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Class, culture and conflict in the Edwardian book inscription: A multimodal ethnohistorical approach

O'Hagan, Lauren 2018. Class, culture and conflict in the Edwardian book inscription: A multimodal ethnohistorical approach. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This study draws on theories and methodologies from the fields of multimodality, ethnography and book history studies to explore class conflict and social mobility in Edwardian Britain (1901-1914). Using a dataset of 2,998 book inscriptions, this work investigates the types of inscriptions present in books bought and exchanged in Edwardian Britain; the ways in which inscriptive practices varied according to location, gender, age, social class and occupation; the material and semiotic features of inscriptions; and their communicative and performative purposes. The findings reveal that inscriptive choices were primarily influenced by ‘class-based affordances’ that centred on the social status and wealth of book owners, as well as Edwardian social conventions and the specific, well-established norms of each inscription genre or sub-genre. For the working classes, inscriptions represented pride at owning a book for the first time, while the lower-middle classes primarily used inscriptions as symbolic gestures of social mobility to gain social capital and respect from peers. In contrast, the upper classes, who feared the collapse of hierarchical society, saw inscriptions as a way of advertising their wealth and high social status. However, there is some indication that the upper-middle classes were slightly more willing to embrace lower-class inscriptive practices. These findings suggest that we must reframe current conceptions of hegemony as the transmission of values from a dominant social group to a subordinate one, and view it, instead, as a continuous two-way process between different groups. Overall, the study demonstrates how blending multimodal analysis with ethnohistorical methodologies can uncover the important role of the inscription as a material microcosm of the social tensions that existed between class groups in early twentieth-century Britain.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Submission
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 12 October 2018
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2021 02:06

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