'Lucky this is Anonymous.' Ethnographies of reception in men’s magazines: A 'textual culture' approach



Benwell B (2005) 'Lucky this is Anonymous.' Ethnographies of reception in men’s magazines: A 'textual culture' approach. Discourse and Society, 16 (2), pp. 147-172.;

In this article I address the contribution that a study of reader reception might make to our understanding of the cultural meanings of the discourses to be found in and around men’s magazines. Reception is a cultural site often neglected in linguistic analyses of popular cultural texts, which are commonly treated as discrete, autonomous and ahistorical within these approaches. Conversation Analysis of unstructured interviews with magazine readers is one means of accessing contexts of reception, which, unlike many ethnographic approaches, is properly reflexive about the ontological status of its data. The drawback of a strict ethnomethodological approach, however, is its limited ability in recreating the original context of reading: the interview is arguably a situated account rather than a transparent report of reception. In order to expand the terms of ‘context’ for these interviews, therefore, the article proposes a triangulated method whereby the discourses and categories identified in talk can be intertextually linked (and indeed are sometimes intertextually indexed within the talk itself) to other communicative contexts in the circuit of culture, such as the magazine text, media debates, editorial identities and everyday talk. This ‘textual culture’1 approach to the analysis of popular culture effectively aims to analyse with ethnographic breadth and in discursive depth, the various, intersecting sites of culture within which the material text is formed - of which reception serves as the focal point for this article - and mirrors recent developments in Critical Discourse Analysis.

circuits of culture; ethnography; intertextuality; masculinity; men’s magazines; reader reception; textual culture

Discourse and Society: Volume 16, Issue 2

Publication date31/03/2005
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Dr Bethan Benwell

Dr Bethan Benwell

Senior Lecturer, English Studies