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Point of View in Drama: A Socio-Pragmatic Analysis of Dennis Potter's Brimstone and Treacle
Dan Mcintyre
Language and Literature 2004 13: 139
DOI: 10.1177/0963947004041972
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A RT I C L E
Point of view in drama: a socio-pragmatic analysis of
Dennis Potters Brimstone and Treacle
Dan McIntyre, Liverpool Hope University College, UK

Abstract
The study of point of view in dramatic texts has been largely neglected by stylisticians.
This is perhaps due to the fact that point of view is usually considered to be a
narratological phenomenon, whereas most contemporary plays do not make use of
narratorial mediation. Nevertheless, linguistic indicators of point of view do exist in
dramatic texts and are not always the same as those which indicate viewpoint in prose
fiction. I argue that studying point of view in drama can assist in the interpretation of
dramatic texts, provide valuable insights into characterization and the relationships
between characters, and also contribute to a greater understanding of how point of view
is conveyed in language and communication in general. I demonstrate this through a
socio-pragmatic analysis of Dennis Potters play Brimstone and Treacle, highlighting
some of the viewpoint indicators which appear to be exclusive to dramatic texts.
Keywords: Brimstone and Treacle; conceptual point of view; drama; filter; Potter,
Dennis; slant; socio-pragmatic; viewpoint

1 Introduction
In this article I suggest that applying theories of point of view to written dramatic
texts can be profitable for understanding characterization, and also that studying
viewpoint in drama might lead to a greater appreciation of how point of view is
conveyed linguistically in texts. I demonstrate this through a socio-pragmatic
analysis of Dennis Potters play Brimstone and Treacle, showing how the
viewpoints of the characters in the text are manifested linguistically, and how the
linguistic indicators of point of view in drama go beyond those associated with
narrative fiction.

1.1 Theoretical issues


To date, the study of point of view has largely concerned itself with prose fiction
texts (see, for example, Uspensky, 1973; Chatman, 1978, 1986, 1990; Genette,
1980; Fowler, 1986; Simpson, 1993; Bal, 1997), with a small amount of work
having been carried out on poetry (e.g. Jeffries, 2000). Few people, though, have
considered how point of view might work in dramatic texts (but see Groff, 1959,
Weingarten, 1984 and Richardson, 1988 for some literary critical approaches to
the topic, and van Peer, 2001 for a more linguistically grounded consideration of
some of the issues). The reason for this lies with the fact that the discourse
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structure of a prototypical dramatic text is significantly different to that of a


prototypical piece of prose fiction. Where most drama texts differ is by not having
a narrator level. Since the presence of a narrator in a text has consequences for the
point of view from which the story is told, texts without narrators are often
thought not to be interesting in terms of viewpoint. I would argue, though, that
this is in part because literary critics, narratologists and linguists who deal with
narrative texts have become conditioned to thinking about point of view in purely
narratological terms, a position that comes about through having concentrated
mainly on the analysis of narrative prose fiction. As Short (1999) explains, point
of view is an issue in any use of language, be that usage literary or non-literary,
written or spoken. Short goes on to say that: narrative viewpoint, to be properly
understood needs, in my view, to be situated within a broader account of
viewpoint in language and communication (Short, 1999: 313). By considering
how point of view is made manifest in dramatic texts, one of my aims is to
enhance our understanding of how viewpoint works in language and
communication in general, thereby setting the scene for a greater understanding of
narrative point of view. Studying point of view in drama is a useful starting point
for this endeavour for several reasons. Firstly, examining the mechanism of point
of view in drama, a different text-type to that in which viewpoint is normally
studied, gives another perspective on how point of view is conveyed in literary
texts. Secondly, it is likely that an understanding of viewpoint in drama will have
wash-back benefits for the analysis of viewpoint in prose. For example, prose
fiction prototypically contains significant amounts of direct speech, so looking at
the viewpoint effects in characters speech in plays (similar to direct speech) is
likely to add to our understanding of how point of view is realized in the speech
of characters in prose.
A further reason for the importance of studying point of view in drama can be
found in Genettes (1980) argument that there is no clear-cut division between
mimesis and diegesis, that is, between showing (i.e. what happens in
prototypical drama) and telling (what happens in prototypical prose fiction).
Instead, according to Genette, diegesis should be seen as a matter of degree. If
this is the case, then narration will always be present in drama it will just vary
according to the amount and prominence. However, as Fludernik (1993) points
out, the terms mimesis and diegesis are themselves fraught with complexity:
Diegesis as invention or projection of a fictional world (mimesis in the
Auerbachian sense) spans all narrative genres, all genres that tell a story:
drama, fiction, film, epic, jokes On the other hand, the specifically
narrative, i.e. narrational, genres, in short those genres in which mimesis relies
on the medium of language, have to be distinguished from drama and film,
where the medium by means of which mimesis is achieved is not narration, i.e.
a uniformly linguistic act, but a re-enactment of the plot in which the visual
presentation dominates.
(Fludernik, 1993: 29)

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Nevertheless, although it may be the case that visual presentation is a


