2003, Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media
Three Reception Studies
by Tomas Kemper
Janet Staiger, Perverse Spectators: The Practices of Film Reception (New York University Press, 2000); 242 pages
Janet Staiger, Blockbuster TV: Must-See Sitcoms in the Network Era (New York University Press, 2000); 221 pages
Annette Kuhn, Dreaming of Fred and Ginger: Cinema and Cultural Memory (New York University, 2002); 273 pages; with illustrations
Increasingly, film scholars are fleeing the dark, murky theaters of pure theory and returning to the illuminating, refreshing air of the archives. By far, the most exciting work in film studies today has been informed by a blossoming of archival work, which combs material documents to shed light on film history. Such activity represents more than a simple return to film history. It expands the objects of study beyond the confines of the films themselves, and it looks closely at the material documents of journalism, legal contracts, distribution patterns, trade journals, and exhibition programs and moves beyond that to explore wider arenas such as the sites of exhibition and contexts of reception. This material documentation offers a balance and tangible support to theoretical speculation and interpretation.
Janet Staiger’s work develops in both of the above directions. Two of her recent books offer a continuation of the research agenda presented in her groundbreaking and influential 1992 book Interpreting Films: Studies in the Historical Reception of American Cinema. In Blockbuster TV: Must-See Sitcoms in the Network Era (New York University Press, 2000) Staiger sets out to examine the circulation of discourses from texts through audiences, approaching an understanding of why certain works prove salient to audiences at certain times.
Her Perverse Spectators: The Practices of Film Reception (New York University Press, 2000) offers a variety of essays examining various cases of films and their reception by diverse audiences. She wittily summarizes her approach in the “perversity” of the titular spectators, a description that Staiger applies to all audiences. Staiger argues that all spectators are more or less “perverse” in that they “use” films in their own way. Staiger contends that contextual factors, more than textual ones, account for the experiences that we as spectators have watching films and television and for the uses to which those experiences are put in navigating our everyday lives.
Thus, Staiger offers a radical counter-approach to traditional film-centered analysis (from “pure” formalism to deconstruction). In fact, an even more recent example of reception analysis, Annette Kuhn’s fascinating Dreaming of Fred and Ginger: Cinema and Cultural Memory (New York University, 2002), which examines the dialogue between British audiences and cinema in the 1930s, springs directly from Staiger’s work, demonstrating the latter’s important influence in carving out new approaches to understanding the film experience.
Each of the dozen essays in Staiger’s Perverse Spectators centers on a specific historical topic, examining questions that arise out of the particular cases. While Staiger never outlines a general manifesto of reception theory, she proceeds from a consistent set of assumptions or guiding principles that underline each of the essays in this book. First of all, she denies immanent meaning in a film. In other words, the “meaning” of a film is not fixed within the film. Instead, Staiger argues that spectators activate meaning through their interaction with the film. “Pure” spectators do not exist. Social formations offer an explanation of the spectatorial interpretative strategies and affective responses. Finally, spectator response is not unified; the historical context surrounding the reception of a film is heterogeneous and contradictory.
Thus, Staiger works against the idea that form determines interpretation, that certain forms determine certain responses, and that the spectator plays a passive role in this process. Staiger stresses,
Contextual factors rather than textual material or reader psychologies as most important in illuminating the reading process or interpretation. (xi)
Reception study seeks to unravel the assumptions and theoretical tools working within the discourse surrounding reception. Spectators bring identities (consciously or unconsciously constructed) and interpretative strategies and tactics to the cinema. These schemata, social formations, psychological, and sociological dynamics form the subject of reception analysis. Isolating these elements through historical and textual analysis of the discourse helps us to understand the dynamics of the artistic experience.
