Functionalisation or Classification? Public Perceptions on Sodomites in The Old Bailey Proceedings


  • Francis Lincoln Cain Nottingham Trent University


Old Bailey Proceedings, Critical Discourse Analysis, Sodomy, Functionalisation and Classification, Predication Strategies


Through a critical discourse analysis, this study explores how homosexual men were viewed in the eighteenth century through the medium of the Old Bailey Proceedings online corpus. This study begins by providing the context of historical gay theory before analysing the character witness testimonies in trials for sodomy. This study largely looks at how the defendants are described by those who are selected to defend them, and as such mainly focusses on the inferences that can be made on their views of sodomites from their positive descriptions of defendants. The focus of this study is the ‘predication strategies’ (Reisigl & Wodak, 2001) used to describe sodomites as drunk, immoral, sex-crazed and misogynist. It was found that sodomites were at times viewed as people who partake in a behaviour, in a process of ‘functionalisation’, and at other times as being part of a wider community, in a process of ‘classification’ (van Leeuwen, 1996).