Stereotypical and Multilayered Representations of Masculinity and Femininity in the Harry Potter Series: A Corpus-assisted Content Analysis
Keywords:content analysis, frequency, gender representation, Harry Potter, stereotypes
Gender can be defined as the social and cultural production and reproduction of female and male identities and behaviours, separate from the biological differences between men and women (Flanagan, 2010). The aim of this paper is to probe the question of gender representation in J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series using a corpus-assisted approach to content analysis. To fulfil this aim, two research questions were tackled: 1) To what extent is J. K. Rowling balanced/imbalanced in selecting male and female characters and in distributing the major and minor roles between them? and 2) To what extent does J. K. Rowling use stereotypes and/or more complex ways of constructing gender in depicting the male and female characters in the Harry Potter series? Content analysis is a systematic way of looking at texts for their content, i.e., what the text is broadly ‘about’, who the characters are, the plot, and ‘‘what happens in the end’’ (Sunderland, 2010). It involves identifying particular content-related categories, and then counting occurrences of those categories, such as, for the purposes of this paper, the different types of protagonists, whether they are male and female and their various social and occupational roles. In this paper, the corpus-assisted content analysis of the Harry Potter series consists of the following procedures: the speech contribution of each character was manually extracted in order to compare the narrative space dedicated to male and female characters; the corpus tool WordSmith 5 (Scott 1999) was used to extract frequency lists for each book in the series; gender-indicative words were then selected from the top 200 most frequent words in each book; names of male and female characters were counted in order to measure the (im)balanced distribution of roles between males and females in each book; and finally, the books were also investigated manually to probe their construal of gender in a more qualitative way. The quantitative and qualitative analyses support the argument that Rowling’s representation of males/females is indeed imbalanced although her gender construction of the main characters is complex and multi-layered.
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