Michelle, Carolyn, Charles H. Davis, Ann L. Hardy, & Craig Hight (2017). Pleasure, disaffection, ‘conversion’ or rejection? The (limited) role of prefiguration in shaping audience engagement and response. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 20(1), 65-82.

Abstract: This article examines the extent to which prefigurative ‘horizons of expectations’ shaped audience engagements with Peter Jackson’s 2012 film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (AUJ). Whereas previous research often focuses on examining prefigurative materials, discussions and debates themselves, this article draws on audience surveys conducted before and after the film’s release to illustrate the impact of prior hopes and expectations on post-viewing responses. While Hobbit pre-viewers were often deeply familiar with various prefigurative materials and intertextual resources, AUJ nonetheless retained the capacity to delight, confound, impress and distress viewers in ways that superseded pre-existing structures of meaning. Thus, while our findings illustrate that processes of reception potentially begin prior to and continue beyond initial moments of viewing, they also affirm the need to engage – theoretically and empirically – with the complex specificity and fluidity of actual reception experiences.

Carolyn Michelle <c.michelle@waikato.ac.nz> is in Societies and Cultures, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand.

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