Speculative Fiction Essay

3. Examine how speculative fiction questions our notions of what makes us human?

Speculative fiction is a literary genre which is encompasses, but not limited to, the sub-genres of fantasy, magical realism, science fiction and horror. One of the key defining features of speculative fiction works is the concept of a secondary world, in which the laws and functioning are different to our own. Defining the qualities of what makes someone human has been one of society’s most comprehensive dilemmas, hounding the fields of modern science, psychology and philosophy for centuries.
Webster defines humans as being “bipedal primate mammals” (2020) that have specific biological characteristics exclusive to the species of homo-sapiens. Yet, despite having always shared similarities with nature, Greek philosopher Aristotle distinguishes humans as being “rational animals” that have the ability to “pursue knowledge for its own sake” (BBC Future:2015). The philosopher considered man’s “sense of good and evil” was the unique characteristic, that qualified an individual as being humane. Contrastingly, Darwin wrote that the “various emotions and facilities” considered exclusive to higher animals, like humans, are actually “a well-developed condition, in the lower animals” (1871); implying biology as the definitive factor.
In literature, the ‘human condition’ is a term used to describe the “defining positive or negative aspects of being human” (Study.com:2020), typically applied by the reader’s judgement of a character’s morality, based on their actions. Using the focus texts of Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief (2005) and Patrick Süskind’s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (1985), I will explore how speculative fiction challenges our notion that being human is limited to biological composition rather than the individual’s sense of morality.

Exploration into speculative fiction suggests that the individual’s biological composition is not the deciding factor of what makes a human, rather it is ability to express morality through their choices and actions. Zusak’s magical realism novel, The Book Thief supports this view through the humanisation of the novel’s omniscient narrator of Death. Death is the permanent cessation of all biological functions of a living organism, but Zusak personifies the condition by creating a narration from the perspective of Death, enabling the condition to embody the human characteristics of emotion and judgement, which later influences its actions. Throughout the novel, Death’s ongoing expression of emotion is an attempt to remove the stigma that it is an unforgiving and merciless being by presenting itself as sharing the same emotional experiences as humans do. Death works to convince the reader that despite associated negative stigmas, it “can be cheerful […] amiable, agreeable, affable” (Zusak 2005:11) being, and therefore should be viewed respectively. The italicised ‘can’ emphasises a sense of desperation within the narrator’s desire to be considered to be humane. The psychological concept of metaperceptions, explores how a person perceives other people’s perception of themselves, however, due to these perceptions being based around an individual’s self-concept, they are often inaccurate due to bias (Flora:2005). Death’s adamance for humans to view it as being more than the epitome of cessation, is an identical emotional response of “social anxiety” found within humans (Flora:2005), ignited by reliance upon metaperceptions.
This is further explored when Death describes itself as “performing the job” (Zusak 2005:12), suggesting that its performing a role rather than being an total embodiment of the decay of human life. The narrator is further personified when it admits to using the colours of the sky at the time of each human’s death as a “distraction” to “help cope” and “keep sane” within its line of work (Zusak 2005:12). The use of the words ‘cope’ and ‘sane’ imply that despite being a creator of grief and suffering, Death undergoes the a psychological cycles of stress impacted by the pressures of work similarly experienced by humans. Zusak commented that he purposely humanises Death’s insecurities and “vulnerability” to allow readers to view the actions of Death as being more obligatory than an immoral choice, which in turn, prompts the readers to emphasise with Death (Zusak 2006).
The concept of metaperceptions and outcasts are explored through the protagonist Jean-Baptiste Grenouille in Süskind’s Perfume: The Story of a Murderer. The novel is set during 18th century France, a society chiefly dominated by religion, superstition and the fear of God. The notion that being human was based on an individual possessing the same biological and physical attributes as those who contributed to society’s standard of the ‘norm’. Grenouille’s physical abnormality of having no body scent, combined with his own gift to “recognise individual odours […] from each human being” (Süskind 1985:158), causes his wet nurse and the Priest Terrier to believe he is “possessed by the devil” (Süskind 1985:14). The lack of a medical diagnosis in conjunction to the presumption that Grenouille has affiliations with the devil at infancy, highlights the control religion had upon a medically underdeveloped society. Alongside the influence of religion, the narrow-minded views of society resulted in the continual dehumanisation of Grenouille “The Monster” (Süskind 1985:199), based solely on his abnormalities. Grimal treats Grenouille as an animal who is expected to “heel”, “obey implicitly”, “appear satisfied” and to be “locked up in a closet” every night (Süskind 1985:37), this dehumanisation highlights that despite biologically being a human, Grenouille was outcasted based on his disability. Metaperceptions focus heavily on the idea that our self-concept is fundamentally shaped from our primary care-giver (Flora:2005). Grenouille exposure to religion-fearing and dehumanising care-givers throughout his infancy and adolescent years influenced his intense desire to “acquire the human-being odour” that he, himself, had never possessed (Süskind 1985:158). Süskind takes Grenouille’s self-concept of being undeserving of humanisation because of his abnormality and enables the character to be consumed by the desire to be accepted in the social universe, later influencing his morality.
The construction of Death and Grenouille’s desires challenges the notion that being considered human, stems directly from having ‘normal’ physical and biological characteristics, as like Death, Grenouille, a human, seeks acceptance within a society that reserve humanisation to those whose physical appearance fit a ‘norm.’

