How could I use critical discourse analysis to investigate Paz's poems? How could I start it with the Fairclough model? 

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e-martin eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The crucial aspect of applying the Fairclough model of critical discourse analysis would seem to be the tiered or sequential nature of literary interpretation/consideration outlined in the model. In other words, you will have to follow the three steps of analysis outlined in the model to assess (1) the text itself, (2) the process or character of the literary product and (3) the social conditions that delimit the text and its intentions. 

We might argue that this model seeks to ensure that a close reading of a text also includes a discussion of context, so that the words on the page are seen in light of critical theories that may help to explain the significance of the act of writing and the written product. 

Notably, the model emphasizes social, political and historical contexts, as scholar Hilary Janks explains, in the Fairclough model "texts are instanciations of socially regulated discourses and that the processes of production and reception are socially constrained." The meaning of a piece of writing is determined, in this view, by a socio-political context. (What Paz's poems say, do and mean will be determined by a critical reading of not only the words of the poem but the relationship between those words and the socially regulated discourse that contextualizes them.) 

As the visual representations of the Fairclough model show, the process of interpretation in this model seeks to move from the specifics on the page to a wider assessment of social discourse. This means that the first step is to address the text of the poem. 

Looking at an excerpt from "Fable" we can see that the poem employs pedestrian language in pursuit of a basic metaphorical conceit. The social coherence of the world expressed here finds expression in everyday language. 

Everything belonged to everyone
Everyone was everything
Only one word existed immense without opposite
A word like a sun
One day exploded into smallest fragments

In the next interpretive step of the model of critical discourse we are following here, we would address the ways that the poem creates its commentary by analyzing the relations of the poems various lines, sections, and parts, looking in this case especially at the resonance between the poem's beginning and end. Early in the poem, the images are simple and natural and even elemental. At the end of the poem, language has taken over and the phrasing becomes abstract -- suggesting that the thread of the poem is moving further and further away from a natural and/or innocent state of being. 

In the third and final step of this process of interpretation, we would address the social and political moment in Mexico when this poem was published. Posing questions as to the rise and fall of communism in Mexico and the relationship of government to the lives of citizens (and artists), we would attempt to interpret the relationship between the poem and its social context.

To pare down the process to a few guiding questions, we might view the process as following these stages of inquiry from text to process to social context:

  • What is Paz saying in each line or section of the poem? What techniques are being used?
  • What is the poem saying as a whole? How does the poem generate meaning from beginning to end, create juxtapositions or employ strategies of internal dialog or self-commentary? 
  • What does the poem say about social life or political life at the time? In what ways does the poem promote or challenge assumptions about individual power versus the state or comment on issues of race/racism, gender, power structures or other ideas commonly dealt with in critical theory?

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