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The Rise of an Ethos of Plainness

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Chapter Summary

There is indubitably a large element of religion, a theology of austerity, even a soteriology of simplicity behind many early-modern English evocations of plainness. To understand what it was about both language and fashion that made them apt arenas within which nationhood was articulated is to fully integrate the perception, articulated by so many voices in early-modern Europe, that both were essentially proclamatory, externalising identity with an immediacy achieved by few other signifiers. Dramatic expansion of the sort did not go unnoticed or uncriticised. The question as to what constituted national identity in the socio-cultural domain was thus expressed through the more immediate question of who embodied it. In a similar way, plainness was a virtue of the middle-way, being neither boorish nor overly-elaborate and it too demanded both commitment to a process of simplification and indeed intervention so that the falsely artificial may be stripped away.

Keywords: ethos; plainness



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