Publication details [#55777]

Hostetler, Margaret. 2012. The politeness of a disciplining text: Ideal readers in Ancrene Wisse. Journal of Historical Pragmatics 13 (1) : 29–49.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language
Language as a subject
Place, Publisher
John Benjamins
Journal DOI


This paper uses linguistic theories of politeness to shed light on the functioning of certain discourse features of the Early Middle English Ancrene Wisse. It has been suggested that Ancrene Wisse is generically impolite because of the presence of conventional misogynistic tropes; however, the nature of the text as a religious rule requires a stance in which face-threatening acts, such as admonishing, advising, and even condemning, are common. The text also exhibits clear politeness strategies, including affectionate direct addresses of readers and comments that explicitly exclude readers from the text's admonishments. The pragmatic effect of integrating these politeness strategies with the genre's regulatory requirements creates a complex discourse field for readers to compass but, in fact, may provide an ideal environment for the text and its readers to pursue the genre's Christian ideals.