John Wheatley: "A Discursive Analysis of EastEnders"

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Using Hoey's Problem - Solution means of analysis, this family's set up look as follows.

SITUATION
The family unit has come apart: Susan has got MS

PROBLEM
M wants to re-establish family life.
BUT
His son doesn't trust him and Susan can't decide if what Michael wants will be good for her, or for their son Matthew.

SOLUTION
Mainly from Michael's perspective

First:Win the trust of his son.
Second: Woo Susan back over a romantic dinner for two.

EVALUATION
Does it work?
Comment to follow in future episodes!


The full range of features of the Hoey model present themselves quite clearly in this episode of EastEnders.

Evaluation is a key feature of the Hoey model of analysis, as it is key to Labov's narrative analysis too (1967). Slade and Eggins, following work by Jim Martin (in press), see a key role for it too in the general analysis of spoken language. Sinclair and Coulthard (1975) recognised its importance in classroom language. That was thought to be a special type of discourse. Evaluation however is widespread and offers very good potential for analysis in the widest approach to spoken language.

Labov's model is too broad for its own good; and gets applied in areas of narrative it was never intended for. The Hoey model has been used on expository text to good effect. I hope this paper displays the value of this means of analysis to popular narrative. I believe I am at least among the first to test its applicability to spoken narrative. More work is needed however on the role played by evaluation in a range of spoken texts. The Slade - Eggins model is too detailed for my purposes here. Models are needed that work to explicate certain text types; a complete model is too cumbersome and often unhelpful for everyday use.

The purposes of this paper are primarily to show that the analysis of talk in soap opera is both feasible and worthwhile.; that something of the nature of soap opera can be shown through such analysis, and possibly only through such analysis.


The Overriding Problem - Solution structure in key scenes.

Let's look in some detail at the Matthew- Michael- Susan scenes. Firstly, the scenes that involve these characters are noticeably longer than the others. The average scne length when these characters in involved is 23.6 turns. In other scenes the average length is only 16.5. They also recur with greater frequency throughout the episode than any other sequence of scenes. Importantly too, they frame the entire episode at both its start and close. All these features must stand as a signifier of at least local importance for these scenes in the episode in question.

In scene 1 Michael and Susan briefly discuss the problem of their son. We have a problem in need of some resolution, which will be offered in the course of the episode. On a positive note, at least Michael and Susan are talking like parents, blaming and offering advice on how matters might be improved. Problems that are under consideration in this manner contain the seeds of a potential solution.

The opening scene recaps for us the ongoing, and unknown to Michael and Susan, events between Matthew their son and Sarah, his erstwhile girlfriend. So it 'encapsulates' (Sinclair 1992: 10) the ongoing state of play and puts it to the forefront for our consideration. Then progress is presented as possible, if only by being mutually desired, for this family's problems, to which this episode will offer some resolution.









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AS/SA Nº 6/7, Article 4 : Page 3 / 13

© 1999, AS/SA

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1999.05.31