Language, Institutions, and Power

Language, Literature & Performing Arts
Course Code
CMNS 3100
Semester Length
Max Class Size
Method Of Instruction
Typically Offered
To be determined


Course Description
This course gives students practice in using analytical approaches to the study of language and power to examine how language constructs ideology, institutions, and identity in the contexts of enduring struggles (e.g. struggles over human rights for prisoners, gays, women, the homeless, people with disabilities, language and cultural identity, and the environment). Readings on the theoretical perspectives that inform these approaches are combined with applications to enduring struggles between less powerful groups and institutions (e.g. the penal system, the law, governments, the medical system, corporations, the scientific community, and academia). Students leave the course with analytical tools that would be relevant in a wide range of disciplines as vehicles of inquiry and research, and with knowledge that will contribute to their civic and social awareness.
Course Content

Instructors will give students a representative sample of current theories of critical discourse analysis, rhetorical genre analysis, and pragmatics analysis, as well as case study readings focused on enduring struggles between marginal and mainstream groups. The course will cover selected key concepts from these three theoretical orientations:


Rhetorical Genre Theory

  • the rhetorical situation
  • the persuasive appeals
  • complex audience analysis: reception theory
  • identification and division
  • genre theory and genre analysis
  • classical and conciliatory arrangements

Critical Theory

  • discourse/discursive formations
  • language and identity construction
  • ideology
  • linguistic appropriation
  • dialogism/interdiscursivity
  • linguistic and symbolic capital


  • audience design
  • background knowledge/knowledge structures
  • politeness and modality (face-saving language)
  • the cooperative principle

Any single version of the course will apply the three theoretical perspectives and related analytical approaches to both readings and empirical research on a salient enduring struggle.


  • genre features of academic writing (summary, essay, research paper genres)
  • invention and revision strategies


  • features of academic presentations
  • strategies for addressing an academic audience
Methods Of Instruction

Instruction will primarily be lecture and discussion format, with group work, peer editing, and student presentations based on readings and their research. Some instructors and students may include viewing and analyzing recorded meetings or interviews.

Means of Assessment

Evaluation will be based on course objectives and will be carried out in accordance with Douglas College policy. Ninety-five percent of students’ evaluation will be based on written work on which students receive feedback and instruction on their writing.

A sample of how assignments might be structured follows below:

  • 2 summaries of course readings (2 x 10%)
  • 1 critical summary based on two course readings (15%)
  • Term paper on a major course concept (20%)
  • Research paper: analysis of the genres, speech, and discourses that constitute one enduring struggle (35%)
  • Oral presentation (10%)

Exact means of assessment and their percentages for course grade will be specified in the instructor’s course outline.

Writing Competency Bar: A student must achieve a grade of C- or better (on first submission) on both the term paper and research paper in order to achieve a grade of better than P for the course.

Learning Outcomes

At the end of the course, the successful student will be able to satisfy the following learning objectives:


  1. read and understand academic discourse about social, political and cultural aspects of language and conflict
  2. recognize and understand the basic concepts of rhetorical genre theory, critical theory, and pragmatics (theory readings)
  3. recognize and understand how these course concepts have been applied to analysis of enduring struggles


  1. apply course concepts to the analysis of empirical data gathered on one salient enduring struggle
  2. apply course concepts to the analysis of discourse and primary texts/genres deployed in one salient enduring struggle


  1. collect data by interviewing research informants involved in the public debate of an enduring struggle
  2. collect data by observing and recording a public meeting, debate, or hearing on an enduring struggle
  3. develop relevant categories for interpreting empirical data (thematic/qualitative and quantitative)


  1. write, draft, and revise coherent essay summaries of course readings
  2. write, draft and revise a term paper on a major course concept based on relevant readings
  3. write, draft and revise a unified and coherent academic research paper that combines readings with empirical research
  4. provide constructive criteria-based peer feedback on drafts of classmates’ writing assignments


  1. prepare a five-minute oral presentation of a research project
  2. deliver (extemporaneously) an uninterrupted, five minute oral presentation that conveys information and interest
Textbook Materials

Textbooks and Materials to be Purchased by Students

The course material will introduce students to primary sources by key theorists. Course materials will include instructor-designed course packages composed of theoretical and research-oriented readings.