prototypical feature of drama, the language of the dramatic text is of paramount
importance in our understanding of what that visual presentation should be. (It is
only through reading and interpreting a dramatic text that directors and actors are
able to sensibly decide on how it should be performed.) To say that visual
presentation dominates in drama is to put the emphasis on dramatic performance
rather than text, when in fact it is usually the case that it is the inferences we make
when we read a dramatic text that allow us to understand how it should be
performed. (Short [1989, 1998] argues that we are much more likely to arrive at a
sensitive and reasonable interpretation of a piece of drama by analysing the
original dramatic text than by analysing a performance that derives from it.) The
mimesis of a dramatic text still relies on the medium of language for its creation,
and to discount the possibility of linguistic narration in drama is to disregard those
dramatic texts which make use of narrators (e.g. the Greek chorus dramas, much
of Brechts work, contemporary plays such as Brian Friels Dancing at
Lughnasa), and also to disregard the narrative possibility of characters relating
events to one another in order to expound the plot. It is this last point that is
arguably the primary means by which the plot is advanced in drama, and the point
of view from which characters relate events and comment to each other is likely
to affect the way we interpret the story.
There will, then, always be some issue of point of view to take into account in
dramatic texts. Studying point of view in drama allows us insights into the
workings of viewpoint in those texts further towards the mimetic end of the scale
of narrator involvement, thereby contributing to our understanding of narrative
point of view. A theory of point of view that is based on more than just one texttype should be more comprehensive than one based solely on the study of
narrative prose fiction.
With this in mind, we can begin to consider how we might go about
investigating point of view in drama. Although it is true that most contemporary
drama is more mimetic in form, it is still the case that the characters themselves
will express points of view. Whenever we speak or write we inevitably adopt a
particular stance or psychological position. There is, of course, a difference of
opinion as to how best to refer to this. Graumann (1992) calls it a viewpoint,
whereas Biber and Finegan refer to it as stance, saying that this is the overt
expression of an authors or speakers attitudes, feelings, judgments, or
commitment concerning the message (1988: 1). Martin (2000) uses the term
appraisal to discuss the expression of a speaker or writers opinion, whereas
Thompson and Hunston (2000) talk of evaluation. I prefer to use the term point
of view and its elegant variant viewpoint, for two main reasons. First of all, I
do not want to disregard the issue of literal point of view i.e. a persons visual
perspective since this too can have an effect on their psychological position,
their metaphorical point of view. This can be seen in Peter Shaffers play Black
Comedy, throughout which a power-cut is represented by having the stage fully
lit, in order for the audience to see the actions of the characters (conversely, when

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the power returns, the stage is in darkness). This foregrounding of the characters
visual perspective (i.e. the fact that they are literally in the dark) clearly affects
the way in which they express their opinions about others. The character of
Brindsley, for example, becomes extremely careful about what he is saying, since
the darkness makes it difficult to know exactly whom he is speaking to. The
relationship between literal and metaphorical viewpoint is an issue in a number of
plays for example the dream sequence in Arthur Millers Death of a Salesman
and the uncertain reality portrayed in Antonio Buero Vallejos La Fundacin
(discussed in more detail in section 2.1) and therefore I find it useful to preserve
this association terminologically too.
The second reason I prefer to keep the term point of view is that, despite its
prominent visual connotations (something which writers on narratological theory
e.g. Bal, 1997 have complained about), it remains a fairly neutral term. By
this I mean that using the term point of view allows us to avoid becoming
embroiled in the arguments and positions associated with the variety of alternative
terms referred to above, such as stance, evaluation, appraisal, affect. This, I think,
is necessary (at least for the moment) if we are to try and integrate the study of
this kind of psychological positioning into theories of narrative point of view.
For these reasons, then, I prefer to use the term point of view. However we
choose to refer to it, though, this is characterized by the type of language and
linguistic structures that we use, some of which are discussed by Short (1996:
2867) in his checklist of linguistic indicators of point of view, and as Culpeper
(2001: 287) points out in his study of language and characterization in drama,
narrative characterization involves being able to construct this viewpoint. Given,
then, that the expression of a particular viewpoint indicates some aspect of the
psychological make-up of the speaker, it is not unreasonable to assume that
studying point of view in this sense might give us further insights into the process
of characterization in drama. To test this hypothesis I undertook an analysis of
viewpoint in Dennis Potters 1978 play, Brimstone and Treacle (a brief synopsis is
provided in section 3). Below I give an explanation of the frameworks for
analysis that I used, before moving on to my analysis of the play.

2 Frameworks for analysis


The issue of point of view in texts has been widely debated, with numerous
theories proposed to explain how it works. In deciding how to approach the
analysis of Brimstone and Treacle, I had two main considerations. First, I wanted
a theoretical approach that would pay particular attention to the linguistic features
of the text. Given that there is little precedent to the study of viewpoint in drama,
it seemed that looking in detail at the linguistic features of the text would be the
most rational starting point. In analysing Brimstone and Treacle, I therefore found
it useful to take into account the linguistic indicators of viewpoint suggested in a
variety of frameworks for the analysis of point of view. I draw particularly on

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Simpson (1993) and Short (1996), but also consider indicators of viewpoint from
other sources, such as speech act theory (Searle, 1969, 1979) and Harriss (1984)
work on paradigms of reality.
I also wanted an approach that would take into account the non-narrative form
of Brimstone and Treacle. Here I found it useful to adopt some of Chatmans
(1978, 1990) ideas and terminology, since his is an approach to point of view that
does not restrict itself to prose fiction but also considers viewpoint in film drama.
In the next section I summarize Chatmans approach to the issue of point of view,
before explaining in more detail some of the linguistic indicators of viewpoint in
texts.

2.1 Chatmans approach to point of view


Chatmans work on point of view (1978, 1986, 1990) provides a useful starting
point for an analysis of viewpoint in drama, primarily because he develops his
model through an analysis of both prose fiction and film. It is thus one of the few
theories of point of view to take account of drama as well as prose, albeit drama
on screen. (Of course, the differences between drama on stage and on screen are
significant, but for my purposes the fact that point of view had been studied in
relation to drama at all was helpful.)
Chatman (1990: 143) proposes that it is necessary to make a terminological
distinction within prose fiction between the point of view of the narrator and the
point of view of the character. He suggests the term slant to refer to attitudes
expressed by the narrator, and filter to refer to the mental activity of the characters
(see Sasaki, 1994, for a synopsis and application of Chatmans framework to a
short story by D. H. Lawrence).
Chatmans distinction allows for the possibility of examining point of view as
filtered through particular characters, and in non-narrative drama it seems likely
that this will be the most prevalent form of viewpoint expression. Nevertheless,
slant can still be an issue in drama and is expressed most obviously through stage
directions. Not all stage directions will indicate point of view, but some will
contribute to the manifestation of viewpoint, as in the following example from
Howard Brentons play Hitler Dances:
Linda (very angry stamping her foot) Stupid! Stupid! I think thats jus stupid.
War is stupid.
(Brenton, 1982: 9)
In this example, the stage directions preceding Lindas speech contribute to the
characterization of Linda at that particular moment in the play, by emphasizing
her point of view of events. However, since the stage directions do not come from
the character, they cannot be seen as filtered point of view; rather they are an
instance of slanted point of view. The propositional content of Lindas speech and
its graphological characteristics (i.e. the italicization) also contribute to our
understanding of the character of Linda, demonstrating how both filtered and
slanted point of view can often go hand in hand to work as a tool for

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characterization. Any model of point of view in drama, then, must also take slant
into consideration, and I demonstrate this in my analysis in section 4.
Subsumed under the filter category, I also find it useful to add two point of
view categories suggested by Chatman in his earliest work (1978). These are the
categories of perceptual and conceptual point of view, perceptual relating to
sight, and conceptual relating to cognition.
Perceptual point of view is a literal viewpoint, i.e. exactly what a character
physically sees. Wales (2001: 306) notes that this refers to an angle of vision. In
drama, characters perceptual viewpoints can be important contributions to their
characterization. Weingarten (1984) discusses one such example in his analysis of
Antonio Buero Vallejos La Fundacin, a play about five political prisoners being
held in a death cell, one of whom has been so completely broken by torture and
his subsequent betrayal of his comrades that he has convinced himself that the
prison is actually a research laboratory, and that he and his fellow prisoners are
research workers. Weingartens discussion focuses on how the playwright limits
the perceptual point of view within the play to that of the deluded prisoner, Toms,
to such an extent that when the curtain rises, the audience sees not a prison cell, but
a well-furnished dormitory room, reflecting Toms perception of his surroundings.
A characters conceptual point of view, on the other hand, has no relation to
what he or she physically sees, but is rather a manifestation of his or her ideology,
attitudes, way of thinking etc., as this extract from All Quiet On the Western Front
shows: The front is a cage in which we must await fearfully whatever may happen.
We lie under the network of arching shells and live in a suspense of uncertainty
(Erich Maria Remarque, 1987[1929]: 70). Here the protagonist, a young German
soldier in the First World War, explains his notion of the trench warfare and frontline fighting in which he is engaged. Note that there is no mention of what he
physically sees, no verbs of perception related to sight, only a manifestation of his
attitude to the subject. This is apparent through his use of the adverb of manner
fearfully, and in the negative connotations of the word cage which he uses to
describe the front metaphorically. A cage is often used to keep an animal against
its will, and it is this definition which seems most likely and allows us to interpret
the extract most clearly. The use of metaphor also suggests that what is being
described is something which cannot be explained in purely literal terms (note the
narrators second metaphor, that he lives in a suspense of uncertainty), which in
turn suggests that we are not dealing with physical perception.
We can see how conceptual viewpoint can be conveyed in drama if we
consider the following brief extract from Dennis Potters play Brimstone and
Treacle, where one characters point of view is filtered through another:
[CONTEXT: Mr Bates is trying to explain to his wife, Amy, that their
daughter, Patricia, is permanently brain-damaged and will not recover.]
(71) Bates Patricia is gone from us, Amy. She has gone forever. You must
accept it.
(Potter, 1978: 3)

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Here, information about Amy Bates is filtered through Batess own speech,
namely the presupposition that she does not accept that Patricia is gone. So in
addition to Batess own point of view of the situation (that it is a hopeless case)
we also know something about his wifes conceptual viewpoint.
Conceptual point of view, in Chatmans terms, is a wider category of figurative
viewpoint than Fowlers (1986) notion of ideological point of view. Ideological
point of view deals with socio-political beliefs whereas Chatmans category is
used to describe our numerous figurative conceptions and judgements of the
world, and our way of conceptualizing the world and our position within it.
Conceptual point of view would appear to incorporate ideological viewpoint. I
therefore adopt the term conceptual point of view in my analyses.
In my analysis I concentrate mainly on those points of view filtered through
the characters, since it is likely that filtered viewpoint is the most prominent point
of view type in non-narrative drama. However, I also take into consideration
slanted point of view, since this too can affect characterization, as we have
already seen. In addition I consider both conceptual and perceptual points of view,
in order to take into account the variety of means by which viewpoint can be
expressed in drama, and the effects on characterization that this has.

2.2 Linguistic indicators of point of view


In addition to Chatmans terminology, I also find Simpsons (1993) and Shorts
(1996) work on point of view useful for my purposes, particularly since they
assist in giving a linguistic profile to Chatmans terms.
Short (1996) discusses point of view at the micro level by considering those
elements of a text which indicate viewpoint. Short collates these into a checklist
of linguistic indicators of point of view in prose fiction. I find this approach useful
since it allows us to start with the text itself, rather than trying to impose the
predefined, large-scale categories suggested by, for example, Uspensky (1973)
and Fowler (1986). This is of particular importance when attempting to study
point of view in drama, since it is by no means clear that Fowlers categories will
work on dramatic texts (certainly, the categories he uses to describe different
types of narrators are unlikely to fit, since they have been developed exclusively
through the analysis of prose texts). There is also the problem that Fowlers
categories do not allow for cases where point of view continually shifts within a
text.
Short (1996: 26387) explains that the following will indicate viewpoint in
prose fiction texts: (i) schema-oriented language, (ii) value-laden expressions, (iii)
given versus new information, (iv) verbs and adverbs of perception, cognition and
factivity, (v) deixis, and (vi) event-coding. These are explained with examples
from both prose fiction and drama in McIntyre (1999), but a short example here,
from Richard III, will show how Shorts categories might usefully be employed in
the study of drama. The following is an example of value-laden expressions
indicating viewpoint:

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[CONTEXT: Lady Anne, widow of Edward, Prince of Wales, is responding to


