Discursive control and persuasion in early modern news discourse
The case of English witchcraft pamphlets and their prefaces (1579–1621)
As an early form of news discourse, witchcraft pamphlets were one of the primary sites in which and through which ideologies about witchcraft and witches were articulated and disseminated in Early Modern England. Recognizing the pivotal position of language in constructing and perpetuating ideologies, this paper adopts a discourse analytic perspective (Van Dijk 2001, 2008; Halmari and Virtanen 2005) and uses insights from the study of stance and evaluation (Hunston and Thompson 2000; Hyland 2005, 2008) to examine the ways in which the prefatory materials of those pamphlets construct and (re)produce ideologies about witchcraft through linguistic and rhetorical choices, and the ways in which such a process may affect the audience’s perceptions, notions, and beliefs about witchcraft and witches. The findings reveal that the pamphleteers seek to manipulate linguistic choices and, in doing so, naturalize the ideologies about witchcraft which promote an image of Otherness that is inimical to the community. Persuasive strategies used include the negative depiction of the accused individuals as threats to society to prioritize the urgency of persecuting witches in the community; the pamphleteers’ construction of a positive self-image to establish itself as a source that can be trusted; and reader involvement to invite the reader to engage in the argumentation. Such strategies work in concert to reinforce the beliefs about witchcraft of those believers, and/or to persuade those who might still be in doubt.
Cited by 3 other publications
. Analysis of interactive speaking roles in a paratextual genre: The case of witchcraft pamphlets’ prefaces (1566–1621)
. Language and Literature: International Journal of Stylistics
pp. 343 ff.
. Interactive Monologue in Witchcraft Pamphlets’ Prefaces (1566-1621)
. English Language and Linguistics
pp. 19 ff.
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