Readers, Responses and Popular Culture

  • Marnie Hughes-Warrington
Part of the Palgrave Advances book series (PAD)


World histories are more than typographical marks on paper. They are also more than the property of authors who inscribe and fi x meaning. They are, rather, sites of relation and even contestation among authors, editors, publishers, critics and readers. Traditionally, however, studies of world histories have been author- and text- oriented. This is due in no small part to the assumption of a proprietary relation between authorial intentions and experiences and textual meaning.2 In recent years, ‘intentionalist’ intellectual histories have come under increasing challenge from literary theorists. One of the recurring themes in the writings of Roland Barthes, for example, is ‘the death of the author’: for him, authors are no more than conduits for larger socio-cultural forces, and readers impute meanings to texts regardless of author intention. Barthes writes:

We know that a text is not a line of words releasing a single ‘theological’ meaning (the ‘message’ of the Author-God) but a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings, none of them original, blend and clash. The text is a tissue of quotations drawn from innumerable centres of culture.3

Within literary theory, Barthes’ pronouncements have stimulated the emergence of reader and audience theory.


Popular Culture Literary Theorist Science Fiction World History Intellectual History 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Recommended Resources

  1. Barthes, R., Image, Music, Text, trans. S. Heath (Iondon: Fontana, 1977).Google Scholar
  2. Burke, P., Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe, rev. edn. (Aldershot: Ashgate, 1994).Google Scholar
  3. Cavallo, G., and Chartier, R. (eds), A History of Reading in the West (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1999).Google Scholar
  4. Darnton, R., The Kiss of Lamourette: Reflections in Cultural History (New York: W. W. Norton, 1991).Google Scholar
  5. Dirlik, A., ‘Confounding Metaphors, Inventions of the World: What is World History For?’, in B. Stuchtey and E. Fuchs (eds), Writing World History 1800–2000 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 91–134.Google Scholar
  6. Jackson, H. J., Marginalia: Readers Writing in Books (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001).Google Scholar
  7. Phillips, M. S., Society and Sentiment: Genres of Historical Writing in Britain, 1740–1820 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2000).Google Scholar
  8. Thompson, M., ‘Reception Theory and the Interpretation of Historical Meaning’, History and Theory, 32(3) (1993), 248–72.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Marnie Hughes-Warrington 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marnie Hughes-Warrington

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations