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The public representation of homosexual men in seventeenth-century England: a corpus based view

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>10/2017
<mark>Journal</mark>Journal of Historical Sociolinguistics
Issue number2
Volume3
StatePublished
Early online date13/09/17
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

In this article we explore public discourse around one marginalized group in early-modern English society, men who engaged in sexual relations with other males. To do this we use a large corpus of seventeenth century texts, the Early English Books Online corpus. Our exploration leads us to consider a number of methodological issues, notably low frequency data and the classical framing of some words. We consider the historical context which brings this about, the impact of such data on our study and the importance of close reading in understanding words in discourse. In addition, we show that, even where frequency does not seem to be an issue, close reading, guided by corpus analysis, is vital in allowing the analyst to move past a superficial analysis of the data towards an understanding of the conventions attached to the use of words which appear to reference men who have sex with men in this period. Through such analyses, this paper sheds light on the typically negative meanings associated with this group in early modern England, and provides both challenge and refinement to existing lexicography, both modern and early modern, relating to the group in this period.