While Staiger argues against the notion of a fixed singular meaning to a particular film, her approach avoids simplistic relativism. She does not argue, for example, that films produce an “undecidable” infinity of interpretations. Staiger sees a limit to the potential meanings attributed to a film. Any film may mobilize various responses and interpretations, but the historically available parameters of interpretative strategies restrict the range of interpretations. Furthermore, relativism is contained by the fact that the films themselves supply limited variations for interpretative strategies. Therefore, the film itself curbs or limits the set of interpretations.
A key problem for academic critics remains the analysis of artworks from other eras. How do we talk about the films from other eras, given the way meaning is produced through interaction with the artwork? How do we capture the experience of these artworks? In answering such questions, Staiger would theoretically examine a variety of responses, from critical responses to more quotidian sources like spectators’ reactions in diaries, private conversations, and letters. Practically, however, Staiger must work with a limited set of available resources. She generally scrutinizes journalistic responses to films, from reviews to letters to the editor to gossip columns. These documents are used as clues to the general understanding of films from other periods, by examining the discursive strategies governing such sources.
Thus, reception study attempts to illuminate the cultural meanings of films in specific times and social circumstances to specific viewers. Moving beyond film-centered analysis, in turn, allows us to discuss both the film and the spectator(s) in an effort to understand the creation of meaning in art. This dynamic approach (dynamic in the sense that it sets up a relational rather than a simply monolithic approach to art) assumes an interactive play between the film and the spectator, as opposed to positioning the film in a dominant role, solely determining strict levels of meaning.
Staiger’s object of analysis, therefore, becomes an “event” or “experience,” not simply a film. The object of analysis becomes the spectator’s (or set of spectators) encounter with an artwork and the set of interpretations or affective experiences produced from this event within a social situation. This analysis may include those formal elements of the film that might facilitate certain interpretations (for example, character types, casting, editing, narrative acts of violence). But the analysis moves beyond the explication of the function or meaning of the film.
Instead, “traces” of the encounter between audiences and films form the documents for reception analysis. The ready availability of film criticism clearly marks such material as primary sources for research. However, analysis can be extended to include advertisements, illustrations, letters, fan mail—all “traces” of the meaning circulating around films. These satellite texts naturally orbit around a film, so Staiger’s gravitation toward such material seems logical and justified. These “traces” are then described, positioned, dissected, and mined for suggestions. But Staiger carefully avoids merely evaluating the validity of culturally produced meanings. In other words, the “traces”— from fan reactions to critical responses—are not measured against some fixed interpretation of the film. Staiger explores these texts for what they reveal about the significance of a film: not what the text means per se, but what (and why) it means for spectators. Staiger shows no interest in simply declaring the meaning of certain films, but seeks to discover why and how films are said to mean certain things for audiences.
Staiger’s examination of this interaction between spectators and films factors in the following considerations:
1) the address of the film. Staiger acknowledges that different films address spectators in different ways. A particular film expects its audience to apply a certain set of schemata for understanding the film. Staiger encourages a closer inspection of such schemata (for example, a spectator’s aesthetic values, taste, education) as a way of demystifying the artistic experience;
2) the conditions of exhibition. Staiger alerts us to the ways in which the institutions surrounding the presentation of a film elicit a certain understanding of the work.
3) The personal interpretive behaviors of the spectator. Almost a third of the essays in this collection are devoted to exploring how particular audience groups responded to and used films. In such cases, Staiger scrutinizes the roles of the spectator’s race, gender, and cultural identifications and how these factors play a role in a spectator’s interaction with a film.
For example, the controversy surrounding the reception of A Clockwork Orange illustrates for Staiger the ideological stakes governing the different positions in public discourse on the relation of media violence and real-life behaviors. On the one hand, writers argued that the film’s aestheticized depiction of violence would either desensitize young viewers or inspire imitations. On the other hand, feminists attacked the film for its association of violence and sexuality. Defenders of the film either attributed these elements to the novel or positioned the film in a tradition of pure art. As Staiger reveals, all of the critical positions pivoted on the potential significance of the film’s effects.
