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notes on discourse, action, agency and miguel street.docx

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Garry Leonard

Discourse -constructs the topic defines and produces the objects of our knowledge -governs the way that a topic can be meaningully talked about and reasoned about -influences how ideas are put into practice and used to regulate the conduct of otehrs. -it 'rules in' certain ways of talking about a topic, defining an acceptable and intelligible way to talk, write, or conduct oneself -it 'urles out' limits and restricts other ways of talking, of conduc ting ourselves in relation to the topic or constructing knowledge bout it. -it never consists of ONE statement, ONE text, ONE action or ONE source -the same discurse charcteristing of the way of thinking or the state of knowledge at any one time (this convergent point is s called the EPISTEME) will appear across a range of texts, and as forms of conduct, at a number odiffernt institutional sites within society. We can discern a "discursive formation". -It is not that nothing exists outside of discoure, it is that nothing MENINGFUL exists outside of discourse. And what is absent any meaning cannot affect self, or image, or self-image, or social practice. -since we can only have a knowledge of things if they have a meaning, it is discoursde--not the things-in-themselves--wchih produces knowledge -'madness' is not a fact, but something exisgting meaninfully withing discourses about it: 1. statements about 'madness', 'punishment' o 'sexuality' give us a certain kind of knowledge about these things 2. rule prescribe certainw ays of taling and exclude other ways-- govern what is 'sayable' or 'thinkable' about insanity, punishment or sexuality, at aparticular historical moment 3. we become 'subjects' to the extent we are subject to them--a madman, a hysterical woman, a criminal, a pervert, normal, deviant 4. knowledge about the topi acquires authority, a sense of embodying 'truth' in an historical paradigm 5. practices within institutions for dealing with subjects: hospitals, prisons, Churches, Schools, regulat and organize--regulate BY organizing--our sense of 'subjectivity according to these ideas 6. a different discourse or episteme will always arise at a later historical moment,supplanting the exitng one, opening u a new discursive formation, and prodcuing, in its turn, new conceptions, new discourses with the power and authority, the 'truth', to regulat social practices in new ways. Often these practices will come into being heralded as 'liberating', but discourse always plices (the way Roger, the revoltuionalry of The balcony goes to the brtohel to fantasize he is the chief of Ploice, and the chief of Plice keeps checking to see if he is a fantasy object for other people--the only sure way to hold power. 7. things mean something and are 'ture' only within a specific historical context. discourse and practice precedes the appearnce of the thing made meaningful, the object named, the subject disciplined. A discourse about 'madness' precedes the appearance of someone judged 'insane'. We once though language simply 'reported' what was there, but language CONSTITITES it, and us. We have always been sexual, but what marks one act as 'sexual' and anohter not? It is not simjply a question of nerve endings. It is also social practice, what is allowed, what if forbidden, what may be shown, what must be covered. A strip tease is more erotic thatn nudity becauswe it covers and shows, covers and shows, allows and forbids, encourages and dnies, offers and withoulds, gibves and takes back, submits and rejects, conforms and transgresses. in a previous episteme, disease was seen as coming from "outlside"--a punishment from god--so medical knowledge was prmarily religoious: identifying the offecne, designing an apporiate sacrifce to show penitence. Then disease was seen to aris from WITHIN the body and the body was 'mapped" in relation to a 'medical gaze', and the study of antomy and circulation was born. how is knowlege put to work through discursive practices in specific institutional settings to regulate the conduct of others" through institutional apparatus and its technologies (techniques). to punish you need: discourses, institutions, architectural arrangementrs, regulations, laws, administrative measures, scientific statements, philosophic proposition,morlaity, philanthropy, economy, etc. the apparatus is always inscribed in a play of pwoer, but it is also always linked to certain co-ordinates of knowledge. an appartus consists of stragtegies of relatins of forces supporting nd supported by types of knowledge'. , brought to bear in some way on the body. your body is a site where competing discourses vie for power by seeking to assert their authenticity by forming your subjectivity in such a way that your own understaning of your own coherence will re3quir you to insist theya re true. but what escapes discourse returns as fantasy of the real beyond the reality formulated by the discourse. fantasy is the dream of the real beyond the reality that has foreclosed this real in order to fourmulate a discourse of knowledge and power that is bothy your reality and the way you are regulated. In this senswe,
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