A Corpus-based Stylistic Analysis of Body Language in the Novels of Charles Dickens and Naguib Mahfouz




Shimal, Mohammed

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



The present dissertation investigates the stylistic features of "body language" references in the novels of Charles Dickens and Naguib Mahfouz through digital analysis. In this study, "body language" refers to the different forms of non-verbal behavior and physical descriptions such as facial expressions, body posture, hand gestures, appearances, and other body cues that authors use to describe their characters and the social interactions within their fictional worlds. The identification of specific words or strings of words as examples of body language will depend on three criteria: there must be a direct reference to a body part, the reference must be a repeated pattern, and the reference must have interpretive significance. The corpus part of the dissertation focuses on identifying and extracting the frequency of occurrence and sets of word clusters associated with "body language," which are then compared against larger corpora to identify any possible similarities and individualities. Following Mahlberg (2012), the study presents a corpus stylistic analysis that builds on the concept of "local textual functions." These textual functions describe repeated patterns of lexical items in relation to their textual functions. The functions are local since they do not claim to be applicable to the English or Arabic language in general but to a specific set of lexical items and a specific (set of) text(s); therefore, the description of such functions has to be flexible and works to some extent with ad hoc categories. In this dissertation, I argue that Dickens and Mahfouz use "body language" to achieve various linguistic and local functions particularly pertinent to developing and unifying the multiple themes and varied centers of interest in their novels. Furthermore, I argue that through these stylistic preferences, Dickens and Mahfouz individuate their characters with specific sets of gestures that become, like literary fingerprints, associated with those characters and define their relationship to one another and to the world in which they reside. With the analysis of local textual functions of "body language" in Dickens and Mahfouz's novels, this dissertation exemplifies how corpus stylistic methodologies and descriptive categories can contribute to the characterization of the style of a text. The objective digital analysis will identify body-related patterns and lexical associations that will be used as a baseline for interpretive readings of the texts. The combination of corpus analysis with close reading has long been associated with the development of the field of Digital Humanities. Therefore, I will begin with an examination of the role of corpus analysis in literary studies. This is followed by an overview of different corpus-based stylistic studies that focus on Dickens's and Mahfouz's writing and style. I then briefly introduce the methodological context for the present study before I deal with data extracted from the texts as pointers to local textual functions.


This item is available only to currently enrolled UTSA students, faculty or staff. To download, navigate to Log In in the top right-hand corner of this screen, then select Log in with my UTSA ID.


Arabic Literature, Body Language, Charles Dickens, Corpus Stylistics, Naguib Mahfouz, Victorian Literature