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Discourse Analysis for Rhetorical Studies

Leaders: Barbara Johnstone, Carnegie Mellon University; Christopher Eisenhart, UMass Dartmouth

  Discourse Analysis for Rhetorical Studies

Barbara Johnstone (Carnegie Mellon University)
 Christopher Eisenhart (UMass Dartmouth)

The discourse analysis we will practice in this workshop is "micro-rhetorical" work, aimed at seeing exactly how discourse works constitutively and how rhetors balance the competing pulls of structure and choice.  The purpose of the workshop is to explore the utility of linguistic discourse analysis in research in a variety of rhetorical sites, including discourses of public memory and collective identity, rhetoric of science and technology, vernacular argumentation, media discourse, and immigration studies.  We invite both experienced practitioners and those who are interested in an initial exploration of discourse analytic methods to come practice, examine, and discuss the utility of discourse analysis for understanding how rhetoric both evokes and creates publics, worlds, and issues; how agency functions in discourse; and how style and argument are related.

We will take a mostly qualitative, interpretive approach to the texts participants bring to the workshop discussion.  Our approach differs from the approaches often taken in rhetorical studies in being data-driven rather than theory-driven and in focusing on the details of grammar and vocabulary and the rhetorical work they do.  Working upward from particular situated instances of text and talk rather than downwards from abstract models of discourse, we will practice a variety of systematic approaches to explaining why particular bits of discourse take the particular shapes they do.  Our work will draw on the traditional analytical tools of rhetoric - figures of speech, topoi, lines of argument; invention and style; ethos, logos, and pathos - showing how they can inform and can be informed by discourse analysts' attention to the ways lexicon and syntax can evoke styles, genres, and prior texts and speakers, and thereby create social relations and experiential worlds in talk and writing. 

We will touch on several strands of discourse analysis, including critical discourse analysis, interactional sociolinguistics, narrative analysis, and participant observation.  Workshop participants will read and critique examples of the use of each of these methods in rhetorical contexts, and we will practice using each in exploratory work of our own.  We will count on participants who have already had (or taught) a course in discourse analysis to bring that experience to our workshop discussions, and we are eager to work with participants who are new to discourse analysis.  Please don't hesitate to contact us if you would like to know more about what to expect. 

For inquiries, contact Barbara Johnstone:

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