In this paper I analyze some of the texts used in the legal procedures of divorce in England and Wales. I examine the texts as instruments of institutional power and as potentially identity constructing for the divorcing spouses who use them. My analysis focuses on the representation in text of each divorcing spouse and of the relevant legal institutions; it also focuses on the actions taken by the legal institutions through the texts. I argue that the texts construct an adversarial relationship between the divorcing spouses, treat them unequally in terms of social entitlement, and give one spouse power over the other. One of the consequences may be the bolstering of a sense of institutional power in individual lives: another consequence may be an impact on the developing psychology, both individual and relational, of the spouses. I conclude the paper with some reflections on the potential of this type of research for contributing to social change.
About the author
Sue Wharton is a Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor at the Centre for English Language Teacher Education, University of Warwick, UK. She teaches text and discourse analysis on undergraduate and M.A. courses, and supervises research students. She taught for ten years at Aston University, UK, and was for two years editor of Language Teaching Abstracts. Her current interests in written discourse analysis are in the discourse of TESOL research and the discourse of representation of the family.
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