The paper focuses on the representation of interaction in courtroom scenes in Dickens's Bleak House and attempts to identify the linguistic strategies employed by legal professionals to manipulate their socially disadvantaged interlocutors. In particular, the analysis focuses on how questioning can contribute to the predominance of the machinery of Justice in witness examination. Legal-lay discourse involves a complex dialogic play between two broad ways of making sense of the world: one based on the subjective reconstruction of personal experience (lay people); the other on detached analysis following logical principles (legal professionals). The tools for analysis are drawn mostly from pragmatics and conversation analysis, though adapted to the peculiarities of fictional dialogues. Lexico-grammatical features of style may be observed to interpret the peculiarities of characterization, but the focus of our attention is on language as action and interaction, as Dickens uses dialogue to show how disadvantage is not intrinsic in the formal features of one’s language but rather in the way this is interpreted by other participants and in the way the interaction is structured by those who control its management. The paper illustrates the issue with reference to the interactions between a representative of the Court and three characters representing different forms of inadequacy in their own mastery of language. The disadvantage of Mr Tangle, a lawyer concerned with the “Jarndyce and Jarndyce” suit, represents power relationships inside the discourse community and professional disadvantage due to lack of clarity (BH: 7). The questioning of Mrs Piper represents the disadvantage of ordinary people who lack awareness of courtroom conventions in the reconstruction of facts (BH: 127). The little crossing sweeper Jo represents an issue that is acquiring growing importance nowadays - the disadvantage of children before the law (BH: 128-130). This is the scene where lack of knowledge leads to reciprocal misunderstanding and rejection of the witness: the child cannot interpret the judge’s questions and the judge cannot interpret the child’s answers.The paper is organized as follows. Section 2 deals with the preliminary issue of how hierarchical control of legal procedures can create inequalities among members of the same discourse community (e.g. legal professionals). Section 3 briefly reviews literature on the disadvantage of lay-people in courtroom interaction and focuses on the role of questions, presenting a classification along a cline of coerciveness. On the basis of the classification presented, sections 4 and 5 analyse scenes of witness questioning showing different ways in which witnesses can be led astray and even rejected in examination procedures.
|Anno di pubblicazione:||2008|
|Titolo:||“Disadvantage before the law: Bleak House”.|
|Appare nelle tipologie:||Articolo su rivista|
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