Aristotle’s view that a man is defined as human based on his sense of good and evil, rather than biology is explored through Death’s fondness over Liesel and Grenouille’s actions as a murderer. Death experiences similar struggles to those of humankind, despite having no physical or biological attributes of the human race, it is emotionally similar to humans as he devotes his narrative to depicting the story of a leftover human. Liesel begins as just a “perpetual survivor” (Zusak 2005:12) but once she forms her first connection to reading, she becomes a “ten-year old reading genius” (Zusak 2005:51). Death’s ironic choice of the word ‘genius’ is one of the earliest examples of its fondness for Liesel, despite being illiterate, Death perceives her someone who continues to celebrate life despite having suffered grief and loss and “allows” itself to “use her stories to distract” it (Zusak 2005:378). Death’s attachment to Liesel’s life enables the condition to develop a sense of empathy towards the select individuals in her life, rather than to humanity as a whole. When recounting Rudy and Liesel’s friendship, Death comments that Rudy “didn’t deserve to die the way he did” (Zusak 2005:170), alluding to the condition’s feeling of remorse and its empathy towards humans despite humanity perceiving it as being heartless and the unforgiving. This is further reiterated through the line “You see? Even death has a heart” (Zusak 2005:170), the bitter-laced rhetorical question, emphasises Death’s adamance to prove that unlike the stigma suggests, it is more than its job of collecting souls.

Although Zusak uses a timeless narrator, the novel is set during WW2 Germany and Death’s fatigue for his job as a soul collector, is displayed through his lack of empathy for the victims of holocaust. Death notes that “the human race like to crank things up a little” in terms of “increasing the production of bodies”(Zusak 2005:218), alluding to the increasing death toll during wars. Death’s hyperbolic comment of needing a “broom or mop” (Zusak 2005:218) instead of a scythe, comedically uses the stereotypical human perception of the grim-reaper to highlight the sheer intensity of his job. Death dehumanises the deaths of the holocaust remarking that “a few bombs”, “some gas chambers, or the chitchat of faraway guns”, usually “do the trick” (Zusak 2005:218). The idiomatic phrase of “does the trick” is Death’s cynical quip about the morality of the human race and how they audaciously depict Death as having “skull-like facial features” (Zusak 2005:218) and a heartless agenda. Death affirms that it only the aftermath and process of collecting souls and not the killing itself, this emphasises Death’s perception of humankind as being hypocritical as in actuality, they are the cause of loss, not Death itself, making human Death’s greatest haunting (Zusak 2005:378). Some critics would argue that Death’s ability to dehumanise the holocaust is a depiction of evil and would consider the condition as lacking in a sense of morality, however, Death shows compassion and empathy for Liesel and the people she loves. Death’s empathetic attachment to Liesel, resembles the individual human’s empathetic attachment to their loved ones rather than the human race as a whole, making Death’s sense of morality akin to humans.

Contrastingly, Süskind’s Grenouille loses his sense of moral direction, particularly once his man-made body odour fails to integrate him into society and remove the stigma of being an outcast. Grenouille’s gift of “recognise individual odours […] from each human being” catalyses his descent into a state of immortality through his desire to create a human odour by “acquiring a number of personal odours” (Süskind 1985:191). Grenouille’s pride clouds his morality encourages him to make different perfumes for various emotions, whilst his greed motivates him to kill living creatures to harness their scent, which he later uses to control the townsfolk and his victims. The outcome of Grenouille’s sins are met with admiration from the townsfolk, psychologically convincing the protagonist that murder to attain social acceptance is morally correct as the outcome of his actions are praised and he faces no legal repercussions. Grenouille’s ignorance to consequence fuels his desire to “imitate human odour” using “rare humans who inspire love” as “surrogates” (Süskind 1985:197). Grenouille uses the artificially created scent to lure women, whose scent he was in love with, to be his lover before he murdered them to obtain their scent. Grenouille is wholly consumed by his desire to obtain the scents of his lovers, that his conscience is unaffected by the murders he commits as the perfumes results in his reputation moving from being “the solitary tick” and an “abomination” (Süskind 1985:199) to being an talented apothecary of society. This further suggests that Grenouille has no sense of morality, challenging the notion of whether despite sharing biological attributes, he deserves to be considered humane due to his lack of conscious morality, unlike Death.

To conclude, Zusak and Süskind’s speculative fiction novels both challenge society’s notion that being human is based on an individual’s physical appearance and biological characteristic rather than their sense of morality. Zusak uses the narrator of Death to showcase that emotion and a sense of morality can exist in beings that are not biologically human. By comparing Death to Süskind’s Grenouille, the notion is further challenged as the biologically classified human is outcasted based on his abnormalities, which once overcome, the desire to be socially accepted clouds his sense of morality. In my opinion, being human should be based on the individual’s emotional awareness and sense of morality, therefore I would consider Zusak’s Death as fitting the concept of what is human more so than Süskind’s Grenouille.

