DISSERTATION OUTLINE: “Identification, Performativity and Representations of the Female Celebrity Body in Contemporary Gossip Magazines”


 Proposed Title:

Identification, Performativity and Representations of the Female Celebrity Body in Contemporary Gossip Magazines

Outline of Research:


The areas of my research are female, the body, celebrity, identification and performance.


Magazine images of the celebrity body and the female body in particular, are a vital part of celebrity culture in general. I am interested, firstly, in researching what effect these images have, in terms of how readers identify (or don’t identify) with body images in celebrity magazines.  Secondly, I am interested in how they might play out, perform or challenge the identifications that these bodies offer. I plan to use qualitative and quantitative primary research to gather data. Then, I plan to research into psychoanalytical theories of identification to see if this provides a useful framework for understanding people’s relation to the images in magazines. In order to develop this, I will research into theories of performativity to see not only how people might identify with the images, but also how they might go out and perform these roles every day.


The problem that I have posed is whether readers have any active power in challenging the dominant body images in celebrity magazines, or whether they passively and unconsciously play them out with no agency or awareness.


Provisional Research Plans:


In order to explore this problem, I will focus my primary research on a range of contemporary celebrity gossip magazines such as Heat, Closer and Now. I find these magazines appropriate as they are so widely read, and so important to the contemporary discourse of celebrity and especially in how they relate to representations of the body, mainly the female body in particular.


As well as analyzing the chosen media myself, I will conduct research into sample groups of females. In order for my research to be practical, it makes sense to interview groups who are the most common readers of such magazines, so my research will focus on younger females from ages 17 – 25 and older females from ages 26-35 to allow for a variety of data. I will ask questions relating to their response to the magazines in relation to issues of the female body. I will then analyse and refer to in the next stage of my research.


My secondary research will consist, firstly, of reading theories of identification from Lacan and other Lacanian theorists in order to see whether this framework of interpretation is relevant for my chosen research area. Secondly, I will focus on theories of performativity taken mainly from theorists such as Judith Butler, in order to relate my reading more closely to the results from my primary research. I want to relate this research closely to my primary research on the interviews and magazines, looking at points where they might help to explain my data, or points where the data conflicts and challenges the theories. Finally, I will relate all of my research to the broader contexts of celebrity culture, considering how the representation of celebrity bodies is a vital part of celebrity discourse, and drawing any possible conclusions.












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