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The Role of Context in the Production and Reception of Historical News Discourse

by Nicholas Brownlees (Volume editor)
©2021 Edited Collection 376 Pages
Series: Linguistic Insights, Volume 283

Summary

This volume examines the determining role of context in the production and reception of news texts from the seventeenth century until the first half of the twentieth century. The context is understood as historical, social, political, professional, textual and material, with chapters focusing on how such a context or contexts influenced the language and reception of the news texts in question. The contributors to the volume are experts in their field of research and have employed a variety of methodological approaches in their analyses of the interrelationship between context and historical news discourse. These include historical pragmatics, historical discourse analysis, critical discourse analysis, appraisal theory, frame theory, and corpus linguistics.
The volume is divided into three sections: British News Contexts, International News Contexts, and Advertising Contexts. The first two sections offer a wide-ranging examination of how context has determined the writing and understanding of news in both the British and international domain. The third section in the volume on advertising contexts and discourse is not just justified by the fundamental importance of advertising in the development and history of the press but also by the social and political relevance of the topics examined in the advertisements. These include studies on mental health and asylum advertisements, runaway slaves classified advertisements, and embedded nationalistic content and ideology in Irish newspaper advertisements of the 1930s.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editor
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Introduction (Nicholas Brownlees)
  • British News Contexts
  • Propaganda Discourse in Context: Pro and Anti-Strafford Pamphlets on the Eve of the English Civil War (Elisabetta Cecconi)
  • False News in the English Press in the 1680s (Carla Suhr)
  • Scientific Book Reviews in the Seventeenth Century: Early Stages of the Genre (Irma Taavitsainen)
  • News as History: The Context of Edmund Burke’s Historical Articles in The Annual Register (1758–1764) and their Rhetoric of Contextualisation (Hye-Joon Yoon)
  • Murder in the Press: Representations of Old Bailey Murder Trials in Newspapers (Claudia Claridge)
  • Linguistic Contexts of Social Change: Tracing the Decline of the Master-Servant Institution in Three Corpora (Turo Vartiainen, Turo Hiltunen and Minna Palander-Collin)
  • Contextualising British Suffrage Newspapers (Birte Bös)
  • International News Contexts
  • From Italy to Spain: Style and Narration in the First Semi-Periodical Newspaper in Spanish (Javier Díaz-Noci)
  • Socio-Political Context and the Press in Early 20th Century China: A Case Study (Roberta Facchinetti)
  • “Fears are entertained” – Constructing ‘Fear’ in News Agency Reports in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Century (Maija Stenvall)
  • ‘Never let truth get in the way of a good story’: The Journalistic Style of Reinaldo Ferreira (Reporter X) and William Randolph Hearst (Sandra Tuna, Elsa Simões and Jorge Pedro Sousa)
  • Advertising Contexts
  • “Whoever will discover where he lurks”: Presenting Addressees and Advertisers in Runaway Slave Classifieds (Matylda Włodarczyk)
  • Surveillance Contexts in 19th-century British Mental Healthcare: A Study of Adverts in The Times (Viola Wiegand)
  • “If you want Ireland to prosper...”: A Discourse-Analytic Study of Irishness in Irish Newspaper Advertising of the 1930s (Davide Mazzi)
  • Advertising and Newspapers in Context: Dorothy L. Sayers’s Murder Must Advertise (1933) (Elsa Simões)
  • Notes on Contributors

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Nicholas Brownlees

Introduction

This volume examines the determining role of context in the production and reception of news texts from the seventeenth century until the first half of the twentieth century. The context is understood as historical, social, political, professional, textual and material, with chapters focusing on how such a context or contexts influenced the language and reception of the news texts in question. In this respect “language is viewed as an instrument of communication that responds to, and is shaped by its users in historical, ideological, social and situational contexts” (Taavitsainen 2010: 32). From this perspective discourse is not only examined at a micro-level (the cotext) but at a macro-level which for Archer (2017: 332) “often means concentrating on several contexts simultaneously, such that researchers remain sensitive to the shaping potential of the linguistic, socio-cultural, political and historical contexts (i.e., the roles established by the activity type(s) / genres / communities of practices / organizational practices, and any prevailing ideologies which might have underpinned them etc.)”. In this understanding of context the cotext lies at one end of the scale and the socio-historical context lies at the other. The intermediate level is provided by genres of text production and reception (Taavitsainen and Jucker 2010: 20). The analyses in the volume rely on empirical data focusing on understanding the mechanics of a joint negotiation of meaning.

Although the above understanding of context has underpinned the chapters in the volume, the authors have employed a variety of methodological approaches in their analyses of the interrelationship between context and historical news discourse. These include historical pragmatics, historical discourse analysis, critical discourse analysis, appraisal theory, frame theory, and corpus linguistics.