References:

BBC Future (2015) The traits that make human beings unique [online] available from <https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20150706-the-small-list-of-things-that-make-humans-unique> [11 December 2020]

Flora, C. (2005) ‘Metaperceptions: How do you see yourself?’ Psychology Today [online] 2005 1-6. available from <https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/articles/200505/metaperceptions-how-do-you-see-yourself> [10 December 2020]

Harman, O. (2013) ‘Explaining the Gap: On Humans and Other Animals -Essay Review’ Journal of the History of Biology [online] 46 (4) 740-741. available from <file:///C:/Users/Diya%20Chopra/Downloads/thegapJHB.pdf> [11 December 2020]

Study.com (2020) The Human Condition in Literature [online] available from <https://study.com/academy/lesson/the-human-condition-in-literature.html> [10 December 2020]

Süskind, P. (1985) Perfume: The Story of a Murderer [online] London; Penguin Books. available from <https://bibliu.com/app/?query=perfume%3A%20the%20story%20of%20a%20m#/view/books/9780241975329/epub/OPS/xhtml/chapter002.html#page_13> [11 December 2020]

Wesbter (2020) Human [online] available from <https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/human> [9 December 2020]

Zusak, M. (2005) The Book Thief [online] London; Penguin Random House UK. available from <https://bibliu.com/app/?query=the%20book%20thief%20#/view/books/9781473541870/epub/OPS/xhtml/copyright.html#page_392> [11 December 2020]

Zusak, M. (2006) ‘Markus Zusak’s Compelling Appointment with Death’ [interview by Linda M.Castellitto] on BookPage [online] available from <https://bookpage.com/interviews/8341-markus-zusak-ya#.X9OEfdj7Q2w> [11 December 2020]

Portfolio on CDA

Introduction: Critical Discourse Analysis

Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) is a stem of critical language theory that focuses on the product of social and cultural relationships and how they are realised in language, primarily through the way “social power abuse, dominance and inequality are enacted, reproduced and resisted in text and talk” (Van Dijk 2015), within both social and political contexts. CDA contributes to an enhanced interpretation of texts by providing a wider understanding of the significance of “the institutional context, social identities and status of the participants” (Simpson 2019:183) within the text.

Transitivity Analysis: Option 2

Transitivity is “concerned with the semantic structure of clauses”, referring “to who does what to whom, and how” (Simpson 2019: 74). M.A.K. Halliday’s (1994) research focuses primarily on “traditional grammatical approaches which distinguish between verbs that take objects, and verbs that do not”. Using the framework of Transitivity, I will be analysing Jack Elsom’s article, from The Daily Mail (September 2020), reporting a racially motivated incident in a South-East London pub [appendix 1, figure 1&2].

The key features of Transitivity analysis are identifying the participants and distinguishing which of the six process types, represented by the verbs and verbal groups, have been used [appendix 1, figure 1]. Material processes are usually “concrete actions” that “describe the process of doing”, with the “action being performed by the Actor” and the Goal participant being “whom the process is directed to” (Simpson 2019: 75).
In the article, both the perpetrator, Louie Kincella, and the hate crime victim, D’arcy-Smith, have an equal amount of material processes but Elsom’s choice of verbs indicate a particular depiction of the news source itself.Elsom’s repetitive use of the synonymic verbs of, ‘convicted’, ‘made to pay’ and ‘charged’, describe Kincella’s actions whilst simultaneously present the police as being actively against racial hate crimes. The majority of Kincella’s material processes present the latter as being the goal participant and the police being the actor, with the only verbs describing Kincella’s own actions surrounding the hate crime being ‘sent’ and ‘admitted ordering’. Elsom directs focus away from the article’s purpose to inform readers of Kincella’s criminality. Rather, he uses the article to oppose the stigma of racial prejudice currently associated with the police in relation to the BLM Civil Rights Movement (2020) primarily against racially targeted police brutality. Unlike Kincella’s material processes, Smith’s are spilt between being the Actor and Goal participant in an attempt to direct focus on his justice seeking actions alongside highlighting the impacts of the incident upon Smith. The use of the verb ‘contacted’ and the actioned implications of the word ‘complaint’, construct Smith (actor) as being an catalyst for the prosecution rather than being a passive victim; a contradictive take on a typical representation of victims within the media. In contrast to this representation, when Smith ‘passed’ the pub or is ‘left shaken’ (goal), his representation switches back to a state of vulnerability, heightening the reader’s compassion for him. The article demonstrates the linguistic strategy of Exnomination through the material process of ‘weaponised by racists’, distinguishing the concept of Othering through the disassociation with racists and The Daily Mail. Elsom portrays the paper as supporters of the BLM movement despite being considered a notable right-winged source by 44% of Britons (YouGov:2017)

