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The cultural code of gender: from binary classes to a complex phenomenon of literary characterization

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Talk abstract

Can the two classes "male" and "female" – often understood as a binary either-or distinction – actually be modeled as basic units ("primitives") that can be arranged into complex codes designating all facets of gender in its multiplicity? In this talk, an analogy between the technical binary code and the cultural code of gender is used to test the hypothesis that gender can be seen as a discrete phenomenon constructed through varying combinations of male and female features. Additionally, it is brought into question whether "neutral" should be seen as a third basic unit and whether there might be more “gender primitives”.

The presentation also includes a case study from Computational Literary Studies, in which several corpora consisting of literary texts in the German language are analyzed. In the study, gender roles such as ‘father’, ‘young girl’, or ‘person’ are classified according to basic gender units. By analysis of almost 400 character profiles, typical and atypical gender codes are defined, and a spheric notion of gender is introduced.

Time and place: May 7, 2024 , 18:30 (CEST), Zoom.