Key Pronouns through Wmatrix in a Novel of Formation: Conrad’s The Shadow-Line


  • Giuseppina Balossi Liceo Scientifico e Musicale 'G.B.Grassi' (lecco) Independent scholar



Joseph Conrad, fiction, corpus linguistics, Wmatrix, corpus-assisted methods, POS keyness analysis.


The advent of the digital age has had an enormous impact on the way we research, teach and think about language (Leech 1992: 1). In digital humanities, the application of computer-assisted methods can facilitate investigation of corpora, (i.e. digitised samples of language in use), lead to discoveries barely detectable with the naked eye and help put interpretation by intuition to test. Such methods can also assist in investigation of the language of single texts, and make our close reading more effective. This article aims to suggest how we may investigate the narrative voices in a work of fiction through the program Wmatrix (Rayson 2009). The case study under analysis is Conrad’s Bildungsroman The Shadow-Line, A Confession (1917), a story revolving around a young inexperienced sea-captain who, during his first command of a ship, has to overcome a series of difficulties to accomplish his mission. In this work, the neat divide between the I protagonist-narrator’s internal world and the external adult world he has to confront lends itself to investigation of the first person and other personal pronouns in the whole work. Given that stylistic analysis of literary texts is fundamentally a comparative process, I am here interested in comparing the target text, The Shadow-Line to two comparison texts by the same author. The keyness statistics for the pronouns and their detailed analysis through concordances will contribute to placing the I-voice at the centre of the narration and to identifying the foregrounded patterns of pronoun use that convey the I-voice and the other narrative voices throughout the story.





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How to Cite

Balossi, G. (2020). Key Pronouns through Wmatrix in a Novel of Formation: Conrad’s The Shadow-Line. Umanistica Digitale, 4(9), 79–96.