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The Best Foot Forward: Self-Presentation and the Creation of Respectability Through Job Advertisements in the Public Press, 1800
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of History.
2016 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Master (Two Years)), 40 credits / 60 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

This study investigates how power relations were negotiated and expressed through the use of certain linguistic practices in a public context. More specifically, it looks closer at how job applicants presented themselves publically through newspaper advertisements and which discursive codes they made use of to portray themselves as reputable, desirable employees that fit into the bourgeois concept of respectability. The survey accordingly moves within the theoretical frameworks of the respectability discourse, altering power relations, self-presentation and the public sphere, and does so through the application of linguistic methods on a very specific material not commonly looked at from these macro-perspectives.

The first part of the analysis identifies which specific social groups that used the press as a channel for self-presentation, focusing on the aspects of gender, marital status, work experience and occupational title. Through establishing this information, we reach an understanding of who can be ascribed an active participation in the public sphere and where to place these individuals along the social scale. Thereafter, the vocabulary of the advertisers is scrutinized and compared to see how strategies to create an air of respectability around yourself may have differed with the personal aspects mentioned above. Conclusively, the results from these enquiries serve as the basis for a larger discussion on whether the assertive self-promotion of the job advertisers can be interpreted as a self-empowerment among a section of London’s labourers, or whether the publication of the adverts rather is to be seen as a consolidation of already existing power relationships. The findings prove that through their strict adherence to the concept of respectability in a desire to win the favour of their social superiors, the linguistic strategies of the adverts cannot be interpreted as an early form of working class-movement with the intention of overthrowing the social order. On the contrary, the hierarchical structure of the 18th century was as present as ever when society moved towards the next centenary and was consolidated even further by the linguistic strategies of the advertisers.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. , 94 p.
Keyword [en]
workers, labour force, servants, respectability, power relations, advertisements, the public sphere, newspapers, The Times, self-presentation, social hierarchy, discourse, linguistic analysis
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-294427OAI: diva2:929881
Available from: 2016-06-02 Created: 2016-05-20 Last updated: 2016-06-02Bibliographically approved

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