Author: cati312

Literacy Project: Legal Discourse, Narrative Structure, and Literacy

In this project I decided to look at the literacy in legal discourse. Specifically at the translation that occurs between the police reports and the court room. What you will see in these posts is an interview with Mike Ramsey, Butte County’s District Attorney, and Rick West, Butte County’s assistant District Attorney. In this interview we discuss the structure of narrative and language is used to construct these narratives to present them to specific audiences. Like the police report that is presented to the DA and the court case that is presented to a jury.

What you will hear in this first series of questions is how the DA works with police reports to create a story that is presented in a language that jury will understand.


An interesting notion that is discussed in this portion of the interview is the idea of “cop shows”. The audience is expecting to hear language that is presented in media, the seem to be mixing the fiction narrative with the real life narrative. As DA Ramsey explains even the police are attempting to adopt this language. In reverse of this perspective that the DA’s office has been trying to get the cops to use more common language in narration rather than the “cop talk”.

This piece of the interview is discussing the translation that is necessary for the narrative to be conveyed to the general public.


It is interesting to think about the details of language that are considered in the DA’s presentation of the narrative. Such as Ramsey’s reference to pronouns and West’s reference to making the language in the police report more choppy but clearer in the reference of “who” in the report.

This part of interview progress to the use of evidence and how it plays a role in the construction and presentation of the narrative.


What is interesting about this idea of evidence is that language still plays a huge role in its impact. The evidence supports the narrative but also propels the narrative. The initial presentation of the story is crucial to success and use of any further support of the story.

The conversation of evidence continues in this section talking more specifically about pieces of evidence and their use in the courtroom.


Something that is interesting about the position of the investigator is that he or she seems to play a crucial role in the translation of the story. They work with all the different avenues of narrative in order to help to construct the story.

Continuation of the use of an investigator and evidence in the courtroom.


Ramsey’s idea of active listening and being part of the narrative that is occurring in the courtroom is essential to perpetuation of the constructed narrative that they are attempting to present. Acknowledging that there is a difference between the case that is being presented and the progression of events that are occurring in the court room.  I love the door story as a great example of use of evidence in the court room.

We discuss further the importance of timing and presentation of evidence in cases such as the door.


Evidence can only come in with a witness, the evidence only has its place if a witness can put it in the crime. Which is interesting in the idea of narrative and literacy because the evidence’s effectiveness is based on its relationship to the human element of the crime or the case, which in many ways makes it a constant in a variable. The story of the object cannot change but the language and the person surrounding it can.

In this section we discuss how the DA progresses through a questioning sequence and how they account for the changes that can occur in that sequencing the court room.


This relates back to the earlier idea of active listening. The person doing the questioning as to actively listen to the narrative that being constructed in comparison to the one they have built to be presented. And, then have to ask questions that can keep them on track with the narrative they are trying tell versus the one that is being told.

This section we talk about witnesses and how they tell their stories in the court room.


This piece reminds me of learning to work with different personalities. Learning to account for the human element in telling and constructing a narrative is challenging and unpredictable. Which makes these narrative constructions so interesting because the solely based on human interaction, court cases are based upon the wrongs or disagreements that occur between people.

Some ending thoughts. I had a lot of fun doing these interviews and talking through how these narratives can be presented in court. I would like to research further the role of the investigator because they seem to play crucial role in how the stories are translated and told.


I have also included the complete interview here at the end, there are couple pieces that I did not include for the sake of length and relevance but I still found them interesting and if listen to them I hope you do too. Ramsey and West further discuss the role of the witness and creditability to can be established. In this idea of credibility we also discussed some of the aspects of child crimes and children as witnesses.


Project Report

For my project I am looking at some of the language used in law enforcement specifically at how language is used by the DA to construct a story. I have conducted an interview and I a now beginning the process of listening to my interview and breaking it up into pieces that will be put on a blog with both written and audio components.

