Arab World English Journal (AWEJ) Volume 11. Number1 March 2020                                                    Pp. 195-211

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The Detective and Sensation Fiction of Wilkie Collins:
A Computational Lexical-Semantic Analysis

Abdulfattah Omar
Department of English, College of Science and Humanities
Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz University
Al-Kharj 11942, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Department of English, Faculty of Arts, Port Said University

Theme and genre classifications in the works of Wilkie Collins (1824-89) have been extensively investigated using different literary approaches; these are usually based on textual content and biographical considerations. Different critics place Collins’ works under the two main headings of detective fiction and sensation fiction. Such analyses have been generated by what is referred to as the ‘philological method’; that is, by an individual critic’s reading of the relevant material and their intuitive abstraction of generalizations from that reading. A problem with such an approach is that it is not objective, and it is therefore unreliable. The research question is thus asked in response to the subjectivity of previous genre classifications of the novels of Wilkie Collins and the lack of agreement among literary critics and researchers about such classifications. As such, I ask whether an objective and conceptually useful reading of the themes and subjects of Wilkie Collins’ prose fiction texts can be developed. As thus, computational lexical-semantics is suggested to understand the issues of thematic classification. For this purpose, vector space clustering (VSC) was used for capturing the lexical-semantic features of his novels and linking them explicitly to the relevant themes and genres. It is suggested that through this method, an objective, replicable, and reliable genre classification of Collins’ novels is possible. The results of this study can serve as a basis for future studies and criticisms of Wilkie Collins’ fiction.

Keywords: computational lexical-semantics; detective fiction; genre classification; sensation fiction; theme analysis; vector space clustering (VSC); Wilkie Collins

Cite as: Omar, A. (2020). The Detective and Sensation Fiction of Wilkie Collins: A Computational Lexical-Semantic Analysis. Arab World English Journal, 11 (1) 195-211.


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Abdulfattah Omar is an Associate Professor of linguistics at Prince Sattam Bin Abdulaziz
University. He finished his PhD in linguistics at Newcastle University in 2010. His research
interests include computational linguistics, digital humanities, and literary computing.