Thursday, 23 June 2011

Twilight fix

Twilight is not exactly the subject of this blog, but I was surprised to read about a thesis from my country, Denmark, on 'woman, class and love', that documents the obsession even women in their thirties can have for the novels created by Stephanie Meyers. The thesis by Paulina A. Frederiksen can be found online here, but is in Danish. It does, however, include this abstract in English:

'This thesis explores the connection between reading romantic literature and female identity, through a qualitative method study of both well-educated metropolitan women and uneducated women from the rural areas of Zealand, Denmark. More precisely it evolves around how the women receive, consume and apply the Twilight saga phenomenon to their lives and identity. It explores what the women’s worship of the saga might be a reflection of, in comparison to tendencies in society.

It takes its point of departure in Pierre Bourdieu’s social theory and work on masculine domination, distinction of taste and class, and John B. Thompson’s theory of the connection between media and identity. In addition to this, the notion of the parasocial relation from Donald Horton and R. Richard Wohl. Bourdieus theory is supplemented by Beverly Skegg’s notion of respectability and Sarah Holst Kjær’s notion of the heteronomy in society and media. Rosalind Gill’s notion of female gender articulation in postfeminist media culture, will in addition to tendencies in society, give a perspective on women’s construction of identity. Moreover, Gitte Balling’s strategy for the practical approach to the reading experience will help verbalize the difficulties in articulating the reading experiences.

The analysis shows that the women like to read about romance and love as a stimulus and compensation for a sometimes unsatisfactory daily life. Dissatisfaction with a current relationship, or with oneself for instance. Moreover, their pleasure in reading the saga is the result of society's glorification of the heterosexual relationship. They use the saga in cultivation of this prestige, both literally and figuratively as a practical manual for a relationship. The influence that the saga has on the women across class is similar, because the main love theme reflects a doxa about romance, relationships and the ideal man, which they are subordinated, in circumstances of symbolic dominance. However this does not mean that they apply the saga in quite the same way to their life and identity, because their social circumstances and habitus are different.

Because the romantic literature and hence the saga, is not considered decent reading of a respectable adult woman, they attempt to distance themselves from liking the genre and feel looked down upon by their peers. For the majority of the women, the parasocial relation to the saga or characters has become a part of their identity and everyday life, and the gratification they get from reading the saga, is expanded to other media like internet or soundtracks from the screen versions of the saga. Furthermore, the textual and visual shape of the saga is important in connection with the strong attachment to the story and the influence on the women.'

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