Richards assertion that he did not kill her husband.]
Anne In thy foul throat thou liest: Queen Margaret saw thy murdrous falchion
smoking in his blood[.]
(William Shakespeare, Richard III, 1.2.94; my italics)
The italicized words in the above example are instances of what Short refers to as
value-laden language. Language that is value-laden expresses something about
the speakers attitude to what is described or perceived.1 Value-laden language
will thus reveal something about a dramatic characters conceptual point of view.
In this example, this would be that Lady Anne believes that Richard did actually
kill her husband (implicated by the value-laden adjective murdrous), and that he
is a repugnant character (implicated by the negative connotations of the adjective
foul). There are, of course, other viewpoint indicators in this extract; for example,
the term smoking is, in this instance, a value-laden metaphor charged with
negative connotations.
The other categories in Shorts checklist can also be used in the study of
dramatic texts equally well. Van Peer (2001: 328), for instance, discusses the use
of schema-oriented language, explaining that in order to create a particular
perspective, a writer may portray a protagonist systematically according to a
particular schema. He then goes on to show how the eponymous protagonist of
Euripides Medea is characterized in part through the schema-related language
she uses.
I therefore employ Shorts (1996) list of viewpoint indicators in my analysis of
Brimstone and Treacle. In addition to Shorts categories, however, there are other
linguistic indicators of viewpoint to be found in texts. Some of these are discussed
by Simpson (1993), who takes a similar approach to Fowler (who himself follows
Uspensky, 1973) in his treatment of point of view, by attempting to develop
categories to describe different types of narration in the novel. While I do not
make use here of Simpsons categories for classifying narration (for reasons
discussed above), I do find some of the micro-level categories within his
pragmatic model of point of view useful: for example, the notion of semantic
presupposition. Simpsons framework for the analysis of viewpoint via
pragmatics is useful, since it allows us to account for those features of a text
which cannot be recovered by lexical items alone. Elements of Simpsons
framework complement the small-scale categories that Short (1996) employs.
Here, for example, is an instance of presupposition working to convey a
characters conceptual point of view. The example comes from Alan Bennetts
recent play, The Lady in the Van.
Miss Shepherd [] I would like to suggest that an older and taller [sic] pope
might be admirable (taller underlined) [sic], height counting towards
knowledge too, probably.
(Bennett, 2000: 22)

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The comparative adjectives that Miss Shepherd uses trigger the presupposition
that the present pope is neither old enough nor tall enough to be the best man for
the job (see Levinson, 1983: 1815, for a comprehensive list of presupposition
triggers) and this is indicative of Miss Shepherds conceptual point of view of
the present pope. Presupposition, therefore, might be seen as indicative of a
particular conceptual and perceptual point of view.
Indicators of point of view suggested by Simpson are entailments within
sentences, semantic presuppositions (both existential and logical), pragmatic
presuppositions (incorporating Grices notion of conventional implicature), and
characters employment of the Co-operative Principle (Grice, 1975). The format
of drama also means that other linguistic features turn out to be relevant to the
study of viewpoint in this particular text-type, and I discuss these in the course of
my analysis. Together with Shorts and Chatmans categories, they provide a
bottom-up approach to the study of point of view in drama.
In the next section I provide a synopsis of Brimstone and Treacle, before
moving on in section 4 to look at some of the ways in which viewpoint is
conveyed in the play.

3 Brimstone and Treacle


Like many of Dennis Potters works, Brimstone and Treacle is a deeply disturbing
play with a strong element of black humour. It concerns a typically suburban couple,
Tom and Amy Bates, and their struggle to care for their daughter Pattie, the victim
of a road accident which has left her paralysed and in a near-vegetative state. The
tension in the household is almost tangible. Mr Bates is angry, disturbed and
resigned to the fact that his daughter will never recover. Mrs Bates is deeply sad
yet utterly convinced that Pattie will get better, and that her constant prayers will
be answered. Both are exhausted with the pressure of caring for their now mentally
handicapped child, and the strain is beginning to affect their own relationship.
Then one night a character called Martin arrives at the Batess house claiming
to be an old friend of Patties. Martin explains that he had been in love with Pattie
and had asked her to marry him. Pattie, however, had been unsure and had asked
Martin for a period of separation in order for her to make a decision. Martin
agreed and went to America to work, where he subsequently lost contact with her.
Martin, unsurprisingly, is not all that he seems. He is, or at least believes
himself to be, a demon of sorts. Mr Bates immediately makes apparent his
mistrust of the seemingly too-good-to-be-true visitor, though Mrs Bates is
touched by Martins apparent devotion to their daughter. Martin asks to stay the
night in order to ease their burden of caring. Mrs Bates is thrilled at the prospect
and, reluctantly, Mr Bates agrees.
Martin appears to be the perfect guest, and even offers to look after Pattie the
following day so that Mrs Bates is able to go out. Once she has gone, though,
Martins true character is revealed and he rapes the helpless Pattie.

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Mr and Mrs Bates return to find Martin preparing dinner. Mrs Bates is
overcome with emotion and thanks God for sending Martin to them. She also
notices that Pattie seems suddenly more alert.
Martin agrees to stay longer, despite Batess misgivings. That night, when the
couple have gone to bed, Martin attempts to rape Pattie a second time. This time
though, she screams, awakening Mr and Mrs Bates. In a panic, Martin rushes out,
leaving the Batess to comfort their daughter. Pattie then speaks and asks what has
happened. Mr and Mrs Bates sob with relief. It appears that Martins sexual
assault has somehow cured their daughter. Pattie then remembers the events and
screams out as the lights go down and the play ends.
The play is undoubtedly controversial in the issues it raises. Potter, however,
saw it as a religious drama parodying particular forms of faith and suspected
(perhaps equally controversially) that had Martin been characterized as an angel,
the play would not have met with so much disapproval (Potter, 1978: iv). In the
extracts quoted, stage directions are indicated by italic type.

4 Point of view in Brimstone and Treacle


In this section I provide an analysis of filtered and slanted conceptual and
perceptual points of view in Brimstone and Treacle. Limitations of space
necessarily mean that this analysis cannot extend to the whole play, and so I have
chosen representative sections to illustrate the points I am making. In the course
of my analysis I also relate my findings with regard to viewpoint to the play as a
whole, and consider the dramatic consequences of the exhibition of particular
points of view. I begin by considering evaluative lexis as an indicator of point of
view in the text.

