PLEASE DO BACKGROUND READING – DO NOT RELY ON THIS
LIST TO GET YOU THROUGH. (The Media Students Book).
Remember: text means film, advert, radio broadcast, magazine, TV
programme…any media product which is consumed by an audience.
Adorno – one of the key theorists behind the Frankfurt School. Early critical
theory into the power of the media (in particular popular culture/
propoganda/ Marxist sensibilities). Audience theory.
Roland Barthes– French linguist. Developed above theories to include
denotation and connotation, which when combined tap into an ideological
understanding/reading of texts. Reading the media.
Stan Cohen – sociologist. Wrote about folk devils and moral panics. 1970’s.
Use when talking about culture, violence in the media (video nasties as a
moral panic) and audience theories.
Richard Dyer – film theorist, wrote about stars being sign systems in
Hollywood cinema. Stars as icons. Reading the media/film.
Foucault – social anthropologist. Looked at language as a powerful sign
system – upholding dominant ideologies through modes of address.
Discourse is a key term – the use of language. Reading the media/ news.
Sigmund Freud- Austrian psychologist. The human psyche is made up of
the conscious and sub conscious mind. Wrote three essays on sexuality
where he isolated the pleasure of looking (socophilia) as taking people as
objects and subjecting them to a controlling gaze. Crudely put; think about
how men watch women in strip clubs. The women are seen as objects for
He was keen on interpreting dreams. You can mention Freud when it comes
to symbolic sign decoding in any text analysis; horror film analysis; and
really complex: psychoanalysis of cinema. Why/how do we get so much
pleasure from film? See Metz, Mulvey and Lacan, as well as the stuff above
Stuart Hall – big in audience theory. Came up with the terms encode and
decode. How audiences interpret media products. Audience theory.
Horkheimer – The Frankfurt School. See Adorno. Audience theory.
Lacan – psychologist. Took Freud’s theories and developed them further.
Used in relation with Mulvey’s work on ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative
Cinema’. Lacan developed a theory surrounding socophilia and narcissism.
Reading the media/ audience theory.
Lazarsfeld – American sociologist. Looked at how people were effected by
party political broadcasts. Found that most people could not be swayed to
vote a particular way through political broadcasts/election propoganda.
Claude Levi-Strauss – French anthropologist. Looked at the mythical status
of cultural systems. Use with film to discuss binary oppositions. (Famous
book- The Raw and The Cooked: how all myth (societies systems of
communication) can be reduced to oppositions and struggle.
Marcuse – The Frankfurt School. See Adorno. Audience theory.
Marx – German political activist and intellectual. Analysed and sort to
overthrow emerging capitalist social order through revolution. 19th Century
but has much relevance to todays understanding of ideologies and political
motivation behind some media texts. Reading the media/ audience theory/
Christian Metz – French structuralist. Looked at film and psychoanalysis
and the pleasure we get from the dream screen. Reading the media/ audience
David Morley – worked with Hall and developed his theory to incorporate
the way that we read texts. (Preferred, Negotiated, Oppositional). Audience
Mulvey- feminist film theorist wrote a key essay in the 1970’s taking Freud
and Lacan’s theories to film. Looked at the way men watched women on
screen. Why are women always used as the love interest in film and not the
action hero? Why do women always get shown being seduced/ loosing their
clothes etc? There are problems with this theory as feminism has been
assimilated into film narrative. See films like Thelma and Louise and The
Long Kiss Goodnight. Reading the media/ audience theory.
Charles S. Pierce – developed Saussure’s theory to include all forms of
communication (linguistic and non-linguistic). Three types of sign –
symbolic, iconic and indexical. Reading the Media.
Greg Philo – member of the Glasgow University media Group. Looked at
how news events could influence the way people perceived events. The
news will always favour the powerful even though BBC is supposed to be
unbiased. The repetition of certain phrases and words will remain in our
minds over the full report. E.g. ‘Benefit scroungers’. Audience theory/news.
Propp – Russian critic. Analysed literature and broke down the narrative
structure of a novel into 8 key characters (based on figures from fairytales)
and 30 odd actions. Claimed that characters and their actions are all
FUNCTIONS to pull narrative forward to its final resolution. Reading the
John Reith – first director general of the BBC. Came up with the statement
that the BBC was to educate, entertain and inform.
Ferdinand de Saussure – a key name to drop. French linguist who
organised language into a system of signs. To be used when analysing
texts/reading the media.
B.F.Skinner – Behaviourial scientist. Linked behaviour patterns to events
seen through the media. Influenced by the earlier Frankfurt School.
Todorov – Russian critic. Claimed that novels were made up of three key
elements: equilibrium, conflict, and resolution. (There is a lot more to
this…). Applicable to film/ Reading the media.
Raymond Williams – sociologist. Wrote extensively about popular culture.
Defined culture into three broad categories: general (intellectual, spiritual
and aesthetic development); way of life (people, period, groups) and the
works and practices of intellectual activity (the cultural products of a
particular group of people). Use when talking about popular culture versus
high art. (Blockbuster film v. art film). Audience theory.