Volume 18, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1566-5852
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9854
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It is argued that shame has become increasingly important as a mechanism of social control in Western societies while our awareness of shame has simultaneously decreased. This paper explores the functions of the lexemes , and in the eighteenth-century section of the and investigates how shame-inducing situations were discussed in letter-writing. Direct expressions of shame emerge particularly as formulaic apologies and reflect breached social conventions, honour, inadequacy and immorality. Shame discourse in the two case studies, however, proved to be context-dependent, evasive and euphemistic, and shame was expressed through a range of negative emotions. An element of discomfort in eighteenth-century shame discourse indicates that shame had taboo connotations, but the formulaic presence of shame and its connection to the cultural keyword of honour underlines its role as a mechanism of social control.


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