Staiger’s examination of the critical reception of Oliver Stone’s JFK debunks the mystifying metaphysics of postmodernist academic claims about the fuzzy demarcation between fact and fiction, an uncertainty allegedly symptomatic of contemporary culture. Through her meticulous examination of a wide variety of journalistic responses to the film, Staiger finds that what is at stake in the JFK controversy is not a blurring of the line between documentary and dramatic re-enactments, but the battle between official versions and popular versions of history, or, in this case, between the official Warren Commission story and the widespread counter-histories, the conspiratorial perspectives partially represented and potentially “authorized” by JFK.
I should add here that Staiger does not limit her studies only to films that set off shockwaves rippling through the cultural discourse. In the book’s first essay, she offers a nuanced and useful survey of the speculations on histories of reception presented in the work of Tom Gunning, Miriam Hansen, and Timothy Corrigan. Staiger’s individual essay topics range from 1960s underground cinema to Ferris Beuller’s Day Off. The former essay explores the American experimental film scene in relation to 1960s sexual politics, examining the discourse of identity politics circulating within the critical reception of these films and how the exhibition sites offered spaces for subcultural community connections. The latter essay offers a highly informative and amusing survey of how spectators might find alternative subject positions and sources of identification in relation to various minor characters in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off. In another essay, and an admittedly speculative one, Staiger argues that public knowledge about Marlene Dietrich at the time of Blonde Venus’s release may have contributed to viewing the film more as a parody than a traditional melodrama. In another valuable chapter, Staiger offers a thorough historical examination of how genres were discussed by critics and trade journals in the classical Hollywood period, undermining academic definitions of genre purity.
The essays in Perverse Spectators foreground the “contact zone” between a film and its reception, how films galvanize interpretations like lightning rods; but “shocking” films are only one (however attractive) wavelength on the reception study spectrum. This strategy demands both rigor and nuance. A brief survey cannot do justice to Staiger’s rich, rewarding work. The writing style is refreshingly lucid, even while she negotiates complicated ideas and diverse spectator positions.
Pure formalism (including, for example, the school of neoformalism practiced and proctored by Staiger’s colleagues David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson) focused on the general structure and tools for explaining how an artwork is put together, how its internal mechanics and its various functions work. Proceeding from the principle that the form or structure of an artwork represented a viable communicative instrument (as much as the “content”), the most severe formalists argued that analysis could be (even should be) autonomous, unconcerned with the artwork’s “origins,” its history, or with its surrounding context. From this view, the scholar could ferret out the artwork’s meaning simply by analyzing its internal components and their functions. (Of course, as Kristin Thompson points out, the Russian Formalists were never uncompromising in the way they are sometimes painted. Their analytical tool-kit included such concepts as “norms” and “realistic motivation,” both of which “open” up the text to context.) While neoformalist analysis allows for a wide variety of analytical approaches, including the cultural and historical elements that enter into a work, the artwork is nonetheless viewed as an object, as opposed to an experience or process.
Reception study represents, then, even in its most speculative examples, a radical attempt to expose our analysis of artworks like films to the diverse experiences and schemata brought to bear on the works by audiences. This effort to move beyond autonomous analysis of the text has some precedent in poststructuralist theoretical approaches. Like deconstruction, reception study views the artwork (film, book, painting) as an unstable text; the artwork is not seen as a force which determines a single meaning; it can be unraveled or “read” (understood) in different, non-exclusionary ways. However, unlike the impervious, pan-textual world of deconstruction, reception study roots its analysis in material and historical analysis, supporting its claims with tangible documents.