Realities in The Satanic Verses

When I first started this book I was lost. It took a couple of reads to understand what was going on however, the more that I got into the book I began to realize that this might have been the intention of the author. Since the two main characters are failing though the sky in a kind of chaos, the characters are not a hundred percent sure what is going on, and the reader kind of feels the same way as they attempt to navigate through the text. Nonetheless, once I got my bearings a little in the text there were some interesting analogies that caught my attention. While I expected the religious analogies I did not expect the references made to childhood fairly tales such as Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and The Wizard of Oz. What is interesting about these tales is that they are all very fantastical and operate predominantly in an alternate world or reality. Which fits the beginning of the book and the fall from the plane crash, realistically it would be virtually impossible for someone to survive a fall like that and therefore, the reader must suspend reality in order to believe that this is possible. There is also a relationship to the idea of the world that these actors live in, the person they portray either in reality or on screen seem to be polar opposites of each other. They are not who they appear to be which also questions reality.

Book Review for James Paul Gee

In James Paul Gee’s book Social Linguistics and Literacies: Ideology in Discourses the reader sees Gee journey through the maze of connections between language and discourse and how we make meaning out of these. At the heart of this argument is an interesting idea surrounding the individual, any understanding that is created through discourse comes from an individual’s experience, culture, and society. It is based upon their exposure to different uses of discourses. And, in reading through this book I began to think of it as our “personal dictionaries” that we keep in our head, a rolodex that we thumb through, that allows us to manipulate language based upon our resources and understandings that we have created through our experience.

Gee starts this discussion by looking at ideology, how the term came about, how it established meaning, and how that meaning has remained with it. “It turns out that this dichotomous contrast between ‘ideas’ and ‘facts’, between ‘theory’ and ‘experience’, has played a major role in the historical development of the meanings of the term ‘ideology’, as it has also in the politics of power.”(1). The term ideology was coined by Antonine Destutt de Tracy and he “rejected both ‘innate ideas’, whether from God or biology, and ‘established authority’, whether religion or the state, as the source and foundation of knowledge. He argued that all the ideas in our heads are based on evidence about the world we have gathered through our physical senses. We can see de Tracy is arguing that we think and how we act is due to our upbringing and environment, to our interaction with the physical and social world.”(2). And, he “…believed that a rational investigation, free from religious or metaphysical prejudice, of how ideas, beliefs, and values are formed on the basis of upbringing and experience could be the foundation for a just and happy society. That is, we could use this knowledge to construct environments that would lead people to have humane, just, and socially useful ideas and behaviors.” (2). After this definition Gee goes on to explain how figure heads such as Napoleon and Marx broke down this idea and morphed it into its meaning today. And, where Gee eventually leads us is to how he is going to use the term ideology through the course of this book in reference to language and discourse. Gee uses ideology as a social theory “which involves generalizations (beliefs, claims) about the way(s) in which goods are distributed in society.” (21). He continues on to explain that “Ideologies are important because, since theories ground beliefs, and beliefs lead to actions, and actions create social worlds (‘reality’), ideologies simultaneously explain, often exonerate, and also partially create, in interaction with history and the materials bases of society, the distribution of goods. And since everything that makes us human in the honorific sense of the term- the ability to freely think, believe, desire, feel, and create with others in a material world whose resources we share- are ‘goods’ in probably all, but at least some, societies, then ideologies are what construct not only human worlds, but humans.” (21). Once Gee establishes this understanding and ground work for ideology we begin to explore the sociocultural nature of meaning and communication.

