‘False Refinement’, Plain Speech and Improved Writing
This chapter examines how improvement plainness was intended to offset the convoluted utterances of both oral and high literary cultures. The lengthy stories of oral tradition were to give way to the educational and enlightening narratives of improvement. The reforming tracts of Charles Bardin, Mary Leadbeater, and William Carleton represented fireside storytelling in order to supplant it. This chapter argues that the textual device of the fireside in the fiction of the period calls attention to the conventionality and novelistic nature of improvement discourse itself. It also shows how an emphasis on plainness was central to the articulation of modernization and progress in these tracts, but argues that the ‘plain’ was itself an utterly generic and conventionalized response.
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