A Cross Cultural Analysis of the Cat in the Rain

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  • Topic: Discourse analysis, Norman Fairclough, Critical discourse analysis
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JoLIE 3/2010

A CROSS-CULTURAL ANALYSIS OF HEMINGWAY'S CAT IN THE RAIN FOR THE IRANIAN EFL CONTEXT Mohammad Reza Hashemi Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Iran

Hesamoddin Shahriari Ahmadi
Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, Iran

Abstract Hemingway is characterized by simplicity in style and language, which renders his works suitable for the EFL classroom. Nonetheless, his discourse has seldom been critically analyzed to determine to what extent it is suitable for foreign language learners coming from a distinct cultural background. Aiming to fill the niche, a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) of Cat in the Rain was undertaken to not only understand the beliefs imparted by Hemingway through this short story, as understood by the Iranian reader, but also to inform teachers of the possible effects the narrative might have on readers. To this end, a number of 30 learners of English as a Foreign Language were asked to read the designated short story and respond to a series of open-ended items. The findings of this study suggest that EFL teachers should take heed of and consider a multitude of factors before choosing to use any particular literary text in the language classroom. Key words: Critical Discourse Analysis; Literary symbolism; Language curriculum.

Introduction Teachers of English as a foreign language must be aware of the wide array of variables involved in the selection of texts which are to be presented in the classroom. Often this selection process is approached from a linguistic point of view. However, it is vital to consider the text from the perspective of the discourse analyst, especially given the cross-cultural differences seen in the EFL setting, which could easily result in misinterpretation on the part of the reader. It is also of utmost importance for teachers to be aware of the suppressing and/or liberating effects any given text may have on their learners. The present study aims to determine whether Ernest Hemingway’s short story Cat in the Rain is suitable for being taught in the Iranian EFL context, as well as detecting the issues and difficulties which may accompany its use. With this purpose in mind, a Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) of the short story was undertaken.

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Mohammad Reza HASHEMI and Hesamoddin Shahriari AHMADI

Through CDA, we seek to expound on the thematic messages conveyed by the short story. Our study will be aided by occasional references made to other works by Hemingway, and will analyze the rhetorical devices employed by the author both in general and in the short story at hand.

Critical Discourse Analysis Led by Fairclough, Wodak and van Dijk, among others (Wodak & Meyer 2001), the field of CDA attempts to uncover the manipulation and dominance of society by those in power. The relevance of CDA, however, extends to any given means of influence even literary means. According to Fairclough (1995), power is described in terms of “asymmetries between participants in discourse events” and the “unequal capacity to control how texts are produced, distributed and consumed…in particular social contexts” (p.1). To him, all features of discourse are potentially ideological, and texture (the form and organization of a text, not just its contents) is an “extraordinarily sensitive indicator of sociocultural processes, relations and change” (p.4). He discusses the ‘orderliness’ and ‘naturalisation’ of state-produced ‘autonomous subjects’ (although ‘state’ is used interchangeably with any ‘group’ or ‘culture’), shaped to integrate and be ‘competent, non-resistant’ participants in society (p.27). Fairclough (1992), in his seminal work Discourse and Social Change, attempts to create a model of textually based discourse analysis, and includes group and personal ‘ethos’ in the equation. However, criticisms of CDA include its overtly political, potentially contentious nature (Kress 1990); its inclination to be reductionistic and deterministic (Pennycook 1994); and its...
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