To understand the tangible aspects of this book it was important to have an explanation of ideology and Gee’s definition of the term. I am now going to begin with Chapter 4, in chapter 2 and 3 Gee lays the groundwork for where literacy studies began and where it is now. In chapter 4 “Meaning: Choosing, Guessing, and Cultural Models” Gee explains the nature of language and the ways in which we analyze and interact with it. In this chapter Gee’s first stepping stone in this idea of discourse ideology through the development of social languages. “English, for example- is not a monolithic thing. Rather, each and every language is composed of many sub-languages, which I [Gee] will call social languages. Social languages stem from the fact that any time we act or speak, we must accomplish two things: we must make clear who we are, and we must make clear what we are doing.” (66). Through this idea Gee explains how we as communicators negotiate the world around us, in this negotiation we are speaking English but often times the place and context of the English spoken comes out as different forms of language. And, this idea of different languages constitutes the idea of social language. “Different social languages (and there are, for any one language, like English, a great many) make visible and recognizable two different social identities, two different versions of who one is.” (67). By understanding how a social language works a person can begin to understand the ideology of that social culture and/or context. This becomes tangible in spaces like the classroom because each student is their own person that comes from a place that is different than the social context of the school, and learning how to understand and appreciate each student respective social language will allow for more opportunity in the classroom.

Lastly I am going to discuss the final chapter in Gee’s book, chapter 7. In chapters 5 and 6 Gee develops the ideas surrounding discourse and identity, how certain discourses contribute to how an individual views themselves and how that progresses into how they function in society. He also discusses how discourses and literacy help to establish aspects of culture and how in turn culture allows for these literacies and discourses to develop, that they require each other in order to be sustained. In chapter 7, “Language, Individuals and Discourses”, where Gee discusses language in relationship to a discourse framework. In this chapter I loved Gee’s use of playing card as an example, “A text, or even a single sentence, is something like a playing card. A specific card has no value (meaning) apart from the patterns (hands) into which it can enter. And a specific hand of cards itself has no value (meaning) apart from the game it is part of. So, too, for language. A text is meaningful only within the pattern (or social configuration) it forms at a specific time and place with other pieces of language, as well as with specific thoughts, words, deeds, bodies, tools, and objects. And this pattern or configuration- this specific social action- is itself meaningful only within a specific Discourse or at the intersection of several Discourses. Pieces of language, as well as other symbols, bodies, deeds, and so forth, are cards; social practices are hands; and Discourses are games. None of these- cards, hands, or games- exist without the other.” (149). Gee shows how our language, discourse and ideology are often times completely contextual. What we say and why we say it based upon our experience, a child often speaks their mind wherever they are because they do not have the experience to understand a change in the discourse. However, in most cases an adult has been afforded the opportunity to learn how to manipulate language based upon their varying settings. That said, what this chapter offers as well is a reminder that these discourses are continually changing and that each one comes with its own set of rules that needs to be established and understood in order for it to be able to make meaning to the individual.

This text surrounds that idea of the individual and that is because ultimately the collective understanding of individuals is what allows for these social contexts and discourses to exist.  If a deck of cards is short a card then a game cannot be played.


Gee, James Paul. Social Linguistics and Literacies: Ideology in Discourse. Bristol; Taylor & Francis Inc. 1996. Book.

Frame Work and Humanity in Unaccustomed Earth

When we look at writer like Jhumpa Lahiri and her novel Unaccustomed Earth the reader sees an interesting frame work being built one that walks the fine line of the floating world. By looking at Lahiri’s use of short stories the reader beings to see how she plays with narrative structure, voice, race and gender. Through these different themes Lahiri challenges the idea of the “other” voices to make her self heard. One interesting aspect that can be learned from her short stories is the over arching idea and themes of humanity. Lahiri writes her stories mostly based on first generation Indian-American experiences and perhaps that can typecast her novels and the cultures that they are set in. Nonetheless, the interesting thing she does in her stories is she creates a level human-ness that everyone can relate to. The emotional struggles of identity are surrounded by relational struggles, whether that be with parents or lovers, and regardless of culture these are struggles every human can relate to and understand. Through her use of narrative structure, particularly the way she ends her stories, the reader another aspect of this human-ness. While endings of her stories clearly mark and ending, they also seem to just stop these stories are just a small part of these characters lives. They are defining moments and memorable moments but it is left to the reader to determine where these characters will go and what they will do with this new found identity at the end of these short stories. And, that is often so reflective of our own lives, we rarely fully comprehend how an event has affected our lives until we have spent enough time away form that event to look back and see who we have become. Defining moments help make us into who we are but until after we move on from that moment, what we do with our lives after the fact is what helps to define us and Lahiri leaves that destiny in the readers hands. This also leads us to look at the way that Lahiri switches voices between her stories also sets her aside, the reader has the opportunity not only to experience different genders perspectives throughout the novel but also different races. The insider and the out sider perspectives and understandings. How we has people, or how the characters, work and navigate in a multicultural world.