As far back as 1968’s S/Z, Roland Barthes expanded upon a wide variety of formalist principles in his study of reading. Barthes’ work famously explored the cultural voices informing (infecting) any artwork, unwinding the text’s polyphonic structure and thereby offering an analytical model in distinct contrast from traditional univocal formalism (i.e., criticism which focused on a single unifying thematic meaning within a work). The most pronounced way in which Barthes broke the spell of traditional criticism (or expanded formalism) was his effort to “hear” the reader (so to speak) in the work: “To read is to find meanings, and to find meanings is to name them.” (11) For Barthes the reader is not an innocent subject and is already a “plurality of other texts, of codes which are infinite or, more precisely, lost.” (10)
While we may not want to move into the “infinite” with Barthes (and fall through the void like some post-structuralist “Star-Child”), we can acknowledge the fascinating question Barthes raises: how do we disentangle the voices in a text when our own reading is mingled with other voices? Barthes failed to pursue his own teasing question; faced with this “infinity” he only saw himself getting “lost,” as revealed in his rather enervated choice of words.
Reception study offers a stronger approach to these questions. Instead of slipping into the vertiginous, despairing relativism of Derrida and Barthes, reception study proposes a rigorous examination of the tangible historical and sociopolitical interpretations surrounding an artwork, rooting its analysis and speculation through a nuanced, demanding methodology (outlined above).
study applied to
film and television analysis
Most of the theories that dominated film studies in the 1970s and 1980s—from structuralist/formalist criticism to psychoanalytic criticism—assumed homogeneity amongst audiences, even when they raised the issue of the spectator’s experience. They tended to represent the spectators ahistorically (if and when they addressed this issue at all). To take but one fairly recent example, Carol Clover’s fascinating, and indeed ground-breaking Men, Women, and Chainsaws (UC Press, 1992) —an examination of audiences drawn to slasher films—betrayed the author’s formalist (and folkloric) roots in her attempts to explain the psycho-dynamics of adolescent male spectators by focusing her analysis almost exclusively on the formal structure of slasher films. In other words, Clover’s conclusions about spectatorial desire were based entirely on textual analysis, creating a theoretical/ahistorical model of a teenage boy.
In contrast, Staiger’s methodology offers a way of confronting the problematic issue of textual interpretation. As stated earlier, Staiger assumes that an accurate translation or reconstruction of the immanent meaning of an artwork is questionable or impossible. Instead, an analysis of the creation of meaning in response to the artwork becomes the object of study. But this shifting of the object of analysis raises a question: How can a reception study be certain of the validity of interpretations of this new object of study? Responding to the reception theorists in literary studies (a trend preceding its development in film studies and one whose key proponents influenced Staiger’s work—see the bibliography below) is Dominick La Capra with his stunning book Madame Bovary on Trial, a work imbued with the dialogue between artworks and their reception. La Capra articulates the above paradox with cunning table-turning precision:
In elaborating the conditions of possibility that prefigure a given range of interpretations, [a reception study] specifies the shared assumptions that may underlie divergent conclusions…But it should, I think, be supplemented and contested by attempts at critical reading that actively enter the lists of interpretations with all the risks and the political implications this mode of argument entails. The danger [of reception studies] is the confinement of critical inquiry to metacriticism that politically and socially neutralizes itself by placing the analyst in a deceptive position above the conflict of interpretations. (9)
In the particular case of film studies, it seems to me that Staiger has only altered her focus to another mode of interpretation by literally moving from film analysis to literary analysis. In the end, she is really performing a kind of literary analysis of discourse, a literary analysis of film criticism and other modes of reception. I can see how this shift would be tempting to academics.
Film analysis has raised many difficult questions. Many of the theoretical models that dominated early film studies (1970s) have been questioned if not discarded. Analyzing the texts (essays, journalism, press releases) circulating around a film allows an academic to employ traditional (and therefore comfortable) tools and approaches from literary criticism and rhetoric, fields with established, “reliable” methods.
Nonetheless, Staiger’s approach remains valuable and powerful. In contrast to the dogmatic “High Theory” that once dominated literary and film theory in the 1970s/1980s, Staiger’s studies prove liberating and refreshing; they open up scholarship to the world outside the texts and embrace a more expansive view of film culture, thereby embodying the inter-disciplinary spirit filtering through and enlivening contemporary academic culture.
