Ask a Scholar: Critical Discourse Analysis

Dario Fernandez-Morera

Dear Ask a Scholar,

Do you have references of Latin-American authors that develop their work in Critical Discourse Analysis?

Answered by Dario Fernandez-Morera, Associate Professor of Spanish & Portuguese at Northwestern University. Dr. Fernandez-Morera received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University. He has published books and articles in English and Spanish in the United States, England, and Spain on cultural issues and theory, Cervantes, sixteenth and seventeenth-century Spanish prose and fiction, modern Spanish poetry, the encounter between Europeans and Amerindians, Modernism, and contemporary political events in Latin America. Fernández-Morera has served in the National Council on the Humanities and as a consultant and reader for the National Endowment for the Humanities.

This approach to the study of literature and culture, used widely in the Latin American studies field as it is used also in the other languages and literatures and in the humanities in general, is not employed by novelists or poets.  It is an academic approach.  One only has to open an academic journal to find this approach everywhere.  It is but another reincarnation of the Marxist or Marxoid shaped discourses prevalent in the contemporary academic study of the humanities which I discuss in my book American Academia and the Survival of Marxist Ideas.  "Critical Discourse Analysis" draws on such authors as Marx (the great founder of materialist discourse), Antonio Gramsci (a member of the Italian Communist party in the 30's, a party quite loyal to Stalin), Louis Althusser (the French Marxist who confessed towards the end of his life that he had never actually read Das Kapital, although he made a living teaching and writing about Marx in the French universities), Juergen Habermas (the Marxist thinker member of the German "Critical Theory" group, from which "Critical Discourse Analysis" borrows even for its own name), etc.  In this approach, old venerable notions like "class struggle" are disguised as "domination," and "hegemony," where what explains everything are relations of domination and subordination (a variant is "subaltern studies," quite hot in academia today).  In my book I refer the reader to 1984, where the intellectual O'Brian, a high-ranking member of Ingsoc (English Socialism), explains life through power relations.  Orwell was quite familiar with this intellectual type and its curious approach to life and culture.

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