Mental processes are the “processes of sensing” and can be divided into either “cognition, affection or perception”, whilst verbal processes are “expounded by the verb of ‘saying’ and its many synonyms” (Simpson 2019:75). In the article, Kincella is described with more verbal processes than mental which contrasts with Smith’s lack of verbal processes in comparison to mental ones.
Elsom’s deliberate use of the unimaginative speech words ‘claimed’ and ‘admitted’, suggest Kincella was compliant and refrained from verbally denying or justifying his actions. Similarly, the minimal amount of mental processes used to describe Kincella’s actions as ‘just being done for a joke’, imply that his intentions were harmless. This enables readers to interpret the hate-crime labelled incident, as being a wrongful conviction rather than holding Kincella accountable for his actions.
Unlike Kincella, Smith is given significantly more mental processes, which consist of his ‘recalling’ the ‘degrading’ incident and realising it was a hate crime. The article describes Smith as being ‘adamant’ the order was ‘racially motivated’, a repetitive indication of the contradictory portrayal of Smith as a catalyst in Kincella’s prosecution. Contrastingly, Smith’s lack of verbal processes imply he had limited commentary regarding the situation, constructing him into a passive victim who avoids using the media as a platform to raise awareness of racial hate crimes.
The imbalance of the processes, portrays Smith as a docile victim of a racial hate crime whilst the subtle vocalisation and minimal focus on Kincella’s criminality shows a continuation of right-winged media, presenting the white party in a neutral light.

Social Actor Analysis:

Van Leeuwen (1995) introduced the Social Actor Analysis model as a “descriptive framework for critically analysing modes of representing social action, using critical sociosemantic categories.” I will be applying Leeuwen’s framework to an article by Ben Hill from The Sun Online (September 2020), of a football boss apologising for signing a domestic abuser to the club.

The Social Actor Analysis model [appendix 2, figure 1] represents the outline of sociological ‘grammar’ to gain insight to the way different actions are represented in discourse by different social actors. The choice of ‘nomination’ represents social actors in terms of their unique identity, the article displays a repetitive use of nomination [appendix 2, figure 2] to construct the reader’s impression and opinion of the individuals mentioned. Alongside the repetition of Reece Thompson’s name (nomination), he is referred to as ‘yob’ or ‘thug’, examples of identification. [figure 2]. This use of “tabloid-style language” (Machin and Mayr 2012:158) labels him based on his actions as a domestic abuser rather than as a footballer. Hill constructs Thompson within the domain of his criminality rather than as a footballer to dehumanise and expose his identity, whilst simultaneously preventing the media organisation from being categorised as protecting the perpetrator.
Hill also repeats Danielle Thomas’ name (nomination) to humanise her as a victim of domestic abuse and to evoke sympathy within the readers. The journalist also does this as an attempt to show The Sun Online as giving the abuse victim a platform to express her emotions and vocalise herself, an action she was previously suppressed of.
Another key example of nomination is Hill’s repetitive use of the football club manager, Christian Fox’s name. Fox acts as a microcosmic representation of both the club and the collective decision to sign Thompson back to the club which evokes a warped sense of admiration towards Fox, for taking public responsibility of the club’s mistake. This is further explored through the representational choice of backgrounding. Exclusion focuses on exploring how a social actor is excluded or suppressed from text, being a sub-division of exclusion, backgrounding is considered a “less radical” exploration of exclusion. This is shown by suggesting that the social actors are “mentioned elsewhere in the text” if “not mentioned in relation to a given activity” (Leeuwen 1996:39). The article’s repetitive use of the pronoun ‘we’ is exemplar of backgrounding as it relates to the social actor of Fox and the club he represents, without repetitively mentioning the club’s name or the individuals responsible. This microcosmic representation of ‘Fox’ and ‘we’ is also shown through the abstraction [appendix 2, figure 4] of the word ‘club’, being used to direct the spotlight away from the individuals responsible for the decision and instead labelling it in a generalised manner.

The representational choice of functionalisation is used to categorise social actors “in terms of their occupation or social activity” (Simpson 2019: 81). In the article’s headline, the words ‘Football boss’ are used to describe Fox based on his managerial role within the football club, indicating a heightened sincerity in the apology made to Danielle as it has come from an individual of an authoritative position within the club. This contrasts with the lack of functionalisation for Thompson by only referring to him as a ‘thug’, ‘yob’ or using his name rather than words like ‘footballer’ or ‘athlete’, further highlighting The Sun Online’s attempt to disassociate Thompson as a member of their idealistic society and avoid making the club’s mistake of showing support to a domestic abuser.

As well as the article’s use of identification when referring to Thompson, it uses classification identification with the phrase ‘ages ten and 14’, being the only description of Danielle’s daughters. The article also uses relational identification is used to describe Danielle and her relationships as Thompson’s ‘girlfriend’, ‘her family’ and as a ‘mum-of-two’. Hill uses “terms that essentially humanise” (Machin and Mayr 2012:122) to evoke sympathy within the readers by indicating the impact of Thompson’s abusive behaviour on both Danielle and her young daughters, ultimately humanising her as a victim whose personal life reaches beyond being a domestic abuse victim.

