Essay on Stuart Hall - Encoding and Decoding

Essay on Stuart Hall - Encoding and Decoding

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Stuart Hall

Four intellectuals established Cultural Studies, namely, Richard Hoggart, Raymond Williams, E.P. Thompson, and Stuart Hall. Hall (b. 1932) has had the lion's share of publicity. Scholars working in this tradition often take their cue from his articles.

Hall tells us that he grew up in Jamaica, the "blackest son" (in his words) of a middle-class, conservative family; from an early age, Hall says, he rejected his father's attempt to assimilate into white, English-speaking society (his father worked his way up through the United Fruit Company). In 1951, he won a scholarship to Oxford (he was a Rhodes scholar)--and (as they say) the rest is history. As a student at Oxford, he sensed that his color as well as his economic status affected the way people related to him. At this time, he social life centred on a circle of West Indian students. He subsequently won (in 1954) a scholarship to pursue post-graduate studies. At this time, he aligned himself with the emerging New Left (a group opposed to Stalinism and British imperialism). During the period 1957-61, he taught in secondary school in Brixton, London, and edited the Universities and Left Review, and during the period 1961-64 he taught film and media studies at Chelsea College, London. During the period 1964-79, he taught at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS), Birmingham. Over the years, Paul Corrigan, John Fiske, Dick Hebdige, Angela McRobbie, David Morley, and Paul Willis have worked at the Centre. Hall has always combined activism and theorizing. He says that he has always been within "shouting distance of Marx." For example, during the 1950s, he was--along with Raymond Williams--a leading light of the New Left. For ten years or so he rejected M...


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...ain latent motives which could not otherwise be expressed, particularly urges toward aggression and violence. As well, the Western serves to the function of articulating and reaffirming primary cultural values, i.e., progress and individualism, by reenacting the triumph of civilized order over savage wilderness.

Works Cited

Barthes, Roland. 1977. "Rhetoric of the Image" (1964). In Image/Music/Text, trans. Stephen Heath. New York: Hilland Wang. (A synopsis of this important paper is offered on the COMS 441 Web site.)

Hall, Stuart. 1974. "The Television Discourse--Encoding and Decoding." In Studies in Culture: An Introductory Reader, ed. Ann Gray and Jim McGuigan. London: Arnold, 1997, pp. 28-34.

---. 1980. "Encoding/Decoding." In Paul Morris and Sue Thornton (eds.), Media Studies: A Reader. 2nd edn. Washington Square, NK: University Press, 2000, pp. 51-61.

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