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Title: French language, and French manners, in eighteenth-century British literature
Author: Mason, Jon-Kris
Awarding Body: University of Sheffield
Current Institution: University of Sheffield
Date of Award: 2011
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Abstract:
Eighteenth-century social and political relationships between Britain and France have long enjoyed great scholarly interest, and the linguistic influence of French on English is being defined with increasing precision. Until now, however, there have been only brief stylistic considerations of the literary role played by French in eighteenth-century English prose literature. My thesis seeks to address that deficiency by investigating the literary usage and significance of French language in English literature. As the period is noted for the explosion of interest in language and its cultural ramifications; this study continuously considers the metonymical function of French usage as a signifier of broader social corollaries. This thesis attempts to forge a link between identifiable social attitudes and their incarnation in specific linguistic usage. I initially set out a context of opinion on French language and culture, and attitudes to borrowing and imitation, derived from journal, essay and treatise. Such a context demonstrates that France is unrivalled as the 'other' against which British identities were forged. Rates of lexical borrowing from French reached an historical low in the eighteenth century, and the proliferation of grammars and dictionaries bespoke a desire to define, limit, and control language. Yet the language of the developing novel, I argue, was inflected with French idiom, an idiom that offered a uniquely rich and potent strain of evocation and association. Writers of the novel, from Richardson and Smollett, to Brooke, and Burney, deploy French flexibly but with precision; each author exercises great control in borrowing idiom for purposes ranging from plot development and characterisation, to satire and pathos. My research explores those constructs, and because I found that the question of literary French usage is gendered, much of my thesis is structured along lines of gender. The letters of Lord Chesterfield, Samuel Johnson, and William Shenstone, Fanny Boscawen, Hannah More, and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, form counterpoints to the novel, and establish areas both of commonality and divergence between French usage in the fictional and familiar prose of men and women. In its final chapter, this study turns explicitly to the wider social concerns underlying preceding discussions, viz. the significance of French usage to English manners and morals in the novels ranging from John Cleland's Fanny Hill to Charlotte Lennox's The Female Quixote. This thesis necessarily incorporates extensive but germane quotation, and embraces historical sociolinguistics, social history, stylistics, literary theory, and practical literary criticism. While this study cannot claim to be comprehensive, it seeks to open out a field of study hitherto neglected.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.577523  DOI: Not available
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