Voices of Discord – Kate Tempest, Criticism and Modes of Discourse


STX Engelsk A
Morten Mølgaard Pedersen, Aarhus Katedralskole; Mette Mølgaard Pedersen, Horsens Statsskole (Relevant in relation to AT and SRP)


One text; five critical approaches – that is the premise of Voices of Discord – Kate Tempest, Criticism and Modes of Discourse.

Students often struggle with the concept of critical methodology and grasping the fact that the results of an analysis are shaped by the angle from which you approach the text. The aim of this module is to analyse the same core text – War Music / Ballad of a Hero by British poet and spoken word artist Kate Tempest from five different critical perspectives.

The module utilizes different variants of War Music in order to highlight the difference between poetry as read (text on paper), utterance (spoken word performance) and song (musical performance).

The Three Step Concept

The module is divided into three steps. The first step is devoted to textual analysis as students read, perform and engage Tempest’s poem from four critical perspectives:

  • Formalist/New Critical (self-contained aesthetic object)
  • Historical/Biographical (contextual)
  • Psychological (PTSD/battlemind vs. homemind)
  • Socio-lingusitic (sociolect and class differences)

In terms of basic methodology, the mainstay of this step is the chapter on critical approaches in Trine Østergaard, The English Handbook (Systime, 2017).

In the second step, students are given an introduction to discouse analysis with an emphasis on the terminology of French political theorists Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe and the Three Dimensional Discourse Model by the British linguist Norman Fairclough. The key analytical concepts are applied to George Bush and Osama bin Laden’s speeches on the night of the first US attack on Afghanistan in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 as well as Tony Blair’s speech on Iraq 20 March 2003 and subsequent apology for the Iraq war on 6 July 2016.

The aim of this step is to train key concepts (framing, articulation, nodal point, chain of equivalence, chain of difference, floating signifier, antagonism, hegemony, discursive power) in the analysis of political language in relation to war and clarify the notion that language is inherently ideological. At the same time, this step widens students’ historical knowledge of global and socio-political issues in Britain.

In the final step, the methods of discourse analysis are applied to Kate Tempest’s poem as an example of an antagonistic anti-war discourse.

Core Texts

Kate Tempest, “Ballad of a Hero” (Poem, 2015)

Kate Tempest, “Ballad of a Hero” (BBC Radio Performance, 2015)

Kate Tempest, “War Music” (Spoken Word + Music Performance, 2016)

George Bush, Speech October 7; 2011 (Text:


Osama bin Laden, Videotaped speech October 7, 2001

(Text: http://www.press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/481921texts.html)

Tony Blair, Speech on Iraq (Speech, 2003): Tony Blair Invades Iraq – 20th March 2003

Tony Blair, Iraq Apology (Speech, 2016: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/video/2016/jul/06/tony-blair-chilcot-iraq-war-decision-video

Secondary Materials

Online biographical material on Kate Tempest

Online historical material on the wars in Iraq/Afghanistan and Bristish attitudes to these wars.

Trine Østergaard, The English Handbook. Systime, 2017: https://theenglishhandbook.systime.dk/index.php?id=167#c430

Christopher Bisgaard Olesen, From Battlemind to Homemind. Forlaget Columbus, 2013 http://forlagetcolumbus.dk/produkt/from-battlemind-to-homemind/produkt/vis/

Anne Marie Hellmers, “Discourse Analysis – A Specific Function in the Overall Analysis of Communication” (PowerPoint, Forlaget Columbus, 2014)

NBC Nightly News October 7, 2001: NBC Nightly News Oct 7, 2001 – America Strikes Back

Mark Goulston, “PTSD Symptoms: 7 Signs that may signal PTSD” Huffington Post Blog, 2010) https://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-goulston-md/ptsd-symptoms-7-signs-_b_798001.html

Mark Goulston, “PTSD from the inside out” (Video): Mark Goulston – PTSD from the Inside Out – A Soldier’s Story

Rosalie Kroes, “Sociolects and Dialects in England’s Social Classes” (Blog Post, 2012) https://languageawarenessbyrosalie.weebly.com/social-dialects.html

Richard Nordquist, “Social Dialect or Scoiolect Definition and Examples”: https://www.thoughtco.com/social-dialect-sociolect-1692109

Alan Cowell, “Class Wars; Britain’s Upper Crust still Soldiers On” https://www.thoughtco.com/social-dialect-sociolect-1692109



Kate Tempest Critical Approaches