The following list is an example of potential selections for one reading package for a version of the course on the struggle for the environment::

Edward Corbett: (1971) “A Brief Explanation of Classical Rhetoric,” Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student

Richard Coe: (1990) “Persuasion” and “Argument,” Process, Form, and Substance

Kenneth Burke: (1969) “Identification” and “Identification and Consubstantiality,” A Rhetoric of Motives

Lloyd Bitzer: (1980) “The Communication Function,” Rhetoric in Transition (Ed. E.E. White)

Carolyn Miller: (1994) “Rhetorical Community: The Cultural Basis of Genre,” Genre and the New Rhetoric

Amy Devitt, Mary Jo Reiff, and Anis Bawarshi: (2004) “Using Genres to read Scenes of Writing,” Scenes of Writing: Strategies for Composing with Genres

Catherine Schryer: (1994) “The Lab vs. the Clinic: Sites of Competing Genres,” Genre and the New Rhetoric

Aviva Freedman: (2006) “Pushing the Envelope: Expanding the Model of RGS Theory,” Rhetorical Genre Studies and Beyond

Janet Giltrow: (2002) “Meta-Genre,” The Rhetoric and Ideology of Genre

Green: (1989) “What is Pragmatics?” Pragmatics and Natural Language Understanding

Clark: (1992) “Audience Design in Language Use: Chapters 7, 8, 9,”  Arenas of Language

Holland and Lave: (2001) “History in Person: An Introduction,” History in Person: Enduring Struggles, Contentious Practices, Intimate Identities

Foucault: (1972) “The Discourse on Language,” Appendix to The Archaeology of Knowledge

Bourdieu: (1991) “ Description and Prescription,” Language and Symbolic Power

Case studies selected from the following:

James Cantrill (1996): “Gold, Yellowstone, and the Search for a Rhetorical Identity.” Green Culture: Environmental Rhetoric in Contemporary America  (Herndl and Brown)

Craig Waddell (1996): “Saving the Great Lakes: Public Participation in Environmental Policy.” Green Culture: Environmental Rhetoric in Contemporary America  (Herndl and Brown)

Zita Ingham (1996): “Landscape, Drama and Dissensus: The Rhetorical Education of Red Lodge, Montana.” Green Culture: Environmental Rhetoric in Contemporary America  (Herndl and Brown)

Gregg Walker (2004: “The Roadless Areas Initiative as National Policy: Is Public Participation an Oxymoron?” Communication and Public Participation in Environmental Decision Making (Depoe, Delicath, Aepli Elsenbeer)

Steve Schwarze (2004): “Public Participation and (Failed) Legitimation: The Case of Forest Service Rhetorics in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.” Communication and Public Participation in Environmental Decision Making (Depoe, Delicath, Aepli Elsenbeer)



ENGL 1130 and one first-year course from the following list: Criminology, History, Humanities, Philosophy, and Political Science;


Other courses with instructor permission.


No corequisite courses.


No equivalent courses.

Requisite for

This course is not required for any other course.

Course Guidelines

Course Guidelines for previous years are viewable by selecting the version desired. If you took this course and do not see a listing for the starting semester / year of the course, consider the previous version as the applicable version.

Course Transfers

Institution Transfer Details Effective Dates
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) KPU CMNS 3XXX (3) 2008/09/01 to 2010/04/30
Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) KPU ARTS 2XXX (3) 2010/05/01 to -
Langara College (LANG) LANG ARTS 2XXX (3) 2008/09/01 to -
Simon Fraser University (SFU) SFU CMNS 332 (3) 2008/09/01 to -
Thompson Rivers University (TRU) TRU SSEL 3XX (3) 2008/09/01 to -
Trinity Western University (TWU) TWU COMM 3XX (3) 2008/09/01 to 2011/04/30
Trinity Western University (TWU) TWU COMM 3XX (3) or TWU ENGL 3XX (3) 2011/05/01 to -
University of British Columbia - Vancouver (UBCV) UBCV ENGL 2nd (3) 2009/09/01 to -
University of Northern BC (UNBC) UNBC ENGL 3XX (3) or UNBC POLS 3XX (3) 2009/09/01 to -
University of Northern BC (UNBC) UNBC POLS 3XX (3) 2008/09/01 to 2009/08/31
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV ENGL 2XX (3) 2009/09/01 to -
University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) UFV CMNS 385 (3) 2008/09/01 to 2009/08/31
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC ENGL 230 (1.5) 2015/05/01 to -
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC ENGL 250 (1.5) 2009/09/01 to 2015/04/30
University of Victoria (UVIC) UVIC ENGL 2XX (1.5) 2008/09/01 to 2009/08/31
Vancouver Island University (VIU) No credit 2008/09/01 to -

Course Offerings

Summer 2021

There aren't any scheduled upcoming offerings for this course.