Ferruh Yılmaz



Winter Quarter, 2004
Instructor: Ferruh Yilmaz

Course Synopsis

The purpose of this course is to introduce students to a radically different notion of language than they are used to. Through assignments and examples, this course aims to make students aware that language is not merely a ‘tool' with which we describe ourselves, the world outside, and our relationship with it but one that actively constructs both the objects of language (subjectivity/identity, reality) and conceptual distinctions between these. It also aims to make visible to students the processes that naturalize particular ways of talking about ourselves and the outer world and processes that delegitimize alternative ways of conceptualizing issues.

To help students understand the radically different constructivist approach to reality and our relationship with it, this course will focus on examples from everyday practices as well as news media and cultural products such as film and TV productions. Students will be asked to look at mundane (non-ideological) conversations, texts and visual material to analyze how social inequality is produced and justified in everyday context as well as in institutional settings.

The course will begin with a brief account of the roots of discourse theory. In the second part, we will discuss Foucault's approach that views discourse as a network of practices and strategies. In this part, we will also read parts of Edward Said's influential work Orientalism as an example of Foucaultian approach and discuss examples from the news media and films. The last part of the course focuses on contemporary approaches, particularly on Critical Discourse Analysis and Discursive Psychology with examples form everyday conversations, the news media and other mundane items.


The most important requirement is to complete all of the readings assigned: comprehension of the arguments is crucial to your success in this course. Brief (half page) summaries of assigned readings are due at the start of each class. The summaries will be used to indicate attendance. 80 % attendance is required to pass the course.

Course evaluation

20 % for class participation (summaries and general participation in class discussions)

Midterm: 35 %. The midterm will cover the basic concepts introduced in the first half of the course and will be an in-class test.

Final paper: 45 %. The final paper will require students to do their own discourse analysis of an example of their own choice (a conversation, an interview, a news story or a movie) drawing on the course material.

Further explanation of these assignments will be provided in class.

Books (available at Groundworks)

Foucault, Michel (1972). The Archeology of Knowledge. New York : Harper and Row.
Said, Edward (1978) Orientalism. London : Routledge & Keagan Paul Ltd.


Philosophers have long dealt with the nature of language and our relationship with the material world since Enlightenment. Philosophers such as Wittgenstein, Austin, and Swiss linguist Saussure questioned the notion that we use the language simply to describe the world. They argued that we deal with the world through language. In this part of the course we will discuss how these philosophers paved the way for a constructivist view of reality.

1. Week: Foundations and building blocks for discourse theory

Tuesday, January 6 – Introduction: the relationship between language and reality

Thursday, January 8 – Speech acts, language games, interaction, semiotics

Wetherell, Margaret (2001): Themes in Discourse Research: The Case of Diana in Wetherell, M., Taylor S. and Yates, S. (eds): Discourse as Theory and Practice, London : Open University & Sage Publications (pp. 14-28) (Reader)

Potter, Jonathan (2001): Wittgenstein and Austin in Wetherell, M., Taylor S. and Yates, S. (eds): Discourse as Theory and Practice, London : Open University & Sage Publications (pp. 39-45) (Reader)

Heritage John (2001): Goffman, Garfinkel and Conversation Analysis in Wetherell, M., Taylor S. and Yates, S. (eds): Discourse as Theory and Practice, London : Open University & Sage Publications (pp. 46-56) (Reader)


French philosopher Michel Foucault's discourse theory has had a great influence on scholars in humanities and social sciences. Even contemporary discourse analysts who are critical of Foucaultian approach acknowledge their debt to the groundbreaking notion of discourse by Foucault.

2. Week: From Structuralism to Foucault

Tuesday, January 13 – Semiotics/Structuralism, Representation

Tompkins, Jane (1988): A Short Course in Post-Structuralism, College English, Vol. 50 No. 7 (pp. 733-747) (electronic reserves)

Hall, Stuart (2001). “Foucault: Power, Knowledge and Discourse” in Wetherell, M., Taylor S. and Yates, S. (eds): Discourse as Theory and Practice. London : The Open University & Sage Publications (pp. 72-81)

Thursday, January 15 – Foucault and Discourse

Foucault, Michel (1972): Part II (chapter 1 through 7) in The Archeology of Knowledge and The Discourse on Language, New York : Pantheon Books (pp.21-76)

