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Dear Shit-Shovellers: Humour, Censure and the Discourse of Complaint

Discourse & Society , Volume 12 (5): 633 – Sep 1, 2001


Sage Publications
Copyright © 2001 by SAGE Publications
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Dear Shit-Shovellers: Humour, Censure and the Discourse of Complaint


In this article we analyse letters of complaint about instances of comic discourse where the humour is regarded as overstepping the mark and causing offence. We are particularly interested in how this sense of offence is registered and how complainants articulate the offence for which they seek some form of redress. In pursuing this interest, we seek to bring together two distinctive modes of analysis: linguistic discourse analysis and symbolic cultural analysis. This is methodologically appropriate to the discourse involved because of the ways in which epistolary complaints use forms of linguistic framing for offsetting potential objections to what they want to say, and because of the highly figurative language which is employed in voicing the substantive complaint and the censure of the humour that is entailed in this. Our focus overall is on the underlying ambivalence involved in negotiations between ethical and comic discourse.
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