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University of Newcastle

1. Rowe, Yvette Maree. Reading the self-help manual: Amazon.com customer reviews of dating and marriage manuals for heterosexual women.

Degree: PhD, 2010, University of Newcastle

Research Doctorate - Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Self-help manuals are a much maligned genre: representations in popular culture and the media emphasise self-help authors’ commercial motivations and readers’ passivity while the academic literature from both the social and health sciences is also uniformly condemnatory. Feminist readings in particular construct popular psychology self-help manuals directed to heterosexual women as “dangerous” to women’s wellbeing because of the way that the manuals allegedly ignore social context and present problems as residing solely in the individual. This thesis reconsiders such assumptions about self-help manuals and their readers by analysing actual reader responses to a selection of contemporary dating and marriage manuals. It finds important differences between these responses and the preferred reading positions of the manuals: responses varying from resistance to compliance that complicate current critical constructions of these texts’ impact upon heterosexual women readers. The source of reader responses is Amazon.com customer reviews of the selected manuals, which are an underused resource of “lay” or non-professional reader responses. An adapted form of Judith Fetterley’s concept of the “resisting reader” is employed, along with a notion of resistance derived from Michel de Certeau’s theory of reading as everyday practice, to argue for a diversity of reader responses and uses of dating and marriage manuals. While the majority of readers construct readings that correspond to the manuals’ preferred reading positions, some readers construct critical or resistant readings in a manner that resembles the critical or resisting reader of canonical literature described by Fetterley. Furthermore, a small proportion of readers adopt Certeau-like “tactical” reading positions. A modified version of Kenneth J. Gergen’s theory of adapting to a postmodern sense of self, incorporating a poststructuralist understanding of textuality and subjectivity, helps explain how readers adopt different and sometimes simultaneous reading positions of a manual. It is suggested that the active reader approach, which minimises the conflating of actual and textual readers, tempers paternalistic concern about the malevolent effect of dating and marriage manuals directed to heterosexual women while also recognising the need for continued critique of such texts.

Advisors/Committee Members: University of Newcastle. Faculty of Education and Arts, School of Humanities and Social Science.

Subjects/Keywords: self-help manuals; dating manuals; marriage manuals; customer reviews; Amazon.com

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APA · Chicago · MLA · Vancouver · CSE | Export to Zotero / EndNote / Reference Manager

APA (6th Edition):

Rowe, Y. M. (2010). Reading the self-help manual: Amazon.com customer reviews of dating and marriage manuals for heterosexual women. (Doctoral Dissertation). University of Newcastle. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1959.13/808012

Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition):

Rowe, Yvette Maree. “Reading the self-help manual: Amazon.com customer reviews of dating and marriage manuals for heterosexual women.” 2010. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Newcastle. Accessed December 06, 2019. http://hdl.handle.net/1959.13/808012.

MLA Handbook (7th Edition):

Rowe, Yvette Maree. “Reading the self-help manual: Amazon.com customer reviews of dating and marriage manuals for heterosexual women.” 2010. Web. 06 Dec 2019.

Vancouver:

Rowe YM. Reading the self-help manual: Amazon.com customer reviews of dating and marriage manuals for heterosexual women. [Internet] [Doctoral dissertation]. University of Newcastle; 2010. [cited 2019 Dec 06]. Available from: http://hdl.handle.net/1959.13/808012.

Council of Science Editors:

Rowe YM. Reading the self-help manual: Amazon.com customer reviews of dating and marriage manuals for heterosexual women. [Doctoral Dissertation]. University of Newcastle; 2010. Available from: http://hdl.handle.net/1959.13/808012

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