chapter  2
Discourse and power: the genre of the Cambridge inaugural lecture
Pages 23

The analysis of discourse may be considered to be, in the most general sense, the consideration of speech, conversation and texts in terms of their internal dynamics and the ‘external’ principles structuring what utterance may or may not be made or combined with others in any particular social context. In an obvious way the discourse taking place in a public house will differ markedly from that of the lecture theatre or the seminar room. In considering discourse we are partly concerned with the establishment of argumentative subject positions from the vantage point of a linguistic medium. However, discourse is not simply reducible to the ‘ideas’ which may or may not be successfully relayed to an audience. To produce a discursive analysis of verbal utterances or graphic traces on the page is to underline the fact that all communication is social. The social contextuality of discourse both permits its construction and simultaneously constrains its forms of appearance. The statements made and the meanings of the words employed depend on the context (where) and in relation to what (other discourses, individuals or institutions) they are to relate. Discourses are always historically and socially positioned and constituted. Any discipline or institution

sets up, acts upon and maintains a mode of distribution of discourses and a hierarchy of these discourses. These distributions and hierarchies account for the positions and viewpoints from which a subject speaks and writes. The textual form of discourse permits the storage and physical dissemination of what would otherwise be lost in speech or only retained in tradition or folk memory. Discourses take on their effects and retain their powers either directly or indirectly in relation to other discourses. In other words, discourse is ‘intertextual’. There is no pure, unmediated or unsullied text.