Mr Spectator, identity and social roles in an early eighteenth-century community of practice and the periodical discourse community

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This paper explores questions of identity and social roles in the Spectator community of practice and its broader periodical discourse community in commercial publishing in early eighteenth-century London. A keyword analysis of the Spectator essays reveals the lexical underpinnings of the periodical’s social niche in the form of its eidolon, Mr Spectator. A study comparing the periodicals published in the first two decades of the eighteenth century with the Spectator highlights the different social agendas of the Spectator and contemporary party political periodical papers. The paper concludes that the Spectator’s identity and social roles are distinct from those of its principal authors, Joseph Addison and Richard Steele, thereby casting new light on the significance of authorship in the period.


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