Nature and Morality in Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth

Jhumpa Lahiri Unaccustomed Earth

Jhumpa Lahiri short stories in Unaccustomed Earth give off the feeling of a morality tale however with a realist twist. These tales are not necessarily a fairy tale or have a happy ending, in fact most of them end with some kind of cliff hanger. However the interesting part to me in these tales is that there always seems to be a lesson that can be learned. A new life perspective that either the characters adopt or is offered up by the end of the story. And, generally what parallels with moral anecdotes in some connection to nature. For example in the first story that bares the same title of the book “Unaccustomed Earth” the reader sees the main character Ruma take and emotional journey of the coping with the loss of her mother, building a relationship with her father, and attempting to establish a life unfamiliar territory. What the reader sees is Ruma struggle to break free of or to find a balance between the traditions of her culture and mother and being in America raising her own family and establishing her own home. In the process of this Ruma’s father who has not seen their new home is coming to visit for the first time since her mothers death, Ruma is nervous because she has never had to be one on one with her father since she was young. And, as this visit begins to unfold the reader begins to see both Ruma and her father build and change traditions which is in many ways symbolized in the garden he plants for her. Where the garden keeps with his tradition and is something of value to him, now that his wife gone he feels he no longer has a need for a garden. Nonetheless, in this unaccustomed earth, in this new home he creates a tradition. Her father is able to bring a piece of the old, a piece of Ruma’s past, and put it into her future. And, in the end it is up to Ruma if she is going to allow this replanted tradition to grow or die. It allows pieces of her past to come through in a new light in her future.

Frame of Reference and Happy Endings in Bessie Heads “A Question of Power”

“Framing” is something I think we often take for granted. It is difficult to reconstruct a frame without intentionality, but the interesting thing for Elizabeth in Bessie Heads novel A Question of Power is that she is constructing this frame throughout the novel. When I look at this novel in one perspective I see a frame already formed for Elizabeth, I think that her lack of a frame of reference is just as evident of frame as the one she creates by the end of the novel. I think that for people to rebuild their frames of reference they need to experience great change, they need to have a pivotal moment in their life where their current frame of reference fails them and they are forced to find another way to understand who and what they are. This is what the reader experiences with Elizabeth her not knowing who she is and not having a citizenship in South Africa had been her structured frame of reference since her birth, when she ends up in Botswana there is new kind of displacement experienced. She is now exiled from what she understood, and she now experiences a new kind of racism and is forced to learn how reconstruct her frame of reference, regardless of how weak her prior frame may have been this huge life change forces her to reconsider what she understood. And, it is in this idea that we see her journey through madness lead to a new frame construction. I think that it is important to note as well that I don’t disagree that Elizabeth is searching for a frame of reference or an identity in all its forms. I just think that it is impossible to not have a frame of reference no matter how small or weak it may be, but I believe that we experience and understand our world based off of our prior experiences which establish some basic construction of a frame of reference. However, what Bessie Head successfully accomplishes in this novel is showing a journey of the mind.

The other aspect of this novel that I found interesting was the hopefulness that the novel ends on. While Bessie Head did not appear to experience the strength of a frame reference that Elizabeth does I think it is interesting that she chose to write her novel in a fashion that gave Elizabeth her “happy ending”. Elizabeth experience the opportunity to belong to community at the end of the novel, and I think on some basic level it reminds me of a Jane Austen novel. Where all her characters, despite some trials, all end up with “happy ending” and each author knowing full well that the “happy endings” they wrote don’t happen in reality.