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The Evolution of English Prose, 1700-1800

Style, Politeness, and Print Culture



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The Evolution of English Prose, 1700-1800 by Carey McIntosh
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Between 1700 and 1800 English prose became more polite and less closely tied to speech. A large scale feminisation of literary and other values coincided with the development of a mature print culture; these two historical trends make themselves felt in the evolution of prose. In this book Carey McIntosh explores oral dimensions of written texts not only in writers such as Swift, Defoe and Astell, who have a strong colloquial base, but also in more bookish writers, including Shaftesbury, Johnson and Burke. After 1760, McIntosh argues, prose became more dignified and more self-consciously rhetorical. He examines the new correctness, sponsored by prescriptive grammars and Scottish rhetorics of the third quarter of the century; the new politeness, sponsored by women writers; and standardisation, which by definition encouraged precision and abstractness in language. This book offers support for a hypothesis that these are not only stylistic changes but also major events in the history of the language.
Release date NZ
October 20th, 2005
Country of Publication
United Kingdom
Cambridge University Press
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