Reception Theory

Useful for AQA A Level Media Studies, but (possibly) can be applied to other exam boards as well.

HideShow resource information

Some Early Thoughts

Reception theory is a version of reader response literary theory that emphasizes the reader's reception of a literary text.

In literature, it originated from the work of Hans-Robert Jauss in the late 1960s.

Reception theory was at its most influential during the 1970s and early 1980s in Germany and USA (Fortier, 2002: 132), amongst some notable work in Western Europe.

1 of 8

People Are Not Passive To Media

This approach to textual analysis focuses on the scope for "negotiation" and "opposition" on the part of the audience.

This means that a "text"—be it a book, movie, or other creative work—is not simply passively accepted by the audience, but that the audience interprets the meanings of the text based on their individual cultural background and life experiences.

In essence, the meaning of a text is not inherent within the text itself, but is created within the relationship between the text and the reader.

2 of 8

What Does The Audience Interpret From The Text

Stuart Hall stressed the role of social positioning in the interpretation of mass media texts by different social groups.

In a model deriving from Frank Parkin's 'meaning systems', Hall suggested three hypothetical interpretative codes or positions for the reader of a text.

3 of 8

Summary so far..

  • Assumes there is an active audience theory that looks at how audience interact with a media text taking into account their ‘situated culture’ – this is their daily life, the theory suggests that social and daily experiences can affect the way an audience reads a media text and reacts to it
  • This theory is how audiences read a text was put forward by Professor Stuart Hall in The Television Discourse – Encoding/Decoding in 1974 with later research by David Morley in 1980 and Charlotte Brunsden.
  • He suggests that an audience has a significant role in the process of reading a text, and this can be discussed in three different ways:
4 of 8

Reception Models (1)

—Dominant (or 'hegemonic') reading: the reader fully shares the text's code and accepts and reproduces the preferred reading (a reading which may not have been the result of any conscious intention on the part of the author(s)) - in such a stance the code seems 'natural' and 'transparent';

5 of 8

Reception Models (2)

Negotiated reading: the reader partly shares the text's code and broadly accepts the preferred reading, but sometimes resists and modifies it in a way which reflects their own position, experiences and interests (local and personal conditions may be seen as exceptions to the general rule) - this position involves contradictions;

6 of 8

Reception Models (3)

Oppositional ('counter-hegemonic') reading: the reader, whose social situation places them in a directly oppositional relation to the dominant code, understands the preferred reading but does not share the text's code and rejects this reading, bringing to bear an alternative frame of reference (radical, feminist etc.) (e.g. when watching a television broadcast produced on behalf of a political party they normally vote against).

7 of 8


It is an extension of the Uses and Gratifications Theory

No text has one simple meaning

The audience interprets the meaning themselves (Decoding, Preferred Meaning)

Gender, placing in society etc…

Complex - suggests that no complex theory is correct 

8 of 8


No comments have yet been made

Similar Media Studies resources:

See all Media Studies resources »