Self-reference and ego involvement in the 1820 Settler petition as a <i>leaking genre</i>

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This article illustrates the complexity of the official/personal interface in nineteenth-century letters of petition addressed to the British colonial authorities in Cape Town (1820&#8211;25). Despite the rigid institutionalised demands on message clarity and petitioner&#8217;s detachment, the author&#8217;s ego &#8220;intentionally or unintentionally discloses (&#8230;) itself&#8221; (Presser 1969: 286; as quoted in Dekker 2002: 7). One type of ego disclosure is self-reference, a feature of personal involvement illustrated in the letters of a woman settler, Jane Erith. The study shows that frequencies of self-reference, relative to its values in personal correspondence (e.g. Palander-Collin 2009b), are high in Jane Erith&#8217;s letters and in other 1820 Settler petitions. Moreover, the high level of ego involvement in the petition appears to be a distinctive feature of the genre.


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