Alicante Journal of English Studies / Revista Alicantina de Estudios Ingleses

“Seducers of the people”: Mapping the Linguistic Shift

Fiona Houston

DOI: https://doi.org/10.14198/raei.2018.31.03

Abstract

In his book on propaganda Jacques Ellul acknowledges the unsavoury connotation - which is a common place of today’s culture - surrounding those who write to influence a public. This is an interpretation which is frequently applied to the government propaganda writers of the First World War, yet to do so removes those writers from their context and applies modern understanding to a historical act. Over the last century since the Great War society has developed, causing a social linguistic shift. This shift has affected the way propaganda is understood, and propaganda in an Edwardian sense is not simply synonymous with propaganda as the term is interpreted and used today. My paper demonstrates how this word has undergone lexical development over the intervening years since the War, using corpus-based analysis to track the definition of the term ‘propaganda’ in Oxford English Dictionaries using the Antconc database software. I combine this quantitative research with in-depth exploration of propaganda theories from the Twentieth Century, and examples of First World War propaganda to ascertain when in history, if indeed a certain time was pivotal, this word began to mutate. This paper argues that better understanding of the development of this term reveals the contradictory nature of many modern-day attitudes to the relationship between literature and politics; the disconnect often at play between how we view our own modern culture and the judgements we are tempted to make about the past.

Keywords

Propaganda; Wellington House; First World War; George Creel

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14198/raei.2018.31.03

Copyright (c) 2018 Fiona Houston

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