4.1 Evaluative lexis


Using Shorts (1996) checklist of linguistic indicators of point of view, it is
relatively straightforward to spot examples of the expression of viewpoint, as can
be seen in the following example:
[CONTEXT: Bates has become angry at what he sees as societal problems in
England. Encouraged by Martin, he begins a tirade of abuse.]
[211] Bates Therell always be an England. Ha! Not with the buses stinking of
curry and half the cities full of coloured men, there wont!
[212] Martin Deport them, thats what I say. Every nation has a right to defend
its own culture. Thats always been so. England for the English, I say. Its only
a slogan, of course, but slogans are the salt of action. They quicken the mind
and sharpen the resolve.
Bates looks at him with a new respect.

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(Potter, 1978: 31)

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The negative connotations of the participle stinking in turn 211 suggest that
Batess opinion of what he is talking about is also negative. This is further
confirmed by the logical presupposition inherent in the utterance. Bates begins the
turn with a declarative (Therell always be an England) and then imposes a
condition (that this will not be so if the buses stink of curry and the cities are
filled with coloured people). The progressive participle stinking suggests that
this particular action is ongoing, with the consequent logical implication that there
will not always be an England, and Batess discriminatory attitude suggests that,
to him, this is something to be regretted. In addition to the negatively charged
lexis in Batess turn, we can also note the hyperbole in what he says. Van Dijk
(1991: 192), in his discussion of what he terms semantic strategies in racist
language, notes that hyperbole is a common feature of this type of discourse. In
this example we also find slanted point of view, exhibited in the stage direction.
This also suggests that Bates is respectful of Martins point of view, the
consequence of this being that Bates implicates himself with the same point of
view. The conceptual point of view he is exhibiting, then, is one of racist
intolerance.
We can also notice the presence in this example of what Fowler (1986) calls
generic sentences, which can indicate point of view. These are generalized
propositions (Fowler, 1986: 167), such as Martins statement in turn 212 that
slogans quicken the mind and sharpen the resolve. Arguably, this further reveals
Martins particular ideology and contributes to our construction of his character.
Turning again to van Dijks (1991) work on racist language, we can also note that
Martin adopts the semantic strategy of mitigation and excuse (van Dijk, 1991:
190), justifying his explicitly racist outburst by his explanation that every nation
has a right to defend its own culture. Following this, we find negatively charged
lexis coming from Martin in turn 289:
[289] Martin Camps. Any camps for the time being. Oh, think of it!
Hundreds of people. No, thousands of people. Hundreds of thousands.
Millions. Rounded up from their stinking slums and overcrowded ghettos.
Driven into big holding camps, men, women, piccaninnies. Oh, youll hear de
calypso then all right. Youll hear de darkies sing! Youll see England like it
used to be again, clean and white. They wont want to go dey wont want to,
massa! So well have to push them and prod them and hunt them down.
Theyll fight, so we shall have to shoot them and C.S. gas them and smash
down their doors. Eh? Eh? Put barbed wire round them. Searchlights on the
corners. Eh?
He is rocking with glee.
Think of all the hate theyll feel! Think of all the hate well feel when they
start killing us back. Think of all the violence! Think of the pain and the degred-at-ion and in the end, in the end, the riots and the shooting and the black
corpses and the swastikas and the
(Potter, 1978: 33)

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Here again we can notice evaluative lexis (stinking slums, piccaninnies,


darkies, ghettos) and also a number of terms with negative connotations for
example, rounded up, barbed wire and searchlights. There is also a
conventionalized association in the line, Youll hear de darkies sing, arising
from the non-standard definite article, suggesting that at this point Martin affects
a stereotypical Black English accent. This too has consequences in terms of both
the viewpoint Martin is expressing and his perception of the relationship between
himself and Mr Bates. Martins adoption of a stereotypical Black
English/Caribbean vernacular (also suggested by the hyphenation in de-gred-ation) is an instance of metaphorical code-switching (Blom and Gumperz, 1972).
This type of code-switching is characterized by the use of non-standard language
to signal an in-group relationship between conversational participants. As Blom
and Gumperz (1972: 425) say, this may, depending on the circumstances, add a
special social meaning of confidentiality or privateness to the conversation.
Martins motivation for doing this is likely to be a desire to foster a close
relationship between himself and Mr Bates, in order to ingratiate himself with the
family and thereby create the opportunity to assault Pattie. The success of this
strategy depends largely on Martin establishing common ground and consensus
between the conceptual viewpoints that he and Mr Bates express, the results of
which can be seen towards the end of the play (discussed in 4.3).
This, the implied excitement through the use of exclamation marks, and the
slanted point of view in the stage directions telling us that Martin is rocking with
glee, all combine to convey the impression that Martin is enjoying his vision. It
may, of course, be the case that this is not Martins actual viewpoint, but one that
is affected for strategic reasons. It is possible that Martins hysteria is brought on
in part by what he perceives to be the success of his own strategy. This
interpretation is supported by the fact that in turn 291, when Bates interrupts him
to shout, No! Stop it!, Martin is able to immediately break off from his tirade to
ask, No?. If turn 289 represented his actual conceptual viewpoint, we would
perhaps expect him to go on defending it, even after Batess interruption. Further
support for this interpretation can be found in the fact that Martin does not
attempt to mollify what he is saying through the use of particular semantic
strategies that are commonly used for this purpose, such as those discussed by van
Dijk (1991: 18098). Nevertheless, the conceptual point of view expressed is, of
course, inherently racist, and the fact that it may not be entirely genuine would
suggest that Martin is deliberately trying to provoke a reaction from Bates. In this
case, the metaphorical code-switching may be seen as a contributory factor in this
attempt, Martin guessing that Bates will reject the closeness between participants
that such a strategy assumes.
The use of evaluative lexis to express a particular viewpoint, such as can be
seen in these extracts from Brimstone and Treacle, is generally what we might
expect to find in conversation. Of more interest, perhaps, are those elements of
the text which require more explanation than lexical features alone can provide,
which I discuss in the next section.

