Social melancholia and Real Life women's magazines

An Online Open Seminar

  • Wed 28 Oct 20

    17:00 - 18:30

  • Online

  • Event speaker

    Dr Lucy Stroud

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars

  • Event organiser

    Psychosocial and Psychoanalytic Studies, Department of

  • Contact details

    Dr Raluca Soreanu

Join us for this fascinating seminar on social melancholia and Real Life women's magazines with Dr Lucy Stroud

The Real Life genre of women’s weekly magazines emerged in the United Kingdom during the early 1990s. This genre claims to represent the personal experiences of the magazines’ interviewees, targeting women from lower socio-economic backgrounds as its primary audience and encouraging them to sell their stories. The genre can be viewed as problematic, exploiting the pain of vulnerable people – mostly women - and disguising it as empowerment. Chat magazine will be the focus on the seminar because the history of the genre can be traced through its evolution and has as its current aims to, ‘touch the reader and share an explosive conversation through heart-stopping moments and the wit and grit of real-life’,[1] a stark contrast to the its 1985 launch rhetoric where it had aimed to inform readers about ‘all the news that affects women and families.’[2] 

The 1980s was a turbulent period, with the uptake and dispersal of neoliberal socio-economic policies causing lasting social effects. These losses of employment, community and a supportive welfare safety net affected millions of people and have not been fully acknowledged or mourned. Instead, a pervasive neoliberal discourse has arisen, emphasising individualism, competition and personal responsibility. A psychosocial account argues that the psyche and society are symbiotic; what occurs socially must have psychical reverberations. I will discuss how the Real Life magazine genre is symptomatic of a social melancholia that emerged during this period and how they can be read as an attempt to replace what was lost from the UK’s social landscape - a sense of community, agency and an identity (to the interviewees) within the public sphere. Despite this, the representation and repetition of harrowing reader experiences conforms to an ahistorical narrative about gender and social class, in that women from this socio-economic backgrounds are both degraded and degrade themselves.

The Speaker

Dr Lucy Stroud recently gained her PhD from the University of Aberdeen, where her research focused on analysing Real Life magazines through a psychosocial lens. The project drew on her extensive experience as a journalist working on various national titles in the tabloid and Real Life magazine genres. Lucy’s research highlights the distinctive neoliberal agenda that operates through the production and consumption of Real Life magazines, examining their emotional and psychosocial impact on both readers and the broader media environment. She is especially interested in themes of socio-economic and political loss, and she takes a psychosocial approach to explore the psychical implications of the genre and its inscription in a particularly classed and gendered form of melancholia. She is currently developing publications on these themes, while also shaping a new research project on mediated images of loss during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Entry is free and open to all but please register your place.

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