Language and Revolution in Burke, Wollstonecraft, Paine, and Godwin  book cover
1st Edition

Language and Revolution in Burke, Wollstonecraft, Paine, and Godwin

ISBN 9780754654032
Published June 28, 2007 by Routledge
226 Pages

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Book Description

The Revolution in France of 1789 provoked a major 'pamphlet war' in Britain as writers debated what exactly had happened, why it had happened, and where events were now headed. Jane Hodson's book explores the relationship between political persuasion, literary style, and linguistic theory in this war of words, focusing on four key texts: Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Men, Thomas Paine's Rights of Man, and William Godwin's Enquiry Concerning Political Justice. While these texts form the core of Hodson's project, she ranges far beyond them to survey other works by the same authors; more than 50 contemporaneous books on language; and pamphlets, novels, and letters by other writers. The scope of her study permits her to challenge earlier accounts of the relationship between language and politics that lack historical nuance. Rather than seeing the Revolution debate as a straightforward conflict between radical and conservative linguistic practices, Hodson argues that there is no direct correlation between a particular style or linguistic concept and the political affiliation of the writer. Instead, she shows how each writer attempts to mobilize contemporary linguistic ideas to lend their texts greater authority. Her book will appeal to literature scholars and to historians of language and linguistics working in the Enlightenment and Romantic eras.

Table of Contents

Contents: The language of politics and the politics of language; The linguistic background; 'A wilderness of words': Edmund Burke's Reflections; 'The effusions of the moment': Mary Wollstonecraft's Vindication; 'What is this metaphor called a crown?': Thomas Paine's Rights of Man; 'The transparent envelop of our thoughts': Godwin's Political Justice; Conclusion; Bibliography; Appendix; Index.

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Dr Jane Hodson is Lecturer in English Language and Literature at the University of Sheffield, UK.


'Hodson combines modern stylistic analysis (using lexical analysis software) with impressive research into the linguistic assumptions of the 1790s in order to offer challenging new insights about the language of politics and the politics of language in the key texts of the Revolution Controversy.' Tom Furniss, University of Strathclyde, UK ’Hodson’s approach reveals a critical self-awareness essential to the integrity of any such work of scholarship. She writes with astounding clarity, an aspect of her project all the more creditable for its avoidance of the cryptic jargon sometimes characteristic of technical writing.’ European Romantic Review '... helpful in suggesting new approaches in historical linguistics, whether of the Romantic or any other period.' Studies in Romanticism 'Language and Revolution in Burke, Wollstonecraft, Paine, and Godwin is a fine contribution to our understanding of the linguistic dimension of the ’war of words’, as Hodson describes the 1790s revolution controversy. It is a book crammed with new insights into the role language plays in each of its four main authors along with the social and cultural contexts of late eighteenth-century Britain more generally.' BARS Bulletin and Review