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4.2 Speech acts


A look at the first speech act produced by the character of Mrs Bates provides a
good example of a further way in which viewpoint is indicated in drama:
Bates is chewing from a plateful of sandwiches. Every bite shows him to be
morose and disgruntled. Mrs Bates watches him eat, stiff with anxiety, hands
clenching and unclenching. Pattie makes noises.
[1] Mrs Bates (eventually) Im awfully sorry, Tom.
(Potter, 1978: 1)
Turn 1 indicates that Mrs Bates has done something, or at least believes she has,
for which an apology is necessary (it seems that the apology refers to her failure
to produce a hot meal for Bates, due to the pressure of looking after Pattie).
Although apologizing does not necessarily imply guilt (apologies are often used
to defuse awkward situations, for example, particularly in British culture), the fact
that the apology here appears to be genuine can be gleaned from the slanted point
of view in the stage directions. We know that Bates is disgruntled and we know
that Mrs Bates is stiff with anxiety. Furthermore, the stage direction
eventually, preceding Mrs Batess turn, suggests that there is a significant pause
before Mrs Bates speaks. This, coupled with the fact that we know Mrs Bates to
be feeling anxious, suggests a degree of subservience on her part which would
support an interpretation of her apology as likely to be genuine. However,
whether or not this is the case is less important than what her speech act implies.
According to Searle (1969), speech acts involve four basic rules,2 these being
the propositional content, the preparatory condition, the sincerity condition and
the essential condition (Searle, 1969: 667). In order to perform a speech act,
some of all of these rules must be adhered to. So, for example, the speech act of
requesting requires the sincerity condition that the speaker wants the addressee to
perform a particular action. The connection between speech act theory and point
of view analysis lies with Searles explanation that psychological states are an
important factor in the performance of illocutionary acts. He notes that:
Wherever there is a psychological state specified in the sincerity condition, the
performance of the act counts as an expression of that psychological state. This
law holds whether the act is sincere or insincere, that is whether the speaker
actually has the specified psychological state or not.
(Searle, 1969: 65)
In the speech act of apologizing, the sincerity condition would (prototypically)
include the psychological state of regret, i.e. the speaker regrets some past action.
What Searle is saying, then, is that by performing the speech act of apologizing,
the speaker is expressing that psychological state, whether sincerely or insincerely,
and, of course, the expression of a psychological state is inextricably linked with
the manifestation of conceptual point of view. By apologizing, then, Mrs Bates
reveals something of her conceptual viewpoint, i.e. that she regards herself as in

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some way subordinate to her husband (whether this is meant sincerely or not is
another issue). It appears, then, that the analysis of speech acts may be one
indication of viewpoint that is particularly applicable to drama, and that does not
show up to the same extent in existing frameworks for the analysis of point of view.
A further example comes in turn 100, where Mr Bates begins to make
references to his frustration with his wife, the situation he finds himself in, and,
indeed, life in general. Following a violent outburst from Pattie, he exclaims:
[100] Bates I wish someone would plant a bomb here. I wish some thick ugly
Irish hoik would come and blow us all up.
(Potter, 1978: 4)
The verb wish with a complement clause expresses a regret that a particular
situation is not different, and refers to a situation that is unlikely or impossible.
The presupposition inherent in the sentence is that Mr Bates is unhappy with his
present situation. His apparent desire to be blown up is less important for our
construction of his point of view than the implicit presupposition that he is not
content with the situation which he finds himself in. Our background knowledge
of the play so far allows us to presuppose that this discontent is related to the
condition of his daughter. Additionally, the speech act of wishing belongs to that
class of illocutionary acts which Searle terms expressives. Searle (1979: viii)
explains that expressives are used to express feelings and attitudes. Specifically,
he notes that the illocutionary point of this class is to express the psychological
state specified in the sincerity condition about a state of affairs specified in the
propositional content (1979: 115). Expressives might therefore also be seen as
indicative of a particular conceptual point of view.
The obviously evaluative lexis in turn 100 also gives further indication of
Batess conceptual viewpoint; thick, ugly and the semi-offensive hoik are all
used in reference to a supposed particular Irish person, thereby indicating a
narrow-minded and racist view of the Irish. This is an important factor in the
psychological make-up of Mr Bates, and one of the attributes which is
undoubtedly taken into consideration in our impression of the character.

4.3 The co-operative principle and paradigms of reality


In his model of point of view via pragmatics, Simpson (1993) considers how
Grices (1975) co-operative principle can show up viewpoint relations. A look at
how the co-operative principle works between characters in Brimstone and
Treacle demonstrates this.
[CONTEXT: Mr Bates has been voicing his frustration at Patties situation,
and has just made some particularly nasty comments to Mrs Bates.]
[108] Mrs Bates Youre letting everything get on top of you. You ought to go
out a bit more.
[109] Bates I go out to work.
(Potter, 1978: 4)

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Mrs Batess statement in turn 108 is an expression of what she believes to be the
case we might say it is an expression of her conceptual point of view of the
situation as it stands. In effect she is complying with Grices (1975) maxim of
quality (Do not say that which you believe to be false) as she believes it to be. In
turn 109, Bates then flouts the maxim of relation by saying, I go out to work,
implying that he does not need to go out more because he already goes out in
order to go to work. This, then, is a refutation of Mrs Batess viewpoint expressed
in turn 108, and from this we have further evidence that Mr Batess conceptual
point of view is the opposite of his wifes. Bates conveys his own conceptual
point of view indirectly, by flouting a Gricean maxim in order to refute the
viewpoint of his wife.
Mrs Bates then issues a statement of desire, Id like to go out too, Tom [110],
which she follows in turn 115 by saying, Why cant we go out together
sometimes? Why cant we both get out of the house now and again? Thats what
we ought to do. The presence of the two questions is important for defining Mrs
Batess viewpoint. Leech (1983: 168) observes that negative questions express a
particular expectation, i.e. they assert an underlying belief in the negative
proposition. In the case of Mrs Bates, it is the belief that she cannot (or is not
allowed to) leave the house, either alone or with her husband. Batess answer to
his wifes question also comes in the form of an interrogative:
[120] Bates how can we allow other people strangers to come into the
house and hear such noises?
(Potter, 1978: 4)
The question in turn 120 is a rhetorical one. In terms of physical effort, it would
of course be very easy to allow other people into the house. Bates, though, is
flouting the maxim of manner, with two apparent implicatures. Most probably the
flout is to imply the negative assertion that we cannot allow other people to come
into the house. Why should Bates hold this view? The most likely reason comes
about through the second implicature and is, as Mrs Bates notes in turn 127, that
Mr Bates is ashamed of and embarrassed by Patties condition. Turn 120 also
allows us to infer something about the relative distribution of power between Mr
and Mrs Bates. Mr Bates responds to Mrs Batess question by asking another
question, a method that Burton (1980: 712), in a study of Pinters The Dumb
Waiter, suggests can be used to assert conversational dominance, and indeed, it is
likely that part of Batess conceptual point of view of his wife is that she is
subservient to him.
If we now move on to consider in more detail how the Bates express their
conceptual points of view with regard to their daughters vegetative condition, it
becomes clear that their notion of what it is to be linguistically co-operative in a
conversational exchange highlights some of the problems with Gricean theory. In
the following extracts, Mr and Mrs Bates are debating the severity of Patties
condition:

