The 1996 Olympic Games: Emotive Narrative and National Identity

Mitchell, Andrea (2007). The 1996 Olympic Games: Emotive Narrative and National Identity PhD Thesis, School of English, Media Studies and Art History, University of Queensland.

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Author Mitchell, Andrea
Thesis Title The 1996 Olympic Games: Emotive Narrative and National Identity
School, Centre or Institute School of English, Media Studies and Art History
Institution University of Queensland
Publication date 2007
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Frances Bonner
Abstract/Summary This project analyses the ways in which national representations inflect and account for discursive variations in the media texts of a specific global media event, in this instance, the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. Watching and reading media representations of the Olympic Games is the only way most of us experience this international sporting event. Sports scholars have analysed the media’s impact on the development and growth of sport worldwide and its representations of race and gender, but there has been little close analysis of sports commentary. The central questions posed by this dissertation are; what is the role of television commentators in creating the emotional tone and verbal narrative for the visual text, and how does the commentary convey information about national identity? What socio-linguistic tools are currently available to assist in such an analysis? Driven by these questions, this project extends and applies a development of Labovian theories of narrative structure, in particular the elements of orientation and evaluation. In Labov’s original schema orientation covered basic information such as answers to who, when, what, and where? Orientation in this study includes these, as well as two additional types; orientation to audience clauses maintain a shared ground of communicative participation, and empathetic orientation clauses encourage an empathetic response. For Labov evaluation provides crucial points of assessment throughout a narrative and points the receiver towards a preferred reading. This study extends the concept of evaluation to include evaluations about the emotional impact of the spectacle. These elements of emotive address are included in an overall category of emotionally oriented language, as a contrast to the technically oriented language of sportscasting, the descriptive 'calling the play' clauses. This dissertation thus develops a socio-linguistic tool to analyse the interplay between technical information and emotive narrative within the commentary. This tool is then applied to texts from the Australian based Seven Network and the United Kingdom’s British Broadcasting Corporation. The Opening and Closing Ceremony broadcasts are qualitatively analysed with reference to Dayan and Katz’s theories about media events, but also in terms of orientation and evaluation. Acting in the Labovian sense as an abstract, the Opening Ceremony ritually creates the narrative significance of the sporting contests which follow, while the coda or Closing Ceremony enacts ritual closure and a return to everyday life. The sporting contests book-ended by these two ceremonies, the middle complicating actions and results, are imbricated in the Olympic Movement’s philosophy of Olympism, enunciated during the Opening, and are represented from within specific media frames which work to create emotive identification with the nation. Two events are selected for comparative micro-analysis, the men’s 1500m swimming final and the men’s coxless pair rowing final, because in these events the two nations, Great Britain and Australia, battled for medals. A hypothesis that the Australian commentary was more emotional and nationalistic than the British commentary was tested, with the conclusions showing that assumptions about stereotypical British reserve were more likely to be explained by the lack of recent UK sporting success and media framing of these results, than a national disinclination for commentators to emote during live broadcasts. Within the overall analysis, however, specific modes of address, such as creating a phatic community, evaluations about the emotional impact of the spectacle, and technically oriented language did differ significantly between the two broadcast commentary teams, both in content and temporal placement. The excesses of the Australian broadcasts were in part explainable by the commercial Network context, but were also underpinned by the sustained achievements of Australian athletic-heroes on the global stage. An integral aspect of the commentary analysis is the personalisation and individualisation of the sporting hero within the event narrative. This thesis re-examines and extends notions of the sports hero within the context of national identity formation as supported by evidence collected from the texts.

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Created: Fri, 21 Nov 2008, 14:54:10 EST