English and drama

The Discourse of Social and Personal Identity

Module code: Q3151
Level 6
15 credits in autumn teaching
Teaching method: Seminar, Lecture
Assessment modes: Coursework

This module presents the concept of identity as socially constructed, communicatively produced and constantly negotiated and reinvented. The focus is on situated talk and especially narrative, although not exclusively, as social practice. The module has two sections that aim to present two facets of the identity issue.

The first part revolves around the negotiation of personal identity in different contexts, from courtroom testimony to negotiations in committee meetings (along the line of work by Gumperz and Goffman). It considers the issue of positioning of self and others. You study some of the sociolinguistic literature on self-narratives in interaction and oral history in different social settings, from immigrant discourse to traumatic recollections. We also discuss TV programmes revolving around personal stories. This is an opportunity to reflect on the impact of the medium and the function of 'infotainment' on identity.

The second part of the module focuses on the representation by others. It discusses media representation of given communities and highlights the ideology that such representation construes in the readers' mind. Examples from case studies are the Islamic community in the UK press (Poole, 2002), the representation of countries at war, e.g. the Iraqis during the 2003 conflict (Haarman and Lombardo, eds. 2008) and the identity that some political parties offer to their constituency in TV interviews etc.

Module learning outcomes

  • Awareness of how in a post-modern conceptualisation, identity is continually negotiated, pluralised (and distinguished between social, personal and interactional) and is performative.
  • Awareness of how identity is conveyed and construed through language and a consideration of the context in which identity is presented is paramount.
  • The ability to critically summarise relevant research and reflect on the various approaches to the study of identity in different (non)narrative contexts.