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[30] Mrs Bates (to Mr Bates) Oh, please. It upsets Pattie when you raise your
voice.
[31] Bates (quieter) Dont be foolish. Dont say things like that. How how
can she tell when (But his voice trails off as Pattie turns her head and seems
to look at him.)
[32] Mrs Bates She knows what goes on. I keep trying to tell you.
[33] Bates (staring at her, frightened) Of course she doesnt
[34] Mrs Bates She knows when you are angry. And she knows when I am
sad.
[35] Bates (hiss) Thats not possible
[36] Pattie Mmmm mmmmm kh.
[37] Mrs Bates Listen to her then. Shes trying to talk. She is, Tom. I dont
care what you say.
Bates stares at her, then twists his head away.
[38] Pattie Ooo oooh!
[39] Bates But thats terrible. What you are saying is horrible. If she
responds to our moods and therefore in some sense understands God above,
is it possible that she c..comprehends more than she can communicate ?
[40] Mrs Bates Yes, Im sure of it.
[41] Pattie Yaaa!
Pause.
[42] Bates (whisper) That is too much to bear. (Loudly) Horrible. Horrible.
Horrible!
[43] Mrs Bates No, Tom. Its a sign of improvement. It shows that things are
going on inside her. The doctors dont know everything. Theyre not right all
the time. Shes getting better!
(Potter, 1978: 2)
Of Mrs Batess utterances, 14 are declaratives. All contain factive verbs in the
simple present tense, suggesting that the statements she makes are eternal truths.
We can also note, then, that all these turns comply with the maxim of quality as
Mrs Bates understands it. Mrs Bates cannot possibly be certain that Pattie
comprehends her own situation, yet her constant use of factive simple present
verbs suggests that this is indeed what she genuinely believes to be the truth. This
is an important issue for the analysis of point of view; characters adhering strictly
to the maxim of quality can be said to be expressing an explicit conceptual
viewpoint. However, this does highlight one of the inherent problems with
Gricean theory, namely that Grice does not take into account the fact that different
speakers may have different notions about co-operation within a conversational
exchange. In Gricean terms, Mrs Bates is being maximally co-operative since she
is complying with the maxim of quality. However, Mr Bates has an entirely
different notion of what it is to do this. This is expressed in turn 35 when he says,

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Thats not possible; in Batess view, by saying this he is complying with the
maxim of quality, despite the fact that this viewpoint is the direct opposite of what
Mrs Bates has just suggested. Bates uses exactly the same strategies as his wife
for expressing viewpoint. Turns 31, 33 and 35, for example, all comply with the
maxim of quality as Bates understands it; they are expressions of what he believes
to be the actual situation. He is, then, expressing his point of view in the same
way as Mrs Bates does in turns 30, 32, 34, 37 and 43. His statement to Mrs Bates,
Dont be so foolish, implies that he believes her conceptual point of view to be
foolish, which in turn indicates that he rejects the notion of Patties point of
view being the same. He confirms this in turn 33 by stating what he actually
believes. Again, the declarative structure and the simple present factive verb
(the anaphoric reference to know in turn 32) suggest that this is the truth as
he believes it, and the fact that it is not possible for him to say for certain that
Pattie does not comprehend the world around her leads us to also conclude
that he is making an assumption of her conceptual point of view. Mr Bates
is also expressing his conceptual point of view by stating that of another
character.
We can also note, then, that being conversationally co-operative does not
always result in a harmonious exchange. The important issue for our purposes is
that an adherence to the maxim of quality can be seen as indicative of a
characters conceptual point of view, with regard to what they believe to be the
truth. This is an issue which relates to work that has been carried out within
sociology on the subject of differing notions of reality. Harris (1984: 18), in an
article exploring the use of questions as controlling devices in magistrates courts,
explains that speakers can begin an interaction from radically different
perspectives of reality. Her data focus on interactions between magistrates and
defendants concerning the payment of fines and she notes that the different
perspectives from which the interactants start might be characterized as two
separate paradigms of reality which all too often are in contradiction (1984: 19).
Archer (2002) adopts the term reality paradigms, and applies the notion in a
socio-pragmatic analysis of the Salem witchcraft trials, noting that (1)
interlocutors operate out of and filter information about their world[s] [sic]
through particularised perspectives of reality, and that (2) these perspectives
can and do clash (Archer, 2002: 20). It appears that this is very much what the
characters of Mr and Mrs Bates do in Brimstone and Treacle. Mr Bates refuses to
believe that Pattie will recover, whereas Mrs Bates is firmly convinced that this is
the case. The reality paradigms within which they operate, then, are does not
believe and believes, respectively, and this obviously has ramifications for what
these characters take to be the truth. It seems to be the case that whenever
characters reality paradigms clash, we encounter dramatic discord (as in turns
30 to 43 above). Similarly, when characters reality paradigms correspond
with each other, then we see dramatic harmony, as in Batess and Martins turns
below:

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[CONTEXT: Bates has just told several jokes at the expense of the Irish.]
[264] Martin Mind you, the Irish are beyond a joke. Have a drop more. And
you, Mumsy.
[265] Bates Thank you.
[266] Mrs Bates I feel a bit squiffy already! (But she tosses it back again.)
[267] Bates I agree with you there, Martin. A quarrelsome lot of thick drunks.
Theres far too many of em over here in the land theyre supposed to hate.
Ship them back, I say, and the sooner the better. Bombs and all.
[268] Martin Them, and the blacks.
[269] Bates Especially the blacks. Send them back to their own countries.
(Potter, 1978: 32)
It is at this point in the play that Bates begins to accept Martin, having previously
been wary of his presence. It appears that this is due in part to the fact that both he
and Martin are expressing conceptual viewpoints which are roughly the same. In
effect they are both operating within the same reality paradigm that might be
characterized as ethnic minorities are a social problem. Although it may seem
rather obvious that Martin and Bates hold this view, the significance lies with the
fact that this shared reality paradigm allows the two characters to establish
common ground. It is significant, too, that this consensus occurs in Act Four,
towards the end of the play, as this corresponds, albeit ironically, with the
Aristotelian notion of resolution following complication in terms of plot structure.