3. Week – Foucaultian analysis of discourse

Tuesday, January 20 – Orientalism

Said, Edward (1978) Introduction and Chapter 1 in Orientalism: Western Concepts of the Orient, New York : Penguin Books (pp. 1-112)

Thursday, January 22 – Orientalism Today

Mutman, Mahmut (1993) Under the Sign of Orientalism: The West vs. Islam, Cultural Critique 23, (pp. 165-197) (Reader)

4. Week – Gender and Discourse / Critique of Foucault

Tuesday, Jan 27 – Gender and Race in Discourse

Espiritu, Yen Le (2000) – Chapter 5 in Asian American Women and Men, Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press (pp.86-107)

Thursday, Jan 29 – Feminist critique of Foucault

Reading – to be announced later


Foucault was concerned with the powers and oppressions of language. In this sense, discourses tend to operate in a fixed manner. This notion of discourse has been criticized by a number of discourse analysts who have been inspired by the Russian literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin who was virtually unknown in the West before 1980s although his most original writings were written 50 years before. In this part of the course, we will focus on approaches that acknowledge the fragmented, contingent and rhetorical (context-bounded) nature of discourse.

5. Week – Away from the unity of discourse – Bakhtin

Tuesday, Feb 3 – Bakhtin and heteroglossia

Bakhtin, Mikhail, M (1981): Discourse in Novel, in The Dialogic Imagination, Austin , TX: University of Texas Press. (pp. 259-300)

Thursday, Feb 5 – Mid-term

6. Week – Hegemony

Tuesday, Feb 10 – Hegemony

Kim, Sujeong: “Hegemony: cultural” in International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences Volume 10. New York : Pergamon (pp 6645-6650)

Laclau, Ernesto and Mouffe, Chantal (1985). “Beyond the Positivity of the Social: Antagonisms and Hegemony” in Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. New York : Verso (pp. 93-148)

Thursday, Feb 12 – Discourse theory and hegemony

Yilmaz, Ferruh (2000): Ideology at work in (the production of) the news on Latinos (unpublished paper) (electronic reserves).

7. Week – two schools of discourse analysis: CDA and Discursive Psychology

Tuesday, Feb 17 – Critical Discourse Analysis

Fairclough, Norman (2001): The Discourse of New Labor: Critical Discourse Analysis in Wetherell, M., Taylor S. and Yates, S. (eds.): Discourse as Data: A Guide for Analysis, London : Sage (pp. 229-266)

Thursday, Feb 19 – Discursive Psychology

Potter, Jonathan and Wetherell, Margaret (1987): Unfolding Discourse Analysis in Wetherell, M., Taylor S. and Yates, S. (eds.): Discourse as Theory and Practice, London : The Open University & Sage Publications (pp. 198-209)


Discourse analysts commonly draw attention to two main features of discourse: discourse is action-oriented (it has a persuasive dimension) and the factuality of reality descriptions is a major discursive strategy in persuasive discourse. This part of the course looks at analysis of argumentative and factual discourse.

8. Week – Fact construction

Tuesday, Feb 24 – Facts in discourse

Potter, Jonathan and Wetherell, Margaret (1988) Accomplishing attitudes: Fact and evaluation in racist discourse, Text 8 (1-2) (pp. 5168) (electronic reserves)

Thursday, Feb 26 – mind and discourse

Edwards, Derek (forthcoming) Analyzing Racial Attitude in H. van den Berg, M. Wetherell, & H. Houtkoop-Steenstra (Eds.), Analyzing race talk: Multidisciplinary approaches to the interview. Cambridge University Press, October 31, 2003 (electronic reserves)

9. Week – Argumentation and rhetoric

Tuesday, March 2 – Argumentation

Goodwin, Charles (1994): Professional Vision, American Anthropologist 96(3), (pp. 606-633) (electronic reserves)

Thursday, March 4 – Rhetoric and ideology

Billig, Michael (1988): Common-places of the British Royal Family: A rhetorical analysis of plain and argumentative sense, Text 8 (3) (pp.191-215) (electronic reserves)

10. Week - Overview

Tuesday, March 9 – Pitfalls in discourse analysis

Antaki, C, Billig, M., Edwards, D & Potter, J. (2001): Discourse Analysis Mean Doing Analysis: A Critique of a six analytic shortcomings. http://www.shu.ac.uk/daol/previous/v1/n1/index.htm (electronic reserves)

Thursday, March 10 – Overview of the course.