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Status Interaction during the Reign of Louis XIV$
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Giora Sternberg

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199640348

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199640348.001.0001

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Epistolary Ceremonial: Manuscript Correspondence as Unmediated Status Interaction

Epistolary Ceremonial: Manuscript Correspondence as Unmediated Status Interaction

(p.129) 6 Epistolary Ceremonial: Manuscript Correspondence as Unmediated Status Interaction
Status Interaction during the Reign of Louis XIV

Giora Sternberg

Oxford University Press

This chapter investigates epistolary ceremonial. Letters were not only vehicles of narrated information, but also social acts, a statement of addressers about their position relative to the addressee. Documented at regular exchanges as well as in moments of conflict, in prescriptive as well as in descriptive sources, epistolary status interaction enables us to compare norm and practice, equilibrium and crisis. A highly elaborate code, it manifested itself in forms of address, in ending formulae, in subtler aspects of word-choice and grammar, and—probably least self-evident to most modern readers—in non-verbal features, such as letter material, spatial layout, and graphic elements. These were no mere niceties: disputes over epistolary formulae could disrupt military chains of command and even lead to incarceration. Opening a window into everyday encounters in a variety of social and geographical arenas, epistolary ceremonial illuminates the pervasiveness of status interaction in the early modern period.

Keywords:   correspondence, letter-writing, epistolarity, forms of address, grammar, socio-linguistics, material culture, ministers, nobility

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