Chapter published in:Manners, Norms and Transgressions in the History of English: Literary and linguistic approaches
Edited by Andreas H. Jucker and Irma Taavitsainen
[Pragmatics & Beyond New Series 312] 2020
► pp. 102–120
The discourse of manners and politeness in Restoration and eighteenth-century drama
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 Steele’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.
Keywords: manners, politeness, Restoration drama, eighteenth-century drama, Aphra Behn, Richard Steele, Oliver Goldsmith
Published online: 11 August 2020
Corpora and dictionaries
ARCHER: A Representative Corpus of Historical English Registers
Version 3.2 a (experimental), accessed via http://es-dbank.uzh.ch/.
Corpus of Early English Correspondence (CEEC)
Corpus of Late Modern English Texts (CLMET3.0)
GoogleBooks Ngram Viewer
Oxford English Dictionary
Diller, Hans-Jürgen, Hendrik de Smet, and Jukk Tyrkkö
Jucker, Andreas H.
Lindsay, David W.
Michel, Jean-Baptiste, Yuan Kui Shen, Aviva Presser Aiden, Adrian Veres, Matthew K. Gray, The Google Books Team, Joseph P. Pickett, Dale Hoiberg, Dan Clancy, Peter Norvig, Jon Orwant, Steven Pinker, Martin A. Nowak, Aiden Erez Lieberman
2010 “Quantitative Analysis of Culture Using Millions of Digitized Books.” Science http://www.sciencemag.org/content/early/2010/12/15/science.1199644.
Nevala, Minna, and Anni Sairio
Nevalainen, Terttu, and Heli Tissari