What’s in a story? Everything. Stories often serve as mirrors to the society, highlighting the structures that operate in the backdrop they are set against. Analysis of fiction can reveal important things about the time period and culture the stories were written in. Recently, literary fiction analysis has been gaining prominence in anthropological studies. The power dynamics within a piece of literary fiction can extract the social structures that exist within the society the fiction piece seeks to represent. As an English and computer science double major, I am very interested in analyzing my own work and creating visual representations of the social networks in my work.
As a part of this project, I wrote a collection of four short stories titled the Bilingual Byproducts of the Brahmanical Patriarchy. Within these stories, I explore the substructures of class, caste, sexuality and religion that influence the experiences of women living under the patriarchal system in India. I wrote four stories with different protagonists each offering a view into the power dynamics that exist within North Indian culture.
The power dynamics between the characters in my stories inspired a structural analysis. I arrived at the idea of conducting the Social Network Analysis (SNA) for representing the power dynamics between characters.
SNA is a way of representing the different relationships between all the entities in a network. It has been used in studies of kinship structure, social mobility, science citations and many other areas . Within the field of natural language processing, SNA has been used to extract interesting patterns in textual documents.
While SNA has been used extensively on long fictional texts, there has been almost no work on short literary fiction.Through my project, I was able to assess whether the current SNA extraction techniques work on short fictional texts. I was also able to create visual representations for the stories written by me. As a writer, this analysis really helped me understand my own writing style and also think about the various language based indicators of power in texts,
- Scott J. Social Network Analysis. Sociology. 1988;22(1):109-127. doi:10.1177/0038038588022001007