Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Theories and Traditions in Audience and Reception Studies
Academic Year
Semester 1 (Taught over 2 semesters)

Course Delivery



Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 3,000 word essay  1 x Discussion of Philosophical Traditions, 3,000 words  40%
Semester Assessment 1 x in-class presentation  20%
Semester Assessment 3,000 word essay  1 x Discussion of Philosophical Tradition  40%

Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this module, students should be able to:

1. Display a secure knowledge of a number of main traditions for conceiving and understanding audiences and reception of cultural and media texts and events.
2. Compare and evaluate empirical studies conducted within each of the major framing traditions.
3. Demonstrate a critical awareness of a range of theoretical and conceptual issues and debates concerning the meanings of `audience'.
4. Evaluate different disciplinary traditions for thinking about audiences and reception, and their capacity to contribute to our knowledge and understanding.


To provide a secure grounding to students in the main traditions for conceiving and understanding the relations of audiences to cultural and media texts and events.
To ensure that students are securely grounded in some main histories and debates in the study of audiences and reception, and enable them to arrive at an informed evaluation of the issues connected with these different traditions
To introduce and explore the different imperatives associated with academic traditions of research.

Brief description

The module will seek to cover the main traditions and disciplinary sources for conceptualising and researching audience relations to a number of cultural and media practices, most notably: the mass communications tradition; the uses and gratifications tradition; the cultural studies tradition; the American reception studies tradition; sociological and historical approaches relating to the formation of taste cultures; and fan studies. Through these, a range of questions about the meanings of `audience' and `reception' will be addressed. The primary focus of the module will be on traditions of work that have informed in various ways audience and reception studies in media and cultural studies (with particular focus on film and television), along with consideration of the weaker but still important traditions of research around theatrical and performance audiences. However some attention will also be given to related works on other media (eg, popular literature and magazines, comic books, and the press), and students will be encouraged to draw on backgrounds in other fields (for instance literary studies) for parallel traditions of enquiry. The module will lead to a consideration of the changes introduced by the arrival of new media, where new kinds of `audiencing', centred on interaction, are involved.


Sessions will include the following:

1. The Active Audiences tradition (Uses and Gratifications and Encoding/Decoding)
2. The Mass Communications/ 'Effects' tradition
3. The Frankfurt School and theories of the audience
4. Theories of Globalisation and the audience
5. Postmodernism and the audience
6. Pierre Bourdieu, 'cultural taste' systems and the audience
7. The Hermeneutics tradition
8. Cultural studies traditions
9. Psychoanalysis, Feminism and Cognitivism
10. Theories of New Media Audiences
11. Stanley Fish and 'interpretive communities'
12. Reception studies
13. Fan culture theories
14. Reader-Response criticism
15. Cultural Indicators

Reading List

Recommended Background
Barker, Martin & Julian Petley (eds) (2001) Ill Effects: the Media Violence Debate London: Routledge Primo search Blumer, Jay G. and Katz, Elihu (eds.) (1974) The Uses of Mass Communications: Current Perspectives on Gratifications Research Beverly Hills: Sage Primo search Bourdieu, Pierre (1984) Distinction Cambridge: Harvard University Press Primo search Dickinson, Roger, Linne, Olga and Ramaswami, Harindranath (eds.) (1998) Approaches to Audiences Arnold Primo search Fish, Stanley (1980) Is There a Text in this Class?: the authority of interpretive communities Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press Primo search Hills, Matt (2002) Fan Cultures London: Routledge Primo search Holub, Robert (1984) Reception Theory: A Critical Introduction New York: Methuen Primo search Iser, Wolfgang (1974) The Implied Reader Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Primo search Jenkins, Henry (1992) Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture NY: Routledge, Chapman & Hall Primo search Lowery, Shearon & Melvin DeFleur (1983) Milestones in Mass Communication Research NY: Longman Primo search Moores, Shaun (1993) Interpreting Audiences London:Sage Primo search Morley, David (1980) The Nationwide Audience: Structure and Decoding London: BFI Primo search Ruddock, Andy (2000) Understanding Audiences: Theory and Method London: Sage Primo search Staiger, Janet (2000) Perverse Spectators: the Practices of Film Reception NY: New York University Press Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 7