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Analysing Discourse – Analysing Politics: Theories, Methods and Applications, Week I: Theories and Methods

Bernhard Forchtner

University of Leicester

Michał Krzyżanowski is Full Professor and Chair of Media and Communication Studies at Örebro University, Sweden. He has lectured and guest-lectured widely including at the Universities of Aberdeen, Bremen, Brussels (VUB), Florence (EUI), Göteborg, Lancaster, Milan (Bicocca), Poznań, Tilburg or Umeå. He is Executive Editor of Journal of Language and Politics and sits on editorial boards of such journals as, inter alia, Critical Discourse Studies, Social Semiotics or Qualitative Sociology Review. He also co-edits Book Series Bloomsbury Advances in Critical Discourse Studies. His research focuses on discourse and communication in the context of socio-political, organisational and institutional change in Europe from the point of view of media and the public sphere, communication in/of national and supranational politics and organisations, social and political identities, and discrimination and social exclusion. He has also worked on developing new approaches in qualitative research methodology and critical discourse studies. He has published widely incl. in such journals as Discourse & Society, Social Semiotics, Journalism Studies, Journalism Practice, Critical Discourse Studies or Journal of Language and Politics and is the author and editor of several major monographs and anthologies in critical discourse research on media, political and organizational communication. He is co-editor of the widely acclaimed Qualitative Discourse Analysis in the Social Sciences (with R. Wodak, 2008; Polish translation 2011). His other book publications include: Multilingual Encounters in Europe’s Institutional Spaces (with J. Unger and R. Wodak, Bloomsbury Academic, 2014), Advances in Critical Discourse Studies (with J.E. Richardson, D. Machin and R. Wodak, 2013), Ethnography and Critical Discourse Analysis (2011); The Discursive Construction of European Identities (2010); European Public Sphere and the Media: Europe in Crisis (with A. Triandafyllidou and R. Wodak, 2009); The Politics of Exclusion: Debating Migration in Austria (with R. Wodak, 2009); Discourse and Transformation in Central and Eastern Europe (with A. Galasińska, 2008); (Un)Doing Europe: Discourses and Practices of Negotiating the EU Constitution (with F. Oberhuber, 2007).

Course Dates and Times

Monday 1 to Friday 5 August 2016
Generally classes are either 09:00-12:30 or 14:00-17:30
15 hours over 5 days

Prerequisite Knowledge

Students attending the course should be open to new, interdisciplinary qualitative methods of research in social and political sciences. They should ideally have some background in relevant social theory as well as in the existent discourse- and language oriented approaches to social and political analysis. Students should be interested in both synchronic and/or diachronic analyses of contemporary national and supranational politics in Europe and beyond, also in relation to other fields such as media, institutions, policy-making, etc.

Short Outline

This course offers comprehensive introduction to Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) as an empirical approach to research on dynamics of contemporary political and institutional change. The course aims to highlight key approaches in CDA and especially its so-called ‘Viennese’ or Discourse-Historical Approach (DHA), widely recognised for its systematic and empirically funded work on both national and supranational politics in Europe. The course presents CDA as both theory and practice and does so at the background of various linguistic and social-scientific approaches to text and discourse studies as well as at the background of developments in social and political theory. The course takes place in a 1+1 format so both weeks can be taken independently or as a one 2-week module (advisable). The first Week of the course is devoted to theoretical and analytical groundwork with students being introduced to history and development of text and discourse studies as well as to CDA and its relationship to other approaches in discourse analysis. Students are also made initially familiar with key steps and categories of CDA/DHA-inspired analysis. During Week two, students further their analytical skills while using various analytical categories and paths and different types of empirical material analysed in a series of in- and out-of-class individual and group assignments. They are also presented with a series of applications of CDA/DHA in various analyses of contemporary political and institutional discourse.

Long Course Outline

Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA; often also defined as Critical Discourse Studies, CDS)  is a way of carrying out social research with a focus on ‘discourse’ i.e. on text and other forms of semiosis analysed in their contexts of use, production and reception. However, while becoming very popular across the variety of social and political sciences, many features of what CDA is or does remain misinterpreted. For example, CDA is often approached from a limited perspective i.e. as a ‘method’ rather than a coherent approach with a distinct theory and methodology. Though resting on sound theoretical and methodological foundations, CDA is also often viewed as a homogeneous approach with criticism against CDA failing to notify that it is indeed a heterogeneous research tradition which consists of several schools which, while sharing general principles on e.g. the relation between language and power, ideology, differ in their theoretical and methodological ontology as well as their analytical pathways and foci.


By offering comprehensive introduction to Critical Discourse Analysis as an approach to research on dynamics of contemporary political and institutional change, this course wishes to outline key theoretical foundations, methodological premises and analytical pathways in CDA. In doing so, and by clarifying several misconceptions and misinterpretations of CDA that are widespread in social- and political-scientific research, the course wishes to highlight those aspects of critical-analytic studies which make them particularly useful to interdisciplinary and context-related explorations of contemporary politics. By showing similarities and differences between CDA – and especially one of its major traditions known as the Discourse-Historical Approach (or DHA) – and other discourse-based approaches widely-used in social and political studies (e.g. the Discourse Theory initiated by Laclau and Mouffe or other approaches, see below), the course wishes to highlight such advantages of CDA/DHA research as, inter alia, systematic approach to analysis or its clear relation to the levels of pre-analytical theorising and post-analytical interpretation.


The major aim of the course is practical as it wishes to make students familiar with the ways of analysing political and related discourses from a critical-analytic as well as discourse-historical perspective. For this reason, whether within lectures or the related discussion or hands-on analysis workshops, the course aims at showing the practical application of presented theories, methods and analyses. All of these will be related to studies of a wide array of genres incl. those from within the political field itself (e.g. parliamentary and other speeches, party programmes, etc.) as well as from within the related fields of policy-making and administration (regulations, policy documents, etc.) or of media and its representations of politics (reporting, interviews, debates, etc.). The analyses of those genres will be guided by such DHA principles as, inter alia, ‘interdiscursivity’ or ‘recontextualisation’, which allow for relating discourses produced synchronically and diachronically as well as across different contexts and within different texts and genres.


The course takes place in a 1+1 format so both weeks can be taken independently or as a one 2-week module (the latter option is strongly advised for students wishing to acquire a thorough theoretical knowledge as well as in-depth analytical/practical skills in CDA).


The first part of the Course (Week I) starts with a series of sessions devoted to introducing critical discourse studies and their relationship to other approaches to text and discourse analysis within linguistics and wider social sciences. The opening lecture on Day 1 is devoted to discussing those key developments within linguistics and other social sciences that contributed to the development of critical-analytic approaches in text and discourse studies. The morning lecture on the Day 2 of the course looks in detail at Critical Discourse Analysis and, further to discussing its central concepts such as text, discourse or context, it also introduces the main trends – or approaches – in CDA. It does so from the point of view of pointing to both similarities and differences between various strands of CDA and to highlighting the common ground of critical-analytical research traditions.


Day 2 also opens a series of sessions devoted to concepts and theories in CDA and other, especially social scientific, approaches to text and discourse studies. First, noon session on Day 2 looks at two other key approaches to analysing discourse as practiced within linguistics and related social sciences (e.g. in sociology or anthropology), that is: Conversation Analysis (CA) and Narrative Analysis. Second, Day 3 discusses relationships between CDA and other (socio-)theoretical perspectives. The latter are considered from the point of view of its key influences in/on CDA, especially with regard to theories of discourse of Michel Foucault, Jürgen Habermas and Ernesto Laclau/Chantal Mouffe as well as in a wider context of parallel developments in social-scientific approaches to discourse (such as e.g., Grounded Theory, Content Analysis, Hermeneutics, etc.).


The lecture on Day 4 introduces key premises and central concepts of the DHA (such as, inter alia, interdiscursivity, recontextualisation, or multi-level definition of context) before outlining central research foci in DHA as well as discussing it from the point of view of its contribution to the interdisciplinary connections within/beyond CDA and to tackling criticisms thereof within different social sciences.


Through hands-on analytical workshops on Days 4 and 5, students become initially familiar with various pathways of analysis in CDA/DHA performed in a systematic manner i.e. along a set of clearly defined analytical categories. On Day 4 students are introduced to relationships between, the major (i.e. entry and in-depth) levels of analysis in CDA/DHA and are made familiar with the ways in which static and pragmatic aspects of text and discourse are analysed in a systematic manner. During the noon workshop in Day 4, we focus on argumentation as a key, transversal dimension of discursive strategies, thus looking at argumentation-oriented analysis that has traditionally been a core element of CDA/DHA explorations. Day 5 – which closes Week I of the course – is dedicated to analysis; first and during the morning session, students are introduced to the entry-level analysis in DHA through the so-called thematic analysis. Second and in the course of the noon session, in-depth analysis is in CDA/DHA is practiced, bringing the various analytical categories discussed so far together.


Please note that the major aim of the course is to transfer and generate knowledge from discussions and interactions between the instructors and participants and among the students. All students are therefore expected to fully participate in the course (i.e. ask critical questions, complete in time all obligatory readings, actively participate in in-class tasks and discussions and out-of-class assignments, relate obtained knowledge to their current/future research, etc.).

