Analysis as assemblage: Making sense of polysemous texts

Esther Priyadharshini, Amy Pressland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
20 Downloads (Pure)


Accomplishing critical literacy within a mediascape where texts present as polysemous and ambiguous may be the challenge of our times. This article uses the example of a seemingly paradoxical newspaper column, which contains paratextual elements, to illustrate how an assemblage of critical analytical approaches is needed to make fuller sense of the text. The column is read in three ways, focusing first on the main column, its location, imagined audience, its use of rhetorical devices such as satire, irony, humor, and repetition to critique the state of global football. The second reading uses a postcolonial feminist perspective to focus exclusively on the curious supplementary tailpieces (shirttails) that end the column. It reveals how specific translation strategies and the representation of certain bodies as sexually voracious, deviant, and excessive frame such bodies as absurd exotic-erotic objects of a neo-colonial gaze. The third reading leans on Derridean ideas of writing and text to understand the seemingly discrepant relationship between column and shirttails, and raises critical questions about the role of the reader/readership. Each analysis brings different sensibilities to the work and illustrates the value of assembling multiple analytical approaches to work towards critical media literacy. The conditions and caveats of such working arrangements are also considered.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)420-439
Number of pages20
JournalCritical Studies in Media Communication
Issue number5
Early online date9 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2018


  • Polysemy
  • paratext
  • critical literacy
  • postcolonial feminist analysis
  • Derridean analysis
  • assemblage/working arrangement

Cite this