Multimodal Analysis:

Multimodality draws upon Halliday’s (1978) social semiotic approach to language and how language interacts with “other tools or ‘modes’ of communication” (Jones 2012:29) to convey meaning. The three metafunctions help to categorise the features used within the framework. Using the features of multimodality, I will analyse the ‘brawny.com’ website, an America paper-towel company which uses its platform to celebrate strength within different communities.

Ideational metafuntion focuses on what “the text is about” (Paltridge 2006:171) by analysing the participants, objects and setting of the visual image. The background of the website’s first photo [appendix 3, figure 1] is comprised of a boreal forest and mountain range, an environment associated with the stereotypical male activities of hunting and lumber work. Whilst participants are a feature of ideational metafuntion, the features that explores the “relations between participants” (Paltridge 2006:171) and the viewer are categorised as interpersonal metafunction. In the foreground, there are three participants wearing red lumber-jack shirts used to compliment the connotations of the background. The contrast of the foregrounded participants and background indicate the brand’s association to wood, the material paper-towels are made out of and act as a salute to their products. The foremost participant adopts a typically masculine pose of having their hands on their hips which contrasts with their feminine long, blonde braids, whilst the other two participants have their arms folded. The construction of their poses removes any gendered stigma and instead portrays it as being a stance of confidence and power, making it as a visual tribute to the hashtag ‘strength has no gender’.

Textual metafunction features explore “how the message is organised” through the way “the elements in an image are arranged” (Paltridge 2006:171) to create an effect. The photograph of the  participants are placed so that they are raised above the forest to indicate that their strength is larger than the strength of nature, making the photograph an empowering visual.
In the website’s final homepage photo [appendix 3, figure 2], the three young girls are the salience of the photograph as the adjacent and above text relates to the organisation Brawny.com fund to support these young girls. The photograph uses natural lighting to remove the impression that the photo is staged. This aids the interpersonal feature of the participants’ gaze of having direct eye-contact with the viewer to make the consumer feel inclined to support these girls who benefit from the brand’s financial support and as a result purchase the brand’s products. This technique is chiefly understood in consumer theory’s concept of using “nudges” to appeal to “human’s psychological quirks”, which in turn sways their decision making (Wilkinson:2012), further emphasised by the designer’s choice of placing the photograph just above the sign-up box.

The campaign’s neutrality stretches beyond the breaking of gender barrier and depicts three different aged participants. The foremost participant’s hair is styled as that of a young girl, there is also young-adult (right) and older-adult (left) noticeable from the body frame and skin aging. This visual neutrality supports the photo’s tag-line ‘celebrating generations of strength’, indicating that strength is neither constrained by gender nor age. In the final homepage photo [appendix 3, figure 2], campaign neutrality is presented by the girls being of three different ethnicities as a way to highlight that the brand support organisations that empower young girls irrespective of their age and ethnicity. The website’s designers construct the site’s homepage with the use of intricately designed photographs and purposeful language to emphasise the brand’s support and association with organisations that empower the community. This construction is crucial to engage viewers with the brand, regard it as trustworthy and an principled source to purchase products from.

References:

Caldas-Coulthard, C. and Coulthard, M. (e.d) (1996) Texts and Practices: Readings in Critical Discourse Analysis. [online] New York: Routledge. available from <https://dl1.cuni.cz/pluginfile.php/486263/mod_resource/content/1/van-Leeuwen-The%20representation%20of%20social%20actors.pdf>

Halliday, M.A.K. (1994) An Introduction to Functional Grammar 2nd end, London: Edward Arnold

Jones, R.H. (2012) Discourse Analysis. Oxon: Routledge

Machin, D. and Mayr, A. (2012) The Language of Crime and Deviance: An Introduction to Critical Linguistic Analysis in Media and Popular Culture [online] London; Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. available from <https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/coventry/reader.action?docID=831527#> [6 September 2020]

Paltridge, B. (2006) Discourse Analysis: An Introduction 2nd end. [online] London; Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. available from <https://bibliu.com/app/?query=paltridge#/view/books/9781441133359/epub/OEBPS/html/9781441133359_09_cha08.html#page_170>

Simpson, P. (2019) Language and Power. Milton: Routledge

Van Dijk, T A. (2015) The Handbook of Discourse Analysis [online] 2nd edn. West Sussex; John Wiley & Sons. available from <https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1002/9781118584194.ch22?saml_referrer> [27 October 2020]

Van Leeuwen, T. (1995) ‘Representing Social Action’ Discourse and Society [online] 6 (1) 82-83. available from <https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0957926595006001005> [2 November 2020]

Wilkinson, T.M. (2012) ‘Nudging and Manipulation’ Political Studies [online] 61 (2) 1-2. available from <https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-9248.2012.00974.x> [6 November 2020]

YouGov (2017) How left or right-winged are the UK’s newspapers? [online] available from <https://yougov.co.uk/topics/politics/articles-reports/2017/03/07/how-left-or-right-wing-are-uks-newspapers> [27 October 2020]

