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Consumer magazine covers in the public realm.

Iqani, Mehitabel (2009) Consumer magazine covers in the public realm. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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The thesis aims to contribute to a critique of hegemonic consumerism and explores the ways in which its discourses are mediated through glossy magazine covers as constituted in, and constituting, public retail spaces (newsstands). The research is theoretically contextualised in two ways. Firstly, by locating the empirical research objects with regard to existing scholarship that addresses the magazine genre. Secondly, by exploring fundamental concepts invoked by those research objects: consumerism, consumption and commodities; publicity, public space and visual culture. Hinging on a theorisation of the public realm as a space of appearance, admiration and display, following Hannah Arendt (1958), a trio of dialectical frameworks are put forward as fundamental to framing an empirical exploration of consumer magazine covers/newsstands. These are: simulation/materiality, manipulation/empowerment and subject/object. Methodologically, the research employs a combination of social and semiotic methods, the former a participant observation and visual survey of nine newsstand sites, the latter an intertextual, multimodal discourse and visual analysis of a corpus of magazine cover texts sourced from those newsstands. A thick description of newsstand spaces roots the thesis in social context and intertextual milieu, provides insight into the shapes of consumerist discourse in public space, and underscores the detailed analysis of the formal elements of the magazine covers. The thesis makes a contribution to theories of consumerist aesthetics by filling in empirical detail to the theoretical dialectics outlined. As well as this, it provides an account of the material modalities of magazines covers, articulated as the mechanics of gloss, and shows how this contributes to the mediation of celebrity imagery. Further, it argues that consumerism relies upon three core textual strategies that combine to create a powerful form of mediation. The first is commercial heteroglossia, which is achieved through a visual celebration of commodity choice and a multiplicity of voices of sell. The second is a pornographic imagination, which is achieved through the exploitation of the eroticised gaze and commodification of the body, and a language of desire. The third is paper mirroring, which is achieved through the persistent invitation to self-imaging through the appeal of images of faces and verbal, individualising invitations to self-care and management.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Mass Communications
Sets: Departments > Media and Communications
Collections > ProQuest Etheses

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