But reception study does not simply replace formal analysis of texts. (Perhaps I am also misreading Staiger’s attack on formalism. She may allow for a greater degree of formal analysis than indicated in my brief overview.) Furthermore, her attack on formalism is unrelated to the argument for her overall approach. We can agree with her methodology and approach for studying artistic “events” (how artworks are received) while still employing certain other modes of interpretation (from neo-formalist analysis to feminist analysis) to approach the artworks themselves.
Close examination of the reception surrounding certain artworks can help bolster certain interpretations: Did audiences truly struggle with certain radical aesthetic techniques? Was a film truly “subversive?” If so, where is the evidence of subversion? Such questions force us as critics and scholars to examine our claims and how we justify them. If our conclusions are only based solely on the text vis-à-vis some obscure theory, then what exactly is being “proven” or “demonstrated” about the text? Reception study at least raises material-historical questions and forces us to question hermetic approaches to art, approaches that seem to only work within their own interpretative vacuum.
Indeed, Staiger’s Blockbuster TV artfully balances formal analysis, inflected with and informed by various theoretical perspectives, of four different sit-coms with an examination of their reception. Blockbuster TV seeks to explain the phenomenon of unusually popular television sit-coms within the contexts of American entertainment media. Staiger’s efforts in this regard rely on formal analysis of the television shows, examination of the fluctuations of Nielson ratings, and media reactions to the shows. In fact, this latter component of the book provides one of the more interesting strains running through Staiger’s study, a factor accounting for, in part, the various shows’ growth and their role in broadening and even focusing their audiences.
Media coverage of the shows, whether through public commentary, journalism, letters-to-the-editor, and opinion pieces, represent what Staiger calls “surrogate consumers.” She demonstrates how journalists and public discussion of the shows stimulated surges in their ratings. Thus, Dan Quayle’s notorious mealy-mouthed critique of Murphy Brown as a show promoting a single mother as a role model marked him as a surrogate consumer, drawing attention, and viewers, to the show.
In fact, Staiger’s definition of blockbuster television shows is yoked to peculiar audience ratings, a fact that seemingly registers the need for some sort of reception analysis. Blockbuster television shows constitute shows that rate significantly higher than those of their nearest competitors and maintain these ratings for over a year. Surprisingly, only four shows met such criteria: The Beverly Hillbillies [!], All in the Family, Happy Days, and The Cosby Show. Staiger manages to navigate her multiperspectival approach, which jumps from industry reports, Nielson ratings, demographic analysis, producer’s commentary and production practices, mainstream and alternative journalism, formal analysis of the shows, and analysis of various historical contexts, with grace and dexterity.
Despite an overwhelming amount of material, Staiger skillfully hones it down to a lucid presentation and clearly articulated argument, pared further down to crisp sentences and spiced with a tasty absence of jargon. For example, Staiger’s discussion of The Beverly Hillbillies examines questions of class, nostalgia, high and low culture (in both the content of the show and in journalistic responses to the show), and the public debates surrounding the institution of television in the early 1960s (the notorious “vast wasteland” debates), as well as industry strategies relating to the show. Blockbuster TV offers a breezy read, clocking in at barely over 170 pages (particularly if one channel-surfs over a chunk of lengthy, awkwardly formatted charts, rather carelessly inserted in an early section of the book).
A good example of Staiger’s deft demonstration of the interaction between formal structure and audiences can be gleaned from her analysis of the changes in sit-com’s minor characters. In the cases of Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley producers tinkered or reworked the show by altering the role and personalities of various characters and such retooling subsequently escalated the shows’ ratings. In fact, minor characters, as formal elements of these texts (sit-coms), allow for multivalent responses to the shows (as Staiger demonstrates in an examination of their reception). The minor characters allow for various modes by which different audience members relate to the shows, thereby potentially broadening the appeal of the shows. Here formal analysis dialogues with reception analysis as a strong explanation for the appeal of sit-coms in general.
