In Their Own Words

We are very pleased to be able to include the following transcripts made from interviews conducted with James Paul Gee (2009), Norman Fairclough (2003), and Gunther Kress (2004) on this website. The purpose of speaking at length with these scholars was to open the possibility of looking across their respective approaches‚ÄĒnot to develop uniformity or consistency but to develop a more layered understanding of the origins of the various approaches to discourse analysis. How did these heterogeneous intellectual traditions across varied geographic locales converge around central ideas like theoretical context, analytic methods, linguistic theory, critical social science, semiotics, and so forth?

In addition to reading them from beginning to end, we invite you to take advantage of the hyperlinked headings in order to read “across” the transcripts from interview to interview. Each interview contains the following categories: Personal History with CDA; CDA as Approach, Stance, and Method(s); Context; Changes in Approach; Critiques of CDA; CDA in Education; and Future Directions. As you read across the interviews, consider how each of the scholars discusses the issue. The concept of context, for example, is a particular vibrant issue in the field. How do we define context? Frame it? Limit it? Embed our analysis within it and so forth? As Gee, Fairclough, and Kress demonstrate in their interviews, the question of context is partly a matter of analytic procedures and theoretical framework but also involves questions around representation. On what points do the ideas and/or research practices of these three scholars converge? Where do they diverge?

Readers will note the multiplicity of inquiry methods described here. At one point in his interview Gee says, “Any method is tied to a theory in a domain.” What the analyst does, in other words, is determined by the ideas engaging her/him in a particular field. The open approach to method depicted in these interviews is intellectually liberating; it is our questions, after all, which drive research design. For Gee, Fairclough, and Kress, discourse analysis is all about addressing the most basic questions across time: What was going on here? What is going on here? What might go on here? And how? This is what matters most of all, not what we call the methods that we apply to addressing and answering such questions. 

Collectively, these interviews also show the richness of the theoretical and linguistic backgrounds that have informed and continue to inform critical discourse studies. I think they encourage future scholars of CDS to dive deeply into linguistic theory and social theory and to ask and answer questions that matter socially. Indeed,
Kress and Gee in particular urge young researchers to move beyond the state of the art, to address the need for analytic tools and procedures which can be applied to multimodality, and also to work out an American version of a theory of a functional approach to grammar.

Finally, readers will surely hear resistance on the part of all three scholars to classify themselves as practitioners in anything as stable as the field we are calling Critical Discourse Analysis:

¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† “I don’t do Critical Discourse Analysis,” says Gee. 
“I don’t think that I do Critical Discourse Analysis,” says Kress. 
“There is no method of CDA,” says Fairclough. 

Taking a cue from these scholars, it is our hope that this edition of Critical Discourse Analysis in Education and its Companion Website will help inspire new ways for practitioners to think about discourses and the social meanings they express.

                                                                                    --Rebecca Rogers and Inda Schaenen


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