CDA and 'The Place That Sends You Mad'

Term Paper, 2009

13 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of contents

I. Introduction

II. Material and motivation
II.A Why did I choose an Asterix movie?
II.B Summary of ‘The Place That Sends You Mad’

III. Bureaucracy in ‘The Place That Sends You Mad’
III. A Information exchange with clients
III. B Information exchange inside the institution
III.C Role behaviour in bureaucratic discourse

IV. Conclusion

V. Bibliography

VI. Picture credits

I. Transliteration of the movie “The Twelve Tasks of Asterix”, part “The Place That Sends You Mad”
II. Declaration


During the seminar “Critical Discourse Analysis: Text and Discourse” there were various fields of application mentioned. Bureaucracy was a very interesting one, as it is nearly an everyday necessity, especially living in Germany. The use of bureaucratic language does not only occur in institutional contexts, but “may enter and take over the discourse practices of other domains1, e.g. the correspondence in business companies. Since all citizens can tell their own story of a bureaucratic incident and therefore can relate to such problems, the movie-scene analyzed is a well remembered one.

The thesis in hand will first give an overview about the material and present a summary of the noted movie-scene to afford a basis for the following analysis. That will concern the information exchange with clients and inside the institution, as well as the role behaviour in bureaucratic discourse. At last, it closes with some final words and the credits.


An Asterix movie is providing the base material for the following analysis. The tales of the brave Gauls that resist Caesar’s soldiers are very popular with children and adults; in the form of comics and movies. The heroes are clever Asterix and strong Obelix, with small Dogmatix at his side and other loveable characters of the village. The Romans are their crazy and mostly ridiculous besiegers. Though they surpass the small village in military force level and arms, it exceeds their abilities to finally win over the Gauls.

In the movie “The Twelve Tasks of Asterix” there are several tasks to be performed, one of them taking place in ‘The Place That Sends You Mad’. Although exaggerated, there are prime examples for bureaucracy in language detectable. This scene causes amusement and remains in peoples memories, maybe it is even thought of as the first contact with overly bureaucratic procedures. Most of the clerks seen in the movie are “very busy2 although they occupy themselves with knitting, chatting, napping or even swinging. It is an overstated image of real bureaucrats doing things a client can not see to be important at that time or are even obviously time-wasting.

This chapter offers a short description of the preliminary events leading the Gauls to the bureaucratic institution and the motivation to write about their task. Moreover there is a summary of the events occurring inside the plain multi-storey building.


The movie “The Twelve Tasks of Asterix” is related to the heroic saga of Heracles, as mentioned by Julius Caesar in the beginning of the movie3. The Emperor asks the Gauls to perform twelve tasks in order to proof if they are gods, as some of his subordinates seem to believe, or mere mortals. If the Gauls succeed, they will become rulers of the Roman Empire; but if they fail, they will be Caesars slaves. Asterix and Obelix are chosen to try and save their village once again. This time not by beating up Roman soldiers, but by using their combined strength and cunning to win the bet.

After they fulfilled different athletic tasks, overcame some temptations and survived the Lair of the Beast, the eighth task of Asterix and Obelix is to obtain Permit A38 in the Place That Sends You Mad. It is an ironic approach to the domain of bureaucracy and there are some clichés demonstrated. Bureaucracy is described as an invincible system that is equally hard to deal with as with a Heraclic task. During our group-presentation of “CDA and Bureaucracy” we showed this very scene to our fellow students. Since they could relate to it, it occurred to me to further analyse the material4. Though a short summary follows, I suggest to watch the scene again or to listen to it while reading the transliteration.


After they survived the Lair of the Beast, Asterix and Obelix meet with Caius Tiddlus, a small Roman that Caesar send along with them to check they complete every task. They watch the mad people of the town and ask about their curious behaviour. Caius Tiddlus explains it and tells them about their eighth task, which Asterix thinks is easy to solve: “Nothing but a simple administrative formality5. Inside ‘The Place That Sends You Mad’ they are confronted by an unfriendly desk officer and are misdirected. An arduous tramp through the building up and down many stairs begins. The Gauls are being ignored, shouted at and every clerk only seems to help them in finding the next window to be rid of them. After having collected nearly twenty forms on their way, Obelix nearly falls prey to madness and fears to end up being Caesar’s slave. Calming his friend Asterix has the idea to fight the institution with its own weapons and invents a new “permit no. A39, as stipulated in the new circular B656. This causes a flurry of clerks running about, as Asterix and Obelix did before. Trying to find out about this development, they go mad themselves. All except the Prefect, who is attempting to quieten his subordinates in vain and finally hands over the Permit A38 to make the Gauls depart. Realizing what he did, leaves him insane as well. Asterix and Obelix go on to their ninth task on the way to Rome: “Cross a ravine on an invisible tightrope, over a river full of crocodiles“7.


Seeing that the use of bureaucratic language is a wide field, I decided to concentrate on the topics I worked on for the presentation during the seminar. Therefore this chapter is mainly about information exchange and role behaviour in bureaucratic discourse. Where I find it necessary, I will refer to the topics of my fellow group members or our shared background literature8, respectively.


In bureaucratic discourse information exchange plays an important role. The procedures usually entail sets of activities that are used for exchanging information between the institution and the client.9 Both can be in the role of information seeking and giving at different times. In the bureaucratic game the institution often is the more powerful player, setting the rules and controlling the outcome of a procedure. Clients are left dark about these rules and are not allowed to ask questions concerning them.10 Each step of the procedure has to be carried out in a satisfactory way, at least for the bureaucrat. In the case of the two Gauls and the Permit no. A38, failure to provide information would lead to a freeze in the procedure, which would mean a failure of the whole mission of fulfilling all twelve tasks Caesar asked of them.


1 See Sarangi / Slembrouck (1996), p. 34.

2 See line 92, 175 (all indications of lines refer to the transliteration in the appendix).

3 See on (unfortunately the German version).

4 Given that this movie does not refer to one of the comic books of the Asterix serial, I transliterated the scene. See the appendix.

5 See line 9.

6 See line 144-145.

7 See

8 See Sarangi / Slembrouck 1996.

9 Above, p. 36.

10 Above, p. 37.

Excerpt out of 13 pages


CDA and 'The Place That Sends You Mad'
Leuphana Universität Lüneburg  (Fakultät I)
Seminar: Text and Discourse: Critical Discourse Analysis
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ISBN (Book)
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CDA, Critcal Discourse Analysis, Asterix, Asterix erobert Rom, Das Haus das Verrückte macht, The Place That Sends You Mad, Bureaucracy, Bürokratie, The Twelve Tasks of Asterix, Linguistics, Linguistik, bürokratisch, bureaucratic
Quote paper
Katharine Pusch (Author), 2009, CDA and 'The Place That Sends You Mad', Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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