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The volume is divided into three sections: British News Contexts, International News Contexts, and Advertising Contexts. The first two sections offer a wide-ranging examination of how context has determined and affected the writing and understanding of news in both the British and international domain. The third section in the volume on advertising contexts is not just justified by the fundamental importance of advertising in the development and history of the press but also by the social and political relevance of the topics examined in the advertisements. These include studies on mental health and asylum advertisements, runaway slaves classified advertisements, and embedded nationalistic content and ideology in Irish newspaper advertisements of the 1930s.

The eleven chapters in the two sections on British News Contexts and International News Contexts focus primarily on newspapers and periodical pamphlets but also include studies on occasional news publications, an annual review and the recontextualisation in newspapers of news agency reports.

Elisabetta Cecconi introduces the section on British News contexts with a study on the role of context in the shaping of propaganda discourse in 1641 on the eve of the English Civil War. In particular, she examines the ideologically-charged pamphlets reporting the controversial trial and execution of Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford. Adopting a socio-philological approach to the analysis of the pamphlets (see Archer/Culpeper 2011), Cecconi shows how the methodological constructs of this specific area of historical pragmatics lets us see how the political and judicial context, together with the genre conventions of pamphlet publishing of the time, influenced the production and reception of the pamphlets in question.

Carla Suhr also adopts a pragmatic investigation in her study of the concept of false news in periodical news publications in the decade between the Popish Plot and the Glorious Revolution (1678–1688). In the analysis, which is based on newspapers and periodicals in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Century Nichols Collection, the author examines various strategies connected to the production and reception of false news in the light of the social and historical context. This leads to considerations on contemporary 17th-century ideologies regarding ←10 | 11→the writing of (political) news and how far news, especially print news, could influence public opinion.

In her chapter on early scientific book reviews Irma Taavitsainen considers how the modern book review genre is an outcome of a long process that began with seventeenth-century newspapers and the first scientific journal in Britain, The Philosophical Transactions (1665-present day). The chapter sets and analyses the book reviews within their socio-historical and cultural context starting with their first appearance in the latter half of the seventeenth century. The historical pragmatics approach that Taavitsainen adopts takes as its starting point the analysis of authentic language use with a focus on communication in negotiating context-dependent meanings (Taavitsainen/ Fitzmaurice 2007: 13).

Moving forward to the eighteenth-century, Hye-Joon Yoon examines the manner in which Edmund Burke, the first editor of The Annual Register, employs forms of contextualisation and recontextualisation to report and explain the Seven Years War (1756–1763). The recontextualisation is seen in the way Burke reconfigures for the purposes of his annual publication both source and secondary materials previously published elsewhere during the previous year while the contextualisation emerges in the very particular rhetoric the renowned political thinker and essayist adopts in his impartial and informed synthesis of the war.

The group of studies on nineteenth-century news begins with Claudia Claridge’s investigation into crimes in the late modern period and how they were covered by both the semi-authoritative Old Bailey Proceedings and contemporary newspapers. As the Proceedings and press had a very different context with regard to purpose, audience and genre, the chapter investigates the degree to which newspapers differed from the former in their reporting of the individual crimes and their participants. In this analysis, consideration is also given to whether the popular newspapers included in the newspaper corpus contain features of popularisation such as a greater focus on personalisation.

The next two contributions examine the manner in which the democratisation process of the nineteenth- and early twentieth-centuries is reflected in the press. In their study of the portrayal in British newspapers of the social roles of masters and servants Turo ←11 | 12→Vartiainen, Turo Hiltunen and Minna Palander-Collin focus on two interrelated research questions. In the first they analyse how the master-servant model of employment was constructed linguistically over time while in the second they consider the degree to which corpus-linguistic analysis – notwithstanding the reservations expressed by Hilpert (2020) – can contribute to our general understanding of social change. The authors’ corpus-based study examines the representation of masters and servants in four nineteenth-century British newspapers and compares the findings with what emerges in contemporary reports of parliamentary discourse (Hansard Corpus) and legal proceedings (Old Bailey Proceedings) regarding the same research question.

Birte Bös also examines an important feature of the democratisation process in her investigation of a specialised corpus of London suffrage newspapers between 1894 and 1914. Drawing upon the concept of a multi-layered construct of context, she examines how suffrage periodicals were shaped by – but also shaped – a complex system of contexts. The dataset of 12 newspapers is studied and evaluated in relation to their macrosocial and situational contexts, intertextuality and interdiscursivity, as well as text-focussed dimensions including compositional organisation and editorial framing devices (see Tyrkkö/Räikkönen 2020, Wolf 2006). The investigation demonstrates that although diverse with regard to their final objectives and style the suffrage newspapers nevertheless have many shared practices which position them as representatives of alternative media. At a social and political level the emergence and positive reception of the publications provides evidence of how women had gained important access to the public sphere, both in the media and on the street.

