Subgenres as a sign of socio-cultural change: the case of men's magazines' problem pages in the UK
'Culture' is often said to be "one of the two or three most complex words in the English language" (Eagleton 1). Leaving aside any differentiation between 'high' and 'popular culture', this notion is herein taken from a contemporary cultural studies perspective integrating traditional anthropological approaches to the concept with a more recent sociological emphasis. As cultural theorist Stuart Hall stresses, "the word 'culture' is used to refer to whatever is distinctive about the 'way of life' of a people, community, nation or social group. [...] Alternatively, the word can be used to describe the 'shared values' of a group or of society" (2). The cultural is often conceived of as part of the social. For "the community's culture influences its social structure and vice versa; indeed both are intertwined and have been separated only for purposes of analysis" (Griswold 11).
Focusing on men's lifestyle magazines as a cultural artefact in contemporary British society, this paper explores how the emergence of problem pages as a subgenre in these publications may be explained as a sign of socio-cultural change in the UK. In particular, this contribution delves into the constitution of this subgenre, and new subject positions (e.g. 'newmannism' and 'laddishness') therein articulated, within a context of masculinity crisis. As Beynon puts it, "contemporary masculinity is held to be in crisis because the central tenets upon which previous masculinity was based (patriarchy, bread-winning, tasks demanding strength) have been eroded" (159). So, after making some notes on problem pages and men's magazines in Britain, a number of extracts from problem pages in such magazines are examined. The notions of 'genre' and 'discourse' are subsequently theorized, and critical discourse analysis (henceforth CDA) is presented as an analytical resource for examining the interplay between discourse, society and culture. The status of British men's magazines' problem pages as a subgenre of its own is finally demonstrated, its evolution being finally accounted for from a CDA perspective.
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