"Our biggest killer": multimodal discourse representations of dementia in the British press

Brookes, Gavin, Harvey, Kevin, Chadborn, Neil and Dening, Tom (2017) "Our biggest killer": multimodal discourse representations of dementia in the British press. Social Semiotics . ISSN 1035-0330

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A recent (2016) Office for National Statistics report stated that dementia is now “the leading cause of death” in England and Wales. Ever fixated with the syndrome (an unfailingly newsworthy topic), the British press was quick to respond to the bulletin, consistently headlining that dementia was the nation’s “biggest killer,” while (re)formulating other aspects of the report in distorting and emotive metaphorical terms. In this paper we examine how the media, through use of a recurring set of linguistic and visual semiotic tropes, portrayed dementia as an agentive entity, a “killer,” which remorselessly attacks its “victims.” Such a broadly loaded and sensationalist representation, we argue, not only construed dementia as a direful and pernicious disease, but also, crucially, obscured the personal and social contexts in which the syndrome is understood and experienced (not least by people with dementia themselves). This intensely lurid type of representation not only fails to address the ageist misinformation and common misunderstandings that all too commonly surround dementia, but is also likely to exacerbate the stress and depression frequently experienced by people with dementia and their families.

Item Type: Article
RIS ID: https://nottingham-repository.worktribe.com/output/870159
Additional Information: This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Social Semiotics on 30/06/2017, available online: http://www.tandfonline.com/10.1080/10350330.2017.1345111
Keywords: Dementia; Alzheimer’s disease; Media; Office for National Statistics; Multimodal critical discourse analysis; Photography; Neuroimaging
Schools/Departments: University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Arts > School of English
University of Nottingham, UK > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine > Division of Psychiatry and Applied Psychology
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.1080/10350330.2017.1345111
Depositing User: Sanchez-Davies, Jennifer
Date Deposited: 21 Feb 2018 14:18
Last Modified: 04 May 2020 18:53
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/49898

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