A Socio-Semiotic Analysis of the Media/Gourmet Relationship in the Production of the Ahaute-Cuisine@ System in France: the Weekly Gastronomical Column of Ale Figaro@

Patrick Hetzel, Robert Schuman University
[ to cite ]:
Patrick Hetzel (1999) ,"A Socio-Semiotic Analysis of the Media/Gourmet Relationship in the Production of the Ahaute-Cuisine@ System in France: the Weekly Gastronomical Column of Ale Figaro@", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 26, eds. Eric J. Arnould and Linda M. Scott, Provo, UT : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 341.

Advances in Consumer Research Volume 26, 1999      Page 341


Patrick Hetzel, Robert Schuman University

Authors such as Firat and Venkatesh (1993) have noted that postmodernity is prevailing in contemporary consumption. In the "Haute-Cuisine" system this means that eclectcism, individualism and coexistence of different value systems are becoming more and more important. If on one hand, we consider that these characterizations of contemporary consumption are true and on the other hand, that in order to seduce their readership, gastronomical journalists have to respond by modifying their discourse, it can be interesting to study the evolution of the content of a gastronomical column like the one in "Le Figaro" over a period of time. Such an analysis can help us discover any "markers" of postmodernism in the content and the "enunciative" procedures of this medium and also to see what has been kept and what has been changed over the years.

The material for our study came from the "Le Figaro" data base of the week-end issues published during the last 20 years. We have selected, from this data base, representative issues from three differents years: 1977B1987 and 1997. Then we have used the concept of enunciation, to analyze our "corpus". According to Veron (1987), the relation between a newspaper and its readership is based on a reading contract. In other words, a link is set up between the content of the mdeium and its readers. The content of a newspaper column can therefore be analyzed through the type of contract that is established. By analyzing not only the content of the message but also the way in which it is modalized, we are able to show how the enuncitor (in this case the press medium) constructs a model reader and the relationship (the reading contract) with this constructed receiver.

Our main results are as follows:

*Over the years, the discourse developped in the column has changed a lot: the relationship to the gourmet reader is closer. The journalist considers more and more the reader as an expert.

*The column is moving from a discourse in which only "Cuisine" was important to a discourse in which all the elements of the offer system are becoming important in order to evaluate the performance of a "Chef". The experiential part of the discourse is becoming more and more important. The notion of show is so present in the mind of the columnists that they no longer hesitate to say that they expierence it as such. There is a new culinary rhetoric. Their is a move from the sense of taste to all the senses.

*The column is becoming more and more a juxtaposition of individualities and the gourmet reader has to choose between very different options that are suggested by the newspaper. In the past, the recommandations were more precise: their was a real selection going on. Now the slogan is much more: "Everything goes. It’s up to you to choose which kin of cuisine you prefer". The rhetoric is moving from "one best way" of "Haute Cusine" to a pluralistic and diversified approach of what "Haute Cuisine" can be.


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