Minor characters, a key formal element in most sit-coms, allowed producers to respond to audience feedback and tweak their creations, calibrating the shows to the Nielson barometer. Thus, while major characters lent the shows stability, All in the Family’s Edith became less of a dingbat over the years and The Cosby Show’s Huxtable children changed with every season. Minor characters, then, as Staiger demonstrates, represents a formal trait exploiting the polysemic dimension characterizing all texts, exploiting the fact that different audiences consume texts from their own perspectives and that a text engages with multivalent responses.
Given the nature of our contemporary media landscape—Internet, Tivo, cable, satellite, VCRs, the VHS (and, now, the explosive DVD) rental market—Staiger notes that the era of blockbuster television has effectively waned. However, given the conglomerate nature of the contemporary media industry, the vertical-horizontal integration of companies like Time—Warner—AOL, it would interesting to study how corporations can control and exploit the kind of buzz surrounding television shows (just how linked are these “surrogate” consumers?).In fact, it is the kind of buzz Staiger treats as autonomous responses on the part of journalists and audiences.
Some critics have complained that Staiger’s reception studies mainly focus on journalists as audience members noting that these media professionals fail to accurately gauge the responses of mass audiences. These wider audiences, admittedly, do not constitute Staiger’s field of study; she herself acknowledges film and television critics as a different species of audience, even if they often help to focus the reception of the media texts for wider audiences.
Annette Kuhn’s Dreaming of Fred and Ginger addresses this limitation. Staiger, in fact, provides something of an inaugural epigram on the book’s frontispiece, declaring Kuhn’s work,
An exceptional example of the value of ethnohistory and psychological theory combined with speculation about the meanings of cinema in lives.
Kuhn sets out to explore the shadowy and ephemeral phenomenon of how we experience cinema; specifically, Kuhn’s book seeks to conjure the experience of British filmgoers in the 1930s, a period in which their attendance per capita ranked highest in the world. Her analysis reveals how films engaged with other aspects of their daily lives: school, work, leisure, friendships and courtships. In other words, like most film scholars, Kuhn is interested in examining how films impact spectators.
Yet, unlike most film scholars, Kuhn takes an unusual approach to answering this question about film spectators: she asks the viewers. The main spine of this book stems from a comprehensive series of interviews with subjects recalling their experiences of 1930s cinemagoing. You feel the breath of life in these spectators, a rarity in film studies, thanks to the painstaking work contacting the interview subjects and recording and tabulating their testimony.
Moreover, Kuhn treats these interviews not only as data but also as material for interpretation. To capture the milieu of British cinemagoing in the 1930s Kuhn practices a kind of methodological triangulation, angling historical, ethnographic, and formalist prisms to conjure composite images of the era. The results can be interesting, and surprisingly charming, as subjects recall the randy innocence of cinema dates and relationships. Kuhn uses her subject’s memories to explore the work of cultural memory as force sharing and shaping audiences.
A chapter relying on subject’s memories of horror films relays some amusing anecdotes of children hiding under theater seats. Yet Kuhn frequently interrupts their testimony to place their statements within a wider historical context, drawing on both psychological theory and sure-footed historical work, relating her subject’s experiences to political discourse surrounding the British authorities concern over film’s impact on children.
Ranging through her subjects’ personal testimony, Kuhn is able to cover a wide range of ground on this era. For example, some of her interview subjects reveal that as children they were frequently accompanied to the cinema by their maids, perhaps revealing that cinema remained rather déclassé in 1930s British culture. An extended chapter—a tour de force of theoretical footwork —analyzes a sequence from Top Hat in relation to numerous accounts of Astaire-Rogers pictures by some of the subjects, suggesting
The characteristic organization of spaces in the integrated musical proposes particular modes of spectatorial engagement is endorsed by 1930s cinemagoers’ recollections of their own responses to Astaire-Rogers films during the act of spectatorship. (182)
By allowing interviewees to testify to a wide range of experiences, Kuhn opens up the notion of spectating as an activity ranging beyond a purely visual experience. Instead we hear reports on the experience of entering the theater space, the sounds, the smells, and the sensation of an embodied audience. Kuhn analyzes memories of the theaters themselves and the topography surrounding them, the neighborhoods and the other patrons.
