This chapter summarizes the arguments about language and force that are to be explored throughout the book. Yeats's poem “The Song of the Happy Shepherd” asserts a faith in the basic authority of language, in its power whose implications reached far beyond literature. The first purpose of the book, then, is to examine how poets from Wordsworth to Auden try to present themselves simultaneously as individuals of power and at the same time active members of their respective communities, speaking and sharing their thoughts on certain public issues. The second project this book pursues is the history of the linguistic and cultural prejudice towards the low register of the English language—or what the book terms “plain English.” This chapter thus creates the foundation for the rest of the book, clarifying terms and providing historical context for the arguments to follow.
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