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Discourse and Power in George Bernard Shaw’s <i>Pygmalion</i>

Author(s): Hossein Pirnajmuddin | Fatemeh Shahpoori Arani

Journal: Studies in Literature and Language
ISSN 1923-1555

Volume: 3;
Issue: 3;
Start page: 146;
Date: 2011;
Original page

Keywords: Bernard Shaw | Pygmalion | Education | Michel Foucault | Knowledge | Discourse | Power

George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion addresses the discourse of education (linguistic retraining in particular) and its interrelationship with other discourses, such as class, and the transformation of individual and social self. It also deals with the dynamics of teacher-student power relationship in the context of education discourse. Believing that education should produce humane and responsible citizens instead of docile slaves, Shaw displays the evils of an incompetent education system. This article explores the discourse of education, its effects on other discourses - particularly that of class - and the knowledge and power it produces with emphasis on Foucault’s theories about power, knowledge, and discourse. In addition to the Foucauldian conceptualization of discourse, linguistic discourse analysis (conversational analysis) is also applied to examine the link between the language use and the modality of power relations in Pygmalion. The aim is to display how education discourse functions through disciplinary productive power and gives rise to a kind of social knowledge. Shaw’s play, it is argued, intimates that an education incommensurate with socio-cultural factors could probably empower the marginal social subjects but it would also displace them, rather than truly promote them, socially.Key words: Bernard Shaw; Pygmalion; Education; Michel Foucault; Knowledge; Discourse; Power

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