Appendix List (1):

Figure 1: Transitivity Analysis Table (Option 2)

process typeskincellasmithScotland yard/police magistrates wetherspoons staffpub appwaiterracists
material‘convicted’ ‘ordering’ ‘using’ ‘made to pay’ ‘sent’ ‘arrested’ ‘admitted ordering’ ‘charged’  ‘left shaken’ ‘passed’ ‘delivered’ ‘sent’ ‘ordered’ ‘contacted’ ‘leaving the pub’‘track down’ ‘set about tracing the sender’ ‘not taken seriously’ ‘since apologised’‘order’ ‘made for’ ‘to go’‘carried’‘weaponised’ ‘lobbed’
verbal‘said’ ‘admitted’ ‘claimed’ ‘insisted’  ‘said’ ‘told’‘said’    ‘chanting monkey noises’
mental‘he did not intend’ ‘just done for a joke’  ‘did not know Kincella’ ‘degrading’ ‘recalling’ ‘clicked that it wasn’t ours’ ‘looked at each other… looked at the banana’ ‘was not taken’ ‘adamant… racially motivated’  ‘identify’‘was found guilty’‘has since apologised’   
behavioural‘while he did not deny’‘spontaneously started trembling’       ‘weaponised’
relational‘at his home’ ‘at his home in Mottingham’‘left humiliated’ ‘left disappointed’        
existential‘being in the pub’‘who was with a friend’ ‘was trying to be racist’        



Figure 2: Transitivity Analysis Option 2 Annotated

Appendix List (2):

Figure 1: Teo Van Leeuwen’s Social Actor Analysis Model

(Van Leeuwen: 1996)

Figure 2: Social Actor Analysis Table (Option 2)

representational choicesexamples within the article
backgrounding‘he had been given’ ‘he said signing’ ‘individuals and families’ ‘how sorry we are’ ‘we have caused’ ‘we are not trying’ ‘and she is said she’ ‘their minds’  
passivation‘into[…] back and made her eat paint’ ‘was released’ ‘came under fire’ ‘she was left “fearing for her life”’ ‘suffered a broken jaw and severe bruising’  
functionalism‘Football boss’ ‘a football club boss’ ‘Selby Town manager’  
identification‘thug’ ‘girlfriend’ ‘25’ ‘yob’ ‘her family’ ‘two daughters’ ‘age ten and 14’ ‘34-year-old mum-of-two’  
nomination‘Reece Thompson’ / ‘Thompson’ ‘Danielle Thomas’ ‘York City, Boston United and Guiseley AFC’ ‘Selby Town FC’ ‘Christian Fox’ / ‘Fox’  
abstraction‘his club offering’ ‘said the club’ ‘telling Selby Town’ ‘The Sun Online’  
collectivisation‘fans’  
aggregation‘so many’

Figure 3: Social Actor Option 2 Annotated

Appendix List (3):

Figure 1: Multimodality Annotation Option 1; ‘Strenght has no Power’ homepage image

Figure 2: Multimodality Annotation Option 1; ‘Inspiring Future Generations’ homepage image

Uber v Aslam Case Study Assignment

1: Discuss the role of the jury in criminal cases within the English legal system

In criminal cases, 12 individuals are unsystematically selected to perform the civil duty of jury service. The main use of a jury is “in the Crown Court, where it decides whether the defendant is guilty or not guilty”[1] by using the evidential facts presented to them in court to make a satisfied decision beyond reasonable doubt.

Despite the initial selection of the jury being random, there are specific requirements that ensure an individual’s eligibility or disqualification from jury service.
According to the Juries Act 1974, every person is eligible for jury service if “he/she is for the time being registered as a parliamentary or local government elector and aged 17-75” and if “he/she has been a ordinarily resident in the United Kingdom, the Chanel Island or the Isle of Man for any period of at least 5 years since they were 13 years”. [2]
In the Juries Act 1974, a person can be disqualified from the jury if they were “mentally disordered (do not have the mental capacity to serve as a jury)”, a person can also be “disqualified for 10 years if they were imprisoned” or given a “community sentence”. A person can also be “disqualified for life if you have been imprisonment for; more than 5 years, for public protection or life imprisonment or equivalent”.[3]
If an individual has received a court order to attend as a jury member, they must inform the courts of their previous convictions or the fact that they are disqualified, failure to do so may result in a £5,000 fine.

Individuals can also be excused from being a juror under the Juries Act 1974 if they are either “too ill to attend, a mother of a small baby, have a business appointment that cannot be attended by someone else, exams and pre-booked holidays”.[4] However, due to the vagueness of the criteria, it excludes fathers of small babies and there is no further explanation of the severity of a person’s illness is, in order to be excused.