5 Conclusion
I suggested in the introduction to this article that studying point of view in drama
might lead us to a better understanding of how viewpoint is manifested in texts
generally. My analysis of Brimstone and Treacle is an attempt to contribute to the
broader account of viewpoint that Short (1999: 313) suggests is necessary if we
are to clearly understand the issues surrounding the concept of stylistic point of
view. As Short argues, the expression of viewpoint occurs not just at the level of
the narrator, but also between characters when they converse; each will express a
viewpoint whilst also taking the others viewpoint into consideration. It is the
expression of point of view at the character-to-character level that I have
concentrated on in my analysis. However, I have also taken into consideration the
expression of point of view via slant (Chatman, 1978) and how this affects the
filtered point of view that we get from the characters in the play. In addition to
this, my analysis reveals the necessity of considering perceptual and conceptual
viewpoints, and the link between these and their effect on characterization. There
is, then, a complex network of viewpoint relations to be considered, and this is
something that must be taken into account when attempting to describe and
explain point of view in texts. It is not simply that the point of view exhibited in a
given text might shift over the course of that text, but also that a variety of

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viewpoints might co-occur within the same text. This is what happens in
Brimstone and Treacle, and I would argue that it is the co-occurrence of these
differing points of view that contributes to the development of the plot. For
example, it is the disparity in Mr and Mrs Batess conceptual point of view of
Patties condition, and of the best way to care for her, that is a contributory factor
to the decline of their own relationship, and it is the consensus of conceptual point
of view that develops between Martin and Mr Bates that results in Martin being
able to stay an extra night with the family, thus affording him the opportunity to
rape Pattie a second time. One of the goals of future research might be to
adequately capture the fluid quality of point of view within a linguistic
framework, and to explain how it is that readers are moved from viewpoint to
viewpoint within a text.
In terms of the way in which point of view is manifested in Brimstone and
Treacle, my analysis suggests that linguistic indicators of point of view in drama
go beyond those associated with prose fiction. Indicators of point of view that I
would suggest to be of particular importance are the adherence of characters to
Grices (1975) maxim of quality, the notion of reality paradigms (Harris, 1984;
see also Archer, 2002) (which can be recovered via Gricean analysis), expressives
(Searle, 1979) and the psychological states inherent in the sincerity conditions of
particular speech acts (Searle, 1969). Further research into point of view in drama
would hopefully investigate more fully the significance of these features.
The importance of point of view for characterization comes from what the
expression of viewpoint tells us about particular characters. The linguistic
indicators of point of view discussed above enable the explanation of the way in
which characters present differing conceptual points of view, which, I would
argue, is what occurs at the character level of a dramatic text, and I would suggest
that it is the presentation of these conceptual viewpoints that assists readers and
audiences in constructing the various dramatic characters as they read or watch
a play. Point of view in drama, then, would seem to be an integral part of the
characterization process.
Point of view also results in dramatic effects in addition to characterization,
some of which have been described in the analysis in section 4. In Brimstone and
Treacle, the conflict between Martin and the Batess, expressed via differing
conceptual viewpoints, and the consensus that develops between the characters
appears to be a contributory factor to the development of the plot, setting Bates
further in opposition to his wife whilst presenting Martin with increasing
opportunities to be with Pattie alone. Ironically, it is only when the characters
appear to have resolved their differences, signified by the consensus in conceptual
points of view, that Martin is finally able to commit his most shocking act. It is
Martins manipulation of Mr and Mrs Bates, and his efforts to ingratiate himself
with the couple by outwardly appearing to concur with their conceptual
viewpoints, that leads to his gaining the opportunity to rape Pattie, and, of course,
the manipulation that he indulges in allows us further insight into Martins
character.

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There remains much research to be done into the issue of point of view in
drama. For example, the issue of slant is likely to be of particular importance in
classical drama in which there are narrators and/or choruses. The question of
empathy and its relation to viewpoint is also an area worthy of further
investigation, difficult though this may be. It will also be necessary to integrate
what we learn about point of view in drama with existing work on viewpoint, in
order to arrive at the broader account of point of view that Short (1999) suggests
is necessary to fully understand its complexities. This article has been an attempt
to sketch out some of the issues involved and take some first steps towards this aim.

Acknowledgements
I would like to thank Jonathan Culpeper for his help in the preparation of this
article, and for supervising the MA dissertation on which it is based. I am also
grateful to Willie van Peer and two anonymous reviewers for Language and
Literature for helpful comments on an early draft of this article.

Notes
1

Uncovering value-laden language is not restricted to simply recognizing the negative


connotations of particular words, of course. In some cases, meaning may come about as a result
of the words that a given form most consistently collocates with. Louw describes how the
habitual collocates of a word will imbue it with a consistent aura of meaning, referred to as a
semantic prosody (1993: 157), and goes on to demonstrate how one of the effects of these
collocations is the creation of irony.
For a discussion of the contentious issue of rules in pragmatics, see Thomas (1995).

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DAN MCINTYRE

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Weingarten, B.E. (1984) Dramatic Point of View and Antonio Buero Vallegjos La Fundacin,
Hispanic Journal 5(2): 14553.

Address
Dan McIntyre, Deanery of Humanities, Liverpool Hope University College, Hope Park, Liverpool
L16 9JD, UK. [email: mcintyd@hope.ac.uk]

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