The section on International News Contexts begins with a study by Javier Díaz Noci on the origins of Spanish semi-periodical news and in particular its debt to news printed and sold in Italy. The investigation focuses on a collection of eleven Spanish gazettes published between 1618 and 1620 that were translations of a similar number of news-sheets printed first in Rome and then sold throughout Italy. Through a multi-featured analysis of the Spanish issues in question it is possible to identify a set of characteristics that came to be associated with the new genre of semi-periodical news as opposed to previous kinds of news publications that had just concentrated on a single news story. ←12 | 13→The examination of the translated news items also gives us insight into the news networks and news consumption underpinning the embryonic Spanish semi-periodical press.

Roberta Facchinetti focuses on political collusion and manipulation in the selection and writing up of news in the North China Daily News, the most important English-language newspaper published in China in the early twentieth century. In the examination of a particularly significant event in Shanghai in 1925 – the ‘May Thirtieth Incident, 1925’ – a critical discourse analysis perspective is employed (Fairclough 1995). By means of this Facchinetti examines the interaction between producer, text and consumer in relation to the news coverage in the North China Daily News of major protests in Shanghai involving Chinese inhabitants and the local police. The study considers the reception of the news through reference to some of the readers’ letters to the editor of the newspaper.

Maija Stenvall investigates the manner in which the notion of fear was constructed in British and American news agency reports in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The author’s study draws upon the appraisal framework developed by Martin and White (2005), and in particular on the concept of Affect, to assess the use of the search words ‘fear’ and ‘panic’ in a corpus taken from Reuters and Associated Press news dispatches reported in the New York Times, Washington Post, Observer and Manchester Guardian. The usage of ‘fear’ and ‘panic’ is frequently related to the underlying tension in contemporary international settings and situations including the Ottoman Empire and fears of the oppressed Armenians, the Spanish-American war of 1898, and the ever growing rivalry between the European great powers.

The section on International News Contexts concludes with a study by Sandra Tuna, Elsa Simões and Jorge Pedro Sousa on the modes of news reporting, and the journalistic contexts of the time, of two journalistic giants of the early twentieth century: the American William Randolph Hearst (1863–1951) and the Portuguese Reinaldo Ferreira (1897–1935). Both Hearst and Reinaldo Ferreira were renowned in their respective countries for a journalistic style that not only privileged human interest stories and sensationalism but did not disdain on occasion to delve into and provide fake news. In an evaluation of their ←13 | 14→adherence to and promotion of New Journalism and yellow journalism, reference is made in the study to the various categories of fake news indicated in Tandoc/Lim/Ling (2018). This model of analysis also includes consideration of the audience’s reception of the sensational, even fictitious news (see Lee 2004).

Matylda Włodarczyk’s chapter on runaway slave classified advertisements opens the section on Advertising Contexts. Focusing on a dataset of over 6,000 missing slave classifieds from Britain, two North American states (Virginia and Maryland) and the British West Indies (Jamaica and Bahamas), the study identifies and evaluates the textual moves (see Mäkinen (2008)) and person reference in relation to the immediate situational context of the announcements. The study not only examines the moves involved in the presentation of the information regarding the slave but also those cases where the encoder presumed the announcement could be read by the person in question. This latter detail emerges in those ads where the slave is addressed directly. Given the different geographical contexts of the advertisements, Włodarczyk also examines the extent to which linguistically the colonial classifieds differed from the British models.

Details

Pages
376
Year
2021
ISBN (ePUB)
9783034343701
ISBN (PDF)
9783034343695
ISBN (MOBI)
9783034343718
ISBN (Hardcover)
9783034341813
DOI
10.3726/b18560
Language
English
Publication date
2021 (August)
Published
Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2021. 376 pp., 15 fig. b/w, 12 tables.

Biographical notes

Nicholas Brownlees (Volume editor)

Nicholas Brownlees is Professor of English Language at the University of Florence, Italy. He is the co-compiler of the Florence Early English Newspapers Corpus (FEEN) and has written extensively on news discourse in the early modern era. He is the author of The Language of Periodical News in Seventeenth Century England (2014, 2nd edition), co-author of News as Changing Texts: Corpora, Methodologies and Analysis (2015, 2nd edition), and editor of News Discourse in Early Modern Britain (2006) and The Edinburgh History of the British and Irish Press, vol. 1 1640-1800 (forthcoming). He is founder and Board Member of the series of international conferences on Historical News Discourse (CHINED).

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Title: The Role of Context in the Production and Reception of Historical News Discourse