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The discourse of manners and politeness in Restoration and eighteenth-century drama


Jucker, Andreas H (2020). The discourse of manners and politeness in Restoration and eighteenth-century drama. In: Jucker, Andreas H; Taavitsainen, Irma. Manners, norms and transgressions in the history of English: literary and linguistic approaches. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing, 102-120.

Abstract

The eighteenth century is often referred to as the age of politeness, and the term politeness has been argued to be a key term in a variety of settings at this time. This paper sets out to investigate the discourse of politeness and, more generally, the discourse of manners during this period and the period leading up to it (1660 to 1790). It focuses on the vocabulary used in talking about manners and politeness and on the way this vocabulary is used in actual interactions. In a first step, it investigates several large corpora and what they can tell us about the development of the vocabulary of manners and politeness before it zooms in, in a second step, on a more detailed investigation of three comedies of the period: Aphra Behn’s The Town-Fop: or Sir Timothy Tawdrey (1676), Sir Richard Steel’s The Conscious Lovers (1722), and Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer, or The Mistakes of a Night (1773). A close reading and a careful analysis of the discourse of manners and politeness, and crucially the discourse of violations of manners and politeness, in these three plays reveals a significant shift from a preoccupation with honour and reputation in the Restoration period to the politeness of a good character in the early eighteenth century and finally to a concern for polished and somewhat superficial manners in the late eighteenth century. The three comedies thus mirror in a detailed and nuanced way what the development of the vocabulary of manners and politeness suggests in a broad-brush perspective on a much larger scale.

Abstract

The eighteenth century is often referred to as the age of politeness, and the term politeness has been argued to be a key term in a variety of settings at this time. This paper sets out to investigate the discourse of politeness and, more generally, the discourse of manners during this period and the period leading up to it (1660 to 1790). It focuses on the vocabulary used in talking about manners and politeness and on the way this vocabulary is used in actual interactions. In a first step, it investigates several large corpora and what they can tell us about the development of the vocabulary of manners and politeness before it zooms in, in a second step, on a more detailed investigation of three comedies of the period: Aphra Behn’s The Town-Fop: or Sir Timothy Tawdrey (1676), Sir Richard Steel’s The Conscious Lovers (1722), and Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer, or The Mistakes of a Night (1773). A close reading and a careful analysis of the discourse of manners and politeness, and crucially the discourse of violations of manners and politeness, in these three plays reveals a significant shift from a preoccupation with honour and reputation in the Restoration period to the politeness of a good character in the early eighteenth century and finally to a concern for polished and somewhat superficial manners in the late eighteenth century. The three comedies thus mirror in a detailed and nuanced way what the development of the vocabulary of manners and politeness suggests in a broad-brush perspective on a much larger scale.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > English Department
08 Research Priority Programs > Language and Space
Dewey Decimal Classification:820 English & Old English literatures
Language:English
Date:15 August 2020
Deposited On:10 Aug 2020 07:18
Last Modified:01 Sep 2020 14:45
Publisher:John Benjamins Publishing
Series Name:Pragmatics and Beyond New Series
Number:312
ISSN:0922-842X
ISBN:9789027207463
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1075/pbns.312.05juc

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