Textual Analysis Myra Gurney School of Humanities and Communication Arts

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  • Textual Analysis Myra Gurney School of Humanities and Communication Arts
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  • What is textual analysis? A research method used to describe and interpret the characteristics of texts Describes the content, structure and functions of a message in a text The choice of elements within a text can offer evidence of how people make sense of or understand the world. It can also show how they wish to be understood Most commonly uses language as a source of analysis for the production of meaning but can also use semiotic systems Texts do not exist in isolation and must be read in the context of speaker, audience, genre and historical context
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  • What is a text In the context of cultural studies, the idea of a text includes written and spoken language but also films, photographs, television productions, music, artwork etc. They can also be read as artifacts of ideology where the choice of elements and their composition (how they are constructed) consciously or unconsciously reflects a political or ideological position Texts are socially constructed that is, they are created by, as well as reflect and represent, our views of the world Linguist MAK Hallidays definition of a text is a semantic unit containing specific textual components, which make it internally cohesive. He was also concerned with studying the relationship between language and other elements and aspects of social life (Fairclough, 2003, 5)
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  • The Humpty Dumpty syndrome When I use a word, Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, it means just what I choose it to mean neither more nor less. The question is, said Alice, whether you can make words mean so many different things. The question is, said Humpty Dumpty, which is to be master that's all. Lewis Carroll Alice in Wonderland
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  • The study of language Language is the predominant channel of communication used by humans Language is learned and imbibed from our social surroundings Words are symbols: meaning is in the use and interpretation, not in the word itself Each speaker and reader will bring their own interpretations to the meaning Context can alter meaning
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  • Language as a social construction Kress: language not something that is outside time - Language not a static, fixed system or as something where the individual language user meets the system as a monolithic, immutable given, which he or she may use but cannot alter. Discourses reflect the users view of the world and act to internalise these views via language Lakoff (2008): [s]ince language is used for communicating thought, our view of language must also reflect our new understanding of the nature of thought. Language is at once a surface phenomenon and a source of power. It is a means of expressing, communicating, accessing, and even shaping thought
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  • Language and reality Discourses reflect the users view of the world and act to internalise these views via language According to Kress and Hodge (1979), naming and labeling a phenomenon has the effect of shaping how we think about it: boat people, illegal immigrants, queue jumpers The words we choose to communicate our version of reality will reflect both how we experience these phenomena and also how we wish others to see it. Bill Lutz writes: I like my coffee hot; my wife says my coffee is scalding; I say the handle of the pot is too hot; my wife grabs it with her bare hand; I say the shirt is red; my wife says it is orange. I say the car is small; the salesman calls it mid-sized. What passes for a mountain in the mid-West is called a foothill in the West (1996, 9).
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  • Words as symbols Both the sounds and the letters used to represent the sounds are arbitrary: they have no inherent meaning We learn and use particular meanings and they evolve and change Language is not fixed: it evolves and changes Words and expressions, forms of speech often act as historical artifacts eg Abraham Lincolns Gettysburg Address: Four score and seven years ago our ancestors brought forth our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Churchills war speeches: We will fight them on the beaches Martin Luther King I have a dream, JF Kennedys Ask not what your country can do for you
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  • The notion of discourse Language is more a social than an individual matter and Kress uses the term discourse to mean the systematic way in which institutions or social groups habitually talk or write (Mohan et al, 1997, 69) a group of statements which provide a language for talking about a topic and a way of producing a particular kind of knowledge about a topic. Thus the term refers both to the production of knowledge through language and representations and the way that knowledge is institutionalized, shaping social practices and setting new practices into play (Du Gay, 1996, 43)
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  • Approaches to textual analysis: Rhetorical criticism Rhetorical criticism: a systematic method for describing, interpreting, analysing and evaluating the persuasive purpose of a message (Frey et al, (1999) Origins in Classical Rhetoric of Ancient Greeks esp Aristotle Asks a range of questions including: What is the relationship between a text and its context/ How does a text construct reality for an audience? What does a text suggest about the rhetor?
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  • Three main dimensions of rhetoric Ethos is trustworthiness, credibility, and reliability of the speaker; Pathos is appealing to an audience's most basic, most deeply held values, attitudes, beliefs and needs; Logos is the appeal to evidence through use of logic and the reasoning process. Most messages contain all these dimensions to a greater or lesser extent
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  • Approaches to textual analysis: Content analysis Content analysis is used to identify, enumerate and analyse occurrences of specific messages and message characteristics embedded in texts Qualitative: researchers are more interested in the meanings associated with messages than the number of times messages occur Quantitative involves identifying and coding semantic units like words or phrases, or thematic units such as topics. Often uses software programs such as NViVO or Leximancer to code Example: Australian Centre for Independent Journalism (ACIJ): Sceptical Climate Part 1: http://sceptical- climate.investigate.org.au/part-1/findings/research-design- methodology/http://sceptical- climate.investigate.org.au/part-1/findings/research-design- methodology/
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  • How to do textual analysis from McKee (2014) Start with a question you want to answer eg how does the media represent a certain issue such as climate change Locate texts which either directly or indirectly represent the issue eg media reports, speeches, press releases, advertising texts, political advertising, parliamentary speeches, film, television, cartoons Narrow your question to focus on one aspect eg What frames do the texts use to argue for climate change? Find previous academic and popular writing on the subject What is the cultural or political context of the text? Eg other texts, genre, intertexts (eg blog posts, letters to the editor), the semiosphere (or world of meaning within which the text circulates: what other texts or issues might influence the interpretation)
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  • How to do textual analysis from McKee (2014) Gather examples of the texts Examine as many examples as possible in terms of the rules which govern how they work. What are the themes, styles, conventions? What is NOT said? Omission can be as important as inclusion What frames (political positions, focus, structures, choice of metaphor etc are dominant)? What are the linguistic devices (sentence structures, metaphor, word choices, rhetorical structures) which create these frames? To what extent are these deliberate or accidental? How might audiences respond? Give examples to support your contention
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  • Example: Climate change: The great moral challenge of a generation Rhetorical trope first articulated in Rudd speech of June 2007 at the National Climate Change Summit Political speeches have an important strategic role in the evocation of a position and a politicians power: Rudd was establishing his credibility as an alternative PM He was trying use climate change to distinguish himself from old world values and approach of John Howard in lead up to 2007 election Trying to establish his position within the ALP Taking up a previous position in an earlier essay Faith in Politics (2006)
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  • Research question How is the moral challenge framed? What underlying values does the discourse reflect? What are the dominant frames? Does the speech work rhetorically to construct the problem as a moral and ethical one? Why not?
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  • Some competing climate change frames From Nisbet (2009) FrameDefines science-related issue as Social progressA means of improving quality of life or solving problems; alternative interpretation as a way to be in harmony with nature instead of mastering it. Economic development and competitiveness An economic investment; market benefit or risk; or a point of local, national, or global competitiveness. Morality and ethicsA matter of right or wrong; or of respect or disrespect for the limits, thresholds, or boundaries. Sci