American Studies | Colloquium in American Studies: Reception Studies-National & Transnational
G620 | 29347 | Klinger, B

AMST-G620  Media Audiences
Topic--Reception Studies: National and Transnational
Fall 2010
Professor Barbara Klinger

Monday 7:15p - 10:15p (Film)
Tuesday 1p - 3:30p

Meets with CMCL-C662

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 audiences,
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 and audience studies
today cut 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 and audience studies, while entertaining the strengths and
weaknesses of each methodology. We will read scholars such as Janet
Staiger, Jane Gaines, Robert Stam and Ella Shohat, Marie Gillespie,
Hamid Naficy, Annette Kuhn, Henry Jenkins, 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 project.