Rhetorical Strategies of Book Blurbs: An Analysis of the Self-Help Genre

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Title: Rhetorical Strategies of Book Blurbs: An Analysis of the Self-Help Genre
Author: Kyrylina, Anna
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts, Department of Modern Languages
Thesis level: master's thesis
Abstract: In this thesis, I study rhetorical strategies of book blurbs with the focus on the self-help genre. Book blurbs are considered to be an example of promotional discourse used by publishing companies to attract a potential reader and to persuade him/her to make a purchase. For the study, the self-help genre is chosen due to its recent increase in popularity as an affordable, private and exciting way to cope with different problems as opposed to a traditional consultation with a psychologist or talks with friends and family members. In order to see how the promotional function is achieved, this study seeks to answer the following research questions: What are the rhetorical structural patterns of bestselling self-help book blurbs? What kind of adjectives are used to realise the functions and messages of self-help book blurbs? The central object of the research is the self-help book blurb. The data contain forty self-help bestselling book blurbs collected from Amazon.com Books selected based on selling rates. The book blurbs are in the top 100 among the self-help genre on Amazon. The selected forty book blurbs are divided into four main subcategories: Personal Relations, Personal Growth, Identity and Coping with Stress. Each subcategory consists of ten books, which makes the category large enough for comparative purposes. In this thesis, the framework of moves and steps is applied to identify structural patterns of blurbs and their functions; Osgood’s concept of semantic differential and my own semantic classification of adjectives obtained through a bottom-up analysis are used to analyse adjectives and their contribution to the promotional function. Therefore, I used quantitative analysis to identify frequencies of moves/steps and adjectives and qualitative close reading genre analysis due to its interpretative nature. The analysis of texts revealed the existence of a six-move schematic structure with steps peculiar to self-help book blurbs. The rhetorical structure was shown to be flexible with the possibility of moves/steps to be recurrent, embedded or used alone. Thus, blurb writers are free to experiment with the structure as long as the promotional and informative functions are realised. The analysis of adjectives revealed that adjectives, mostly evaluative, contribute to promotional and informative functions created by steps and moves. The study concludes that the self-help book blurb is a multifaceted genre with a marketing communicative purpose, where the choice of moves and steps is made with the target to underline the strongest points of books and highlight the content in an attractive way by using specific lexis.
URI: URN:NBN:fi:hulib-201901291190
Date: 2018
Subject: self-help
move and step
Discipline: englantilainen filologia
English Philology
Engelsk filologi

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