"Secretary in Fashion" and "Love-Letters": a study of socio-cultural and pragmatic-linguistic features in the late 17th century English language

Hlaing, Olivia Eishwezin (2016) "Secretary in Fashion" and "Love-Letters": a study of socio-cultural and pragmatic-linguistic features in the late 17th century English language. MRes thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

Epistolary manuals are conspicuous historical documents for the pedagogy of letter writing; however, their actual usage as manuals by letter writers is unknown. "Secretary in Fashion" by Serre (1668), an epistolary manual, and "Love-Letters between a Nobleman and his Sister" (1684), an epistolary novel attributed to Behn, both give insights into epistolary conventions. Their inception and nature is interesting, considering their historical context. Despite the Restoration of Charles II, 17th century England was in a confused political state; as a result, texts regarding social convention or politics interested contemporary readers (the novel is inspired by a scandal of Lord Grey, an ardent Whig opposing Charles II).

Past epistolary studies focus on 18th rather than 17th century manuals; the latter is typically used as supplementary information. Similarly, past epistolary fiction studies focus on 18th century texts; moreover, linguistic studies on Behn and the novel are deficient. Thus, this study addresses the research questions: 1) What are the socio-cultural and pragmaticlinguistic features represented in "Secretary in Fashion"? 2) What are the socio-cultural and pragmatic-linguistic features represented in "Love-Letters between a Nobleman and his Sister", and do any of these features correlate with the features represented in "Secretary in Fashion"? How far do the characteristic linguistic features of "Love-Letters between a Nobleman and his Sister" correlate with the practices recommended by the manual?

Both texts were qualitatively analysed from an historical pragmatic perspective, which observes the potential effects of the socio-cultural and historical context. Also, as the texts concern shared discourses, comparisons were made with Gricean and Politeness Theory. The results show that the manual is a typical 17th century epistolary manual, aligning particularly with the "Academies of Complements", as it concerns the social conventions of the gentry. The novel mainly upheld instructions on form and matter; deviations occurred due to the amatory nature of some letters, and the narrative force affecting the style.

Unfortunately, neither research question elucidates the actual usage of manuals. However, this study does show the epistolary practices of two writers, within specific contexts. It reveals that their 17th century English language use is affected by socialisation, in terms of social conventions concerning social rank, age, and gender; therefore, context varies language use. Also, their popularity reveals the interests of the 17th century society. Interest in epistolary-related texts, surely piques the interest of the modern reader as to why such epistolary-related texts were interesting.

Item Type: Thesis (MRes)
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Secretary in Fashion, Serre, epistolary manuals, Love-Letters between a Nobleman and his Sister, Behn, epistolary novels, 17th century English epistolary texts, fictional letters, historical pragmatics
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
P Language and Literature > PE English
P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Supervisor's Name: Smith, Professor Jeremy J.
Date of Award: 2016
Depositing User: Miss Olivia Hlaing
Unique ID: glathesis:2016-7277
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 01 Jun 2016 12:11
Last Modified: 28 Jun 2016 10:13
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/7277

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