Online book clubs are a subculture of the worldwide literary discussion: a microcosm of book culture. Every month, an online book club chooses a novel to discuss with a community of individuals that grow to know each other and foster strong relationships. Online book communities fostered through book-based social reading platforms like Goodreads form connections in digital contexts with their peers and discover new interpretations that they would never have seen before. Book clubs on online platforms provide the freedom to access opinions across national borders and cultural backgrounds. Given today’s polarized political climate, book clubs enable a variety of discussion across race and gender that exists in literature.
My Independent Study analyzes individual responses from Goodreads book clubs to explore individual reception toward race and gender-related themes in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad, and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. Through my sociological analysis, I use topic-based sentiment analysis to uncover the sentiment toward gender or race-related words. Sentiment analysis is application of Natural Language Processing classifies the polarity of a text in terms of positive, negative or neutral categories. I look at the positive, negative or neutral sentiment associated with responses that discuss a variety of topics from gender roles to systematic racism. In my English literary analysis, I analyze individual responses through literary criticism, critical race theory, and feminist theory to show how themes of race and gender emerge in their discussion. By looking at individual responses from online book clubs, I see how discussions on literature can foster perceptions of race and gender.
Catherine Lockwood: I am a senior Sociology and English double major at The College of Wooster in Wooster, OH. In addition to my love for literature, I like photography, documentaries, and website design. I spent last summer as Communications intern for Silicon Valley Leadership Group developing their website, making an interactive timeline, and running a social media campaign for their 40th anniversary.