was curated for this project based on the nineteenth-century catalogue of the Cotsen Children’s Library. As a proof of concept for the corpus’s ability to shed light on the nineteenth century, the gendered nature of children’s publishing was examined by labeling texts in the dataset with the gender of their protagonist, which was assumed to be a proxy for the gender of their intended audience. By training a topic model on the subset of the CCL dataset that had a protagonist gender label, 125 topics were produced, 112 of which were statistically significant by protagonist gender. By conducting a qualitative analysis of these results, the gendered landscape of nineteenth-century children’s literature was explored, particularly how boys and girls occupy space differently. Specifically, this study concludes that the home space is largely absent from boys’ stories but is the defining space for girls’ stories. This conclusion extends and revises existing children’s literature scholarship by describing how domesticity shapes boy and girl characters’ experiences of space and time.
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