As well as excusals, under the Juries Act 1974, “a judge has the power to dismiss a juror when there is doubt as to; their capacity to act effectively as a juror.”[5] This is a controversial statue as in the case of Re Osman (Practice Note)[6] the judge dismissed a deaf man since he would require an interpreter resulting in the jury have 13 members rather than just 12. The judge also added that when witnesses gave their statements and evidence, the deaf man would be unable to identify their tone of voice and therefore be unable to effectively judge their credibility. Controversy is expressed as it excludes a man due to his disability, which suggests a failed acknowledgement of disabled people within society.

The main role of the jury is to collectively come to a verdict on whether the defendant is guilty or not. In cases with a jury, the judge’s role is to oversee the hearing by reminding the jury of their legal role within the court whilst, providing them with guidance. The judge must respect the independence of the jury and therefore cannot prosecute the jurors for their verdict.

On average, a jury deliberation takes 2 hours to reach either a unanimous or majority verdict. Majority verdicts have different acceptance rates depending on the number of jurors in the sitting. With 12 jurors, a majority of 10:2 and 11:1 would be accepted whilst with 9 jurors, all jurors would have to agree on a verdict. The deliberation of verdicts is done in secrecy, which can be disadvantageous as it is unclear whether the jury have correctly understood the information presented to them.

Under the Criminal Justice & Courts Act 2015, it is considered an act of jury misconduct to research a case including “visiting or asking others or conducting experiments”[7] and “sharing any unlawful research”[8] with other members of the jury. In Attorney General v Fraill and Seward,[9] Fraill, a member of the jury contacted the defendant in an attempt to emphasise with her; she then shared the information with the other jurors. Fraill was sentenced to immediate custody for 8 months for being guilty of jury misconduct.

The use of a jury has both advantages and disadvantages. Advantages of using a jury, allows public participation, which instils confidence that members of society are involved in the legal system. Jury equity means that juries make decisions purely based on the evidence presented before them. Juries do not have to provide a reason for their verdict preventing any misinterpretation.   
Disadvantages of the jury system are the susceptibility of jurors to the counsel as their judgement can be easily misled. Constructing a jury is time consuming and expensive and since the jury is selected through a random process, there are chances that there may not be a juror of the same race, age or gender as the defendant leading to possible discriminatory verdicts.

In conclusion, although it has various disadvantages, the jury is a key aspect of the Crown Court as it represents society’s involvement in the English Legal System and provides an unbiased method in deciding the verdict of a defendant.

2: Discuss the Uber v Aslam [2018] EWCA Civ 2748 and how it has progressed from the Employment Tribunal to the Supreme Court.

Employment law governs the relationship between employers and workers and what takes place in the workplace. The Uber v Aslam case follows Uber’s claim that their drivers are independent workers whilst the claimants argued that they were employees. The case transcends from the ET to the EAT and finally into the Court of Appeal, where in each trial, the decision affirmed that the drivers were employed as ‘workers’.

In the English Legal system, the Employment Tribunal (ET) is an “independent judicial body established to resolve disputes between employers and employees on employment rights.” (Acas.org.uk, 2019)[10] Unlike a court, Tribunals are less formal and allow employees to represent themselves without needing a qualified lawyer or solicitor. The role of the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) is to hear the appeals from the ET if either party is unsatisfied with the decision of the ET.  The Court of Appeal is the highest court in England and only deals with appeal cases from other courts or tribunals.

Under the Employments Rights Act 1996, an employee is an “individual who has entered into works under a contract of employment” whilst a worker, is an “individual who has entered into or works under –(a) a contract of employment, or (b) any other contract”[11] which allow them to work personally or for another party. An employee would receive all forms of statutory protection in a workplace whilst a worker would only receive basic statutory protection such as, minimum wage, working time, discrimination and whistleblowing. However, an independent contractor would be classified as an individual who enters a contract of service rather than employment. Independent contractors receive no statutory protection and would be expected to look after themselves whilst working. In Uber v Aslam,[12] the ET concluded that “each of the drivers was working for ULL as a ‘worker’” since the contract still fell within s.230(3)(b) despite the use of self-employment language. In my opinion, this analysis of the case would impact employment contracts and their written contents to ensure that the correct status of employment is formally expressed to prevent misunderstandings between the employers and their employees. The ET’s decision was further supported with evidence of previous public statements from Uber claiming the organisation’s status as a transportation business and their employment of drivers to that extent.

The Employment Rights Act 1996 requires employers to provide their employees with a written documentation, detailing all elements of their employment within 8 weeks. Contracts of employment must include “names of employers/employees, job title, date employment began, terms and conditions regarding pay, hours of work, holiday entitlements”. According to the statue, a separate document on “sickness payments, pension entitlements and notice”[13] and details of any collective agreement and where they can be found, must be provided. In Uber v Aslam[14], the ET held that the “supposed contract between driver and passenger was a pure fiction” since the “passengers had no contract to compel the driver to pick them up” and the point of accepting the request was with ULL rather than the individual driver. This was further supported by the fare payment being made directly by the passenger to UBV, who paid the drivers weekly. UBV then generated an invoice to the passenger, without including the passenger’s full name or contact details. This lack of appropriate information supports the decision that no valid contract had been made between the passenger and the driver.