At times, the book feels rather awkward, as when strains of old-school Althusserian-Lacanian phrasing juts up rather clumsily (and rudely) against the common-sense testimony of an interview subject. Another time, Kuhn’s discussion of the Orientalist strain running through 1930s horror films fails to register in any way with the interviews in that chapter. Yet despite these minor missteps, Dreaming of Fred and Ginger should inspire future scholar’s footsteps down this arena. A useful appendix describes Kuhn’s methods in locating subjects, the general format of the questionnaires, the general practice governing the interviews, statistics drawn from the pool of interviews, as well as sources cited and a discussion of the theoretical approaches guiding aspects of the book.
The introduction to Kuhn’s book offers a very stimulating and diplomatic survey of the limitations of traditional text-centered analysis, while surveying the important questions and models offered by the burgeoning field of reception studies, as well as the influential work in ethnography—crucial to Kuhn’s own book—by Clifford Geertz and James Clifford. Taken together, the three books discussed above suggest the rich material to be mined by examining films in relation to their reception. Reception study obliges scholars to maintain a certain material credibility in their efforts to explain and/or understand films, rooting their claims in suggestive or illustrative testimony from a variety of historical-material documents.
The archives are waiting.
Models/examples of reception studies outside of film studies
Roland Barthes, S/Z (New York: Hill & Wang, 1974; originally published in France in 1970)
Carlo Ginzburg, “Microhistory: Two or Three Things I Know About It,” Critical Inquiry, Vol. 20, No. 4 (1993), pp. 10-35
Wolfgan Iser, The Implied Reader: Patterns of Communication in Prose Fiction from Bunyan to Beckett (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974)
Robert Hans Jauss, Toward an Aesthetics of Reception (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982)
Dominick LaCapra, Madame Bovary on Trial (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1982)
Janice Radway, Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984)
Helen Taylor, Scarlett’s Women: Gone with the Wind and its Female Fans (London: Virago Press, 1989)
Jane Tomkins, ed. Reader-Response Criticism: From Formalist to Post-Structuralism (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980)
Reception studies in film studies
Tony Bennett, “Text and Social Process: The Case of James Bond,” Screen 41 (Winter/Spring 1982), pp. 3-14
Tony Bennett, and Janet Woollacott, Bond and Beyond: The Political Career of a Popular Hero (London: Methuen, 1987)
Jacqueline Bobo, “The Color Purple: Black Women’s Responses,” Jump Cut 33 (1988), pp. 43-51
Michael Budd, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari: Conditions of Reception,” CineTracts 12 (Winter 1981), pp. 41-59
Barbara Klinger, “Cinema and Social Process: A Contextual Theory of the Cinema and Its Spectators” (Ph.D. dissertation. University of Iowa, 1986)
Barbara Klinger, “Digressions at the Cinema: Reception and Mass Culture,” Cinema Journal 28, No. 4 (Summer 1989), pp. 3-19
Jackie Stacey, “Textual Obsessions: Method, Memory, and Researching Female Spectatorship,” Screen, Vol. 34, No. 3 (1993), pp. 260-274
and Martin Barker, “Traces of Interpretations: Janet Staiger and Martin
Barker in Conversation,” in Framework, no. 42 (2000), http://www.frameworkonline.com/
42jsmb.htm (17 August 2001).
Janet Staiger, Interpreting Films: Studies in the Historical Reception of American Cinema (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992)