University of Limerick
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Language, gender and power in discourses of maternity. The discursive construction of gender identity in pregnancy advice literature in English and French

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posted on 2022-09-12, 11:35 authored by Ornaith Rodgers
This research investigates the construction of gender identity in the discourse of pregnancy advice literature. It focuses in particular on uncovering the societal power asymmetries and hierarchies which repress and control women, and on identifying how the discourse of pregnancy advice literature operates to sustain these hierarchies. The thesis is based on a diachronic critical discourse analysis of a selected number of pregnancy advice texts in English and French, using Fairclough’s three-dimensional model of description, interpretation and explanation. The social conditions and discourse processes framing these texts are thus considered in the analysis of the lexical and grammatical patterns used to represent women and position them in relation to other social actors. The study considers firstly how discourse is used as an instrument of power and control in the positioning of pregnant women in relation to the medical institution, and subsequently investigates how women’s emotions during pregnancy, and their attitudes both to their pregnancies and to their changing bodies are constructed in the discourse of pregnancy advice literature. This research also focuses on constructions of masculinity and femininity in this discourse in order to identify how gender roles are discursively constituted. The thesis ultimately demonstrates that historical discourse patterns are being reformulated yet reproduced in contemporary pregnancy advice literature, and that control over women is maintained through the discursive subjugation of pregnant women to the authority of the medical profession and the reinforcement of traditional gender roles in this discourse. The domination of women is thus perpetuated in the discourse of pregnancy advice literature.



  • Doctoral

First supervisor

Chambers, Angela

Second supervisor

Conrick, Maeve





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