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Models of Power and Ideology: How can Ideological Statements Affect us as Individuals? Illustrate your essay with specific examples.

Introduction: Defining Discourse and Ideology

There exists no universal definition of 'ideology' for theorists interested in the analysis of cultural texts. Eagleton's summation of current definitions demonstrates the multiplicities of meaning that can be attributed to 'ideology', and the subsequent problem of undertaking any kind of textual analysis without sufficient consideration of its significance to that particular study. I am primarily interested in how Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) as a model for examining cultural texts might interpret 'ideology' as a 'structure' or 'system' of semantic associations woven by "social conventions, norms, histories" (Fairclough, 1995, p. 71). This is very close to Foucault's definition of discourse as "historically contingent cultural systems of knowledge, belief and power" (1972). This broad, non-linguistic, definition can be incorporated into analyses of linguistic 'discourse', thus amalgamating cultural, historically specific and contextually specific ways of using language. This definition of 'discourse' can be used alongside non-linguistic feminist approaches to textual analysis. 'Discourse' and 'ideology' can therefore be used interchangeably in critical analyses of cultural texts. 


This essay has examined how women's magazines More and Cosmopolitan linguistically construct and represent femininity as an ideological statement for the reader, with a particular focus on female sexuality. More's 'Sex Tips' article and Cosmopolitan's 'Cosmo Sex' piece offers the reader two different ideological constructions of women's sexual identity, although both immediately create the 'naturalized norm' of heterosexual discourse. More portrays women as sexually assertive, even aggressive, and focuses on the physical, as opposed to emotional aspects of sex. This is portrayed lexically through euphemisms for parts of the female body and sexual acts, and ideological assumptions such as the ownership of a vibrator. Vocabulary that places women in a dominating position subverts male power, and reveals a discourse of 'teasing', or sexual manipulation, in order to achieve this power. Halliday's theories of language use are shown to operate within critical analyses such as these, where epistemic modality conveys the certainty of events detailed in the 'Sex Tips' article, and a combination of material actions and relational processes reveals an assertive tenor. Conversely, the 'Cosmo Sex' article places a notably strong emphasis on female sexuality as a psychological experience. This is presented through a semantic field of the psyche, and the use of mental transitive processes. The surprisingly high percentage of epistemically non-modal clauses in this article suggests that consumerism also operates within the realms of female heterosexual discourse. The primary discourses identified in both magazines: hetero-social, advertorial, testimonial, and instructional, demonstrate the multiplicity of ideological statements, thus the multifunctionality of language. What my discussion has demonstrated is how the reader is linguistically positioned within these ideologies or discourses.

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