In a contract of employment, there are various implied rights and duties both parties must adhere to. An employer is obligated to pay wages, provide work and support and follow a duty of care. In turn, employees have a duty of co-operation and confidentiality; employees must show reasonable skills and a willingness to work. Both parties are expected to behave in a respectful and professional manner. In Uber v Aslam[15], the EAT affirmed the ET’s exploration of the relationship between the organisation and the drivers, in which the ET discovered that “ULL exerted a high degree of control over the drivers” following a ‘test of control’ within an employer and employee relationship which was further affirmed by the EAT. In relation to this case, the Court of Appeal referred to the Autoclenz Ltd v Belcher [16] case where in “employment context, the written documentation might not reflect the reality of the relationship” and that the parties agreement was determined after analysing various factoring circumstances. This influenced the Court of Appeal’s decision whereby the reality of the relationship between the drivers and the organisation did not accurately reflect the characterisation of the relationship within the written documentation, making the written and signed contract only a factor in the deciding circumstances.

In conclusion, the progression of the case allowed new evidence to be further analysed and used as justification for the decisions made in each trial. The EAT and the Court of Appeal agreed that the drivers were being treated as workers rather than independent contractors despite the reflection of the written documentation held. The decision of the drivers’ employment status being ‘workers’ allows an increase of the individuals’ statutory protection rights. In my opinion, I believe the decision was fair as it considered all evidence as well as the reality of the relationship between the drivers and Uber.


[1] Rebecca Huxey-Binns, Jacqueline Martin and Tom Frost, Unlocking The English Legal System (5th edn, Published Routledge 2017) 242

[2] The Juries Act 1974 s.1 (1)

[3] The Juries Act 1974

[4] The Juries Act 1974 s.9 (2)

[5] The Juries Act 1974 s.9

[6] [1996] 1 Cr App R 126

[7] Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 s.71 (20)(a)

[8] Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 s.72 (20(b)

[9] [2011] EWCA Crim 1570

[10] Acas.org.uk. (2019). Employment Tribunals Fees, Refunds & Remission | Acas. [online] Available at: http://www.acas.org.uk/index.aspx?articleid=1889 [Accessed 26 Mar. 2019].

[11] The Employments Rights Act 1996 s.230 (a) (b) 

[12] [2018] EWCA Civ 2784

[13] The Employment Rights Act 1996 s.1

[14] [2018] EWCA Civ 2784

[15] [2018] EWCA Civ 2784

[16] [2011] 7 WLUK 790

CUSU Musical Theatre Society 2020-21

Throughout my university experience, as well as working towards my degree, I became a member our university’s ‘Musical Theatre Society’ and I have been a member since 2018.

When first joining the society I entered it as a cast member and participated in auditions for theatre shows like ‘The Addams Family’ (2019) and our own written Winter Showcase, ‘The Long Way Round’ (2019). As a cast member I attended weekly rehearsals working towards these shows in which we learnt choreographed dances, singing sessions and acting workshops. I have also been part of social nights and trips run by the society.

Joining the society has provided me with transferable skills of communication, team building, punctuality and confidence skills. It has enabled me to grow as a person whilst pursing my passion for theatre.

As I embark on my final year of university, I have been elected in as our society’s 2020-21 President. My role will be to support members, organise shows and events, lead our committee through decisions surrounding the society by liaising with our Student’s Union and overall handling the admin and logistics side of our creative society.

I look forward to this new challenge and you can follow our social media handles and the following links to stay updated on our progress throughout the next academic year:-

Social Media Handles:

Instagram: @cusumusicaltheatre
https://instagram.com/cusumusicaltheatre?igshid=1du8zvvgnqql1

Facebook: Coventry University Musical Theatre Society

Links:

https://www.facebook.com/cusumusicaltheatre/photos/a.717736431613753/3135685063152199/?type=3

Coventry.Domain Awards 2020

I am very pleased to announce that in March 2020, I was fortunate to be nominated for and to receive a Coventry.Domains Award for the development of a ‘Domain of One’s Own’ which is this website.

The award was handed to several website curators at Coventry University, each using their website for different purposes to either advertise their services, aid and support businesses or organisations within the university or simply make it a place to showcase their work throughout their university career.

A huge thanks to the University for the opportunity, support and recognition it provided in allowing me to curate this website. Please follow the below links to read the articles published around the award and this website:-

https://coventry.domains/relaunch/coventry-domains-awards-2020/

I hope you continue to enjoy the website and keep looking out for more projects as I continue to develop the site.

Portfolio Assignment

As part of my BA English course, our degree class took a week study trip to Valencia, Spain. The trip included university visits to the city’s renowned institutions, a literary tour of the Spanish writer Vicente Blasco Ibáñez and other opportunities to experience the explosion of culture throughout the city.

Our assignment required us to create our own portfolio documenting our discovery and understanding of intercultural awareness, Ibáñez’s life and literary works and the linguistic landscapes through a form of creative inquiry, assisted with an artefact.

Attached is the portfolio including the artefact and relevant referencing.

Enjoy!

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