Day Topic Details
Monday Session 1

Foundations of Text and Discourse Studies: Linguistics and Beyond (Lecture)

Tuesday Session 1

Critical Discourse Analysis: Key Concepts and Approaches (Lecture)

Monday Session 2

Getting Started: Participants and Their Research, Interests, Projects and Expectations (Discussion)

Tuesday Session 2

CDA vs. Other Approaches to Discourse Studies (Lecture)

Wednesday Session 1

Theoretical and Analytical Concepts in (Critical) Discourse Studies – Contributions of Social Theory & Social Research (Lecture/Discussion I)

Wednesday Session 2

Theoretical and Analytical Concepts in (Critical) Discourse Studies – Contributions of Social Theory & Social Research (Lecture/Discussion II)

Thursday Session 1

The Discourse-Historical Approach in CDA (Lecture)

Thursday Session 2

Argumentation Analysis in CDA/DHA: (Lecture)

Friday Session 1

Entry-Level Analysis in CDA/DHA I: Thematic (Discourse Topics) Analysis (Workshop)

Friday Session 2

In-Depth Analysis in CDA/DHA I: Strategies/Argumentation and Linguistic Means (Workshop)

Day Readings

Morning Session:

  • Krzyżanowski, M. & Forchtner B. (2016). Theories and Concepts in Critical Discourse Studies: Facing Challenges, Moving Beyond Foundations. Discourse & Society 27 (3).
  • Meyer, M. (2001). Between, Theory, Method and Politics: Positioning of the approaches to CDA. In: R. Wodak and M. Meyer (Eds.)(2001). Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis. London: Sage, pp. 14-32.
  • Fairclough, N. and Wodak, R. (1997). Critical Discourse Analysis. In: T. A. van Dijk (Ed.). Discourse as Social Interaction. London: Sage pp. 258-284.

Noon Session:

  • Forchtner, B. (2011). Critique, the Discourse Historical Approach, and the Frankfurt School. Critical Discourse Studies, 8(1), 1-14.
  • Fowler, R. And G. Kress (1979). Critical Linguistics. In: R. Fowler, B. Hodge, G. Kress and T. Trew. Language and Control. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, pp. 185-214.

Morning Session:

  • van Dijk, T.A. (2007). Editor’s Introduction: The Study of Discourse – An Introduction. In: T.A. van Dijk (Ed.). Discourse Studies. Vol. 1. London: Sage, pp. xix – xlii.
  • Wodak, R. (1996). Disorders of Discourse. London: Longman. (esp. Chapter 1: Introduction: Orders and Disorders, pp. 1-34)
  • Bell, A. (2011). Re-constructing Babel: Discourse analysis, hermeneutics and the Interpretive Arc. Discourse Studies 13: 519 – 568.
  • Egan-Sjölander, A. (2011). Introduction: Comparing Critical Discourse Analysis and Discourse Theory. In: A. Egan-Sjölander and J. Gunnarsson-Payne (eds.) Tracking Discourses: Politics, Identity and Social Change. Lund: Nordic Academic Press, pp.13-48.
  • Titscher, S., M. Meyer, R. Wodak and E. Vetter (2000). Methods of Text and Discourse Analysis. London: Sage (Chapter 5: Content Analysis, pp. 55-73 and Chapter 6: Grounded Theory, pp. 74-89).

Morning Session:

  • Reisigl, M. and R. Wodak (2015). The Discourse-Historical Approach (DHA). In: R. Wodak and M. Meyer (Eds.). Methods of Critical Discourse Studies. 3rd Revised Edition. London: Sage, pp. 23-61.

Noon Session:

  • Reisigl, M. (2014). Argumentation analysis and the Discourse-Historical Approach. A methodological framework. In: C. Hart and P. Cap (Eds.): Contemporary Critical Discourse Studies. London: Bloomsbury. pp. 67-96.
  • Forchtner, B. and Tominc, A. (2012). Critique and argumentation: on the relation between the discourse-historical approach and pragma-dialectics, in: Journal of Language and Politics, 11(1), pp. 31-50.
  • Krzyżanowski, M. (2010). The Discursive Construction of European Identities. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. (esp. Chapter 2: Dimensions of Analysis, pp. 29-67).

Morning Session:

  • Krzyżanowski, M. (2010). The Discursive Construction of European Identities. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. (esp. Chapter 2: Dimensions of Analysis, pp. 29-67).

Noon Session:

  • Wodak, R. and Forchtner, B. (2014): Embattled Vienna 1683/2010: right-wing populism, collective memory and the fictionalisation of politics, in: Visual Communication, 13(2), pp. 231-255.5

Software Requirements

No specialist software will be used except for Power Point, Acrobat Reader etc.

Hardware Requirements

Participants need to bring their own laptops


Key Sources:

Krzyżanowski, M. 2010. The Discursive Construction of European Identities. A Multilevel Approach

to Discourse and Identity in the Transforming European Union. (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.

Wodak, R. and M. Krzyżanowski (eds.)(2008). Qualitative Discourse Analysis in the Social Sciences.

Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.


