Communication and Culture | Media Audiences (Topic: Reception Studies)
C662 | 26976 | Klinger, B.

W, 10:00 AM-12:30 PM, C2 272
Required film screening: Tu, 7:15 PM-10:15 PM, SW 119

Meets with CULS-C 706 and AMST-G 751

Open to Graduates Only!

Instructor: Barbara Klinger
Office: 800 E. 3rd St. – room 225
Phone: 855-1769

Reception studies, a field of inquiry developed in film and media
studies in the 1980s, has gradually become an umbrella term for
scholarship on audiences. Today, comprised of multiple
methodologies, it defines research focused on exploring the
connections between media texts and the meaning-making agendas of
viewers. This course will introduce students to two major
contemporary schools of thought on the audience—historical reception
studies and ethnographic/empirical approaches—as they have had and
continue to have substantial influence on this area of research in
film, television, and new media studies. Historical reception
studies, initially theorized by British Cultural Studies scholar,
Tony Bennett, argues that any theory of reading or viewing should
take into account how the material, social, and historical context
in which the encounter between text and reader takes place affects
meaning and interpretation. Empirical/ethnographic approaches,
partly inspired by the work of another British Cultural Studies
scholar, Stuart Hall, places emphasis on how everyday forces acting
on individual spectators help to determine how they will decode
media messages. While historical reception studies tend to engage
the “textual surround” for evidence (that is, materials surrounding
the event of viewing, including advertisements, reviews, and star
discourse), media ethnographers turn to specific viewers, conducting
interviews and other forms of research as a means of theorizing
response. Despite differences, each methodology conceives of the
viewer as existing within a concrete social and historical context,
shaped by considerations of class, gender, sexuality, ethnicity,
race, and/or national identity, and at times exhibiting resistance
to mainstream ideologies. Reception studies today cuts across
significant and diverse areas of inquiry in the field, from
questions of value, aesthetics and interpretation to analyses of the
film and media industry, film exhibition, authorship, stardom, and
new media; from gender and critical race studies to theories of
nationalism, globalization, transnationalism, and the diaspora; from
memory studies to fan studies.

In conjunction with weekly screenings, we will read the work of
major theorists involved in developing and continuing to contribute
to reception studies, while entertaining the strengths and
weaknesses of each methodology. We will read scholars such as Janet
Staiger, Jane Gaines, Henry Jenkins, Annette Kuhn, and Lynn Spigel,
to name just a few. Students will periodically be asked to lead
discussion, write a number of take-home papers, and do a final