Other Sources:

Billig, M. Ideology and Opinions. Studies in Rhetorical Psychology. (London: Sage, 1991).

Billig, M. Arguing and Thinking. A Rhetorical Approach to Social Psychology. (Cambridge:

Cambridge University Press, 1996).

Billig, M. Banal Nationalism. (London: Sage, 1995).

Blommaert, J. Discourse: A Critical Introduction. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005).

Discourse & Society. 19. pp. 783-828.

Fairclough, N. Critical Discourse Analysis. (London: Longman, 2010). 

Fairclough, N. Discourse and Social Change. (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1992).

Galasińska, A. and M. Krzyżanowski (Eds.)(2008). Discourse and Transformation in Central and

Eastern Europe. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Hammersley, M. (1997): On the foundations of Critical Discourse Analysis, in: Language &

Communication. 17:3. pp. 237-248.

Johnstone, B. Discourse Analysis. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007).

Krzyżanowski, M and F. Oberhuber. (Un)Doing Europe: Discourses and Practices of Negotiating the

EU Constitution. (Brussels: PIE – Peter Lang, 2007).

Mey, J. (2001): The CA/CDA controversy, in: Journal of Pragmatics. 33. pp. 609-615.

Reisigl, M. and R. Wodak. Discourse and Discrimination. (London: Routledge, 2001)

Renkema, J. Introduction to Discourse Studies. (Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins, 2004).

Schegloff, E. (1997): Whose text? Whose context?, in: Discourse & Society. 8. pp. 165-87.

Schegloff, E. (1998): Reply to Wetherell, in: Discourse & Society. 9. pp. 413-6.

Schiffrin, D., Tannen, D., Hamilton, H. (eds.). The Handbook of Discourse Analysis. (Oxford:

Blackwell, 2001).

Stubbs, M. (1997). Whorf’s children: critical comments on CDA, in: A. Ryan and A. Wray (Eds.),

Evolving models of language (pp. 100-16). British Association for Applied Linguistics.

Titscher, S., M. Meyer, R. Wodak, and Vetter, E. Methods of Text and Discourse Analysis. (London:

Sage, 2000).

Toolan, M. (1997): What Is Critical Discourse Analysis and Why Are People Saying Such Terrible

Things About It?, in: Language & Literature. 6:2. pp. 83-103.

Toolan, M. (ed.): Critical Discourse Analysis. Critical Concepts in Linguistics. Four Volumes.

London: Routledge, 2002).

Triandafyllidou, A., R. Wodak and M. Krzyżanowski (Eds.)(2009). European Public Sphere and the

Media: Europe in Crisis. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan. 

van Dijk, T.A. Prejudice in Discourse, (Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 1984).

van Dijk, T.A. Ideology. A Multidisciplinary Approach. (London: Sage, 1998).

Weiss, G. and Wodak, R. (eds.). Critical Discourse Analysis: Theory and Interdisciplinarity in

Critical Discourse Analysis. (London: Palgrave, 2007).

Wetherell, M. (1998): Positioning and interpretative repertoires: conversational analysis and Post-

Structuralism in dialogue, in: Discourse & Society. 9. pp. 387-412.

Wetherell, M. and Potter, J.: Mapping the Language of Racism. Discourse and the Legitimation of

Exploitation. (New York: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1992).

Widdowson, H. (1995): Review of Fairclough's Discourse and Social Change, in: Applied Linguistics.

16:4. pp. 510-516.

Widdowson, H. (1996): Reply to Fairclough: Discourse and Interpretation: Conjectures and

Refutations, in: Language & Literature. 5:1. pp. 57-69.

Widdowson, H. (1998): The Theory and Practice of Critical Discourse Analysis, in: Applied

Linguistics. 19:1. pp. 136-151.

Widdowson, H.G. Text, Context, Pretext: Critical Issues in Discourse Analysis (Language in Society,

35). Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd. 2004.

Wodak, R. ‘Critical Discourse Analysis’, In C. Seale, G. Gobo, J.F. Gubrium and D. Silverman,

(eds.), Qualitative Research Practice, (London: Sage, 2004a), pp. 197-213.

Wodak, R. R. de Cillia, M. Reisigl, K. Liebhart. The Discursive Construction of National Identity.

(Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1999).

Wodak, R. and Chilton, P. (eds.). New Agenda in (Critical) Discourse Analysis. (Amsterdam:

Benjamins, 2007).

Wodak, R. and Meyer, M. (eds.). Methods of Critical Discourse Analysis. 2nd Revised Edition.

(London: Sage, 2009).

Additional Information


This course description may be subject to subsequent adaptations (e.g. taking into account new developments in the field, participant demands, group size, etc). Registered participants will be informed at the time of change.

By registering for this course, you confirm that you possess the knowledge required to follow it. The instructor will not teach these prerequisite items. If in doubt, please contact us before registering.