This applies to texts you would be studying if you were taking English Literature, English Language or Media Studies (and any and all texts you create yourself). The creation and interpretation of all texts will always rely upon an acceptance of a shared set of ideological values. These ideologies guide a text's author and equally guide its reader, viewer or listener to their interpretation of the text in powerful and important ways.
Texts often act in ways that reinforce and help maintain society's ways of thinking. Literary texts can often act to expose society's dominant ideologies and allow their reader to see ideologies in operation. The following extract from a poem by William Blake called 'The Human Abstract' might begin to help you see how literature can expose ideologies. You will soon see perhaps how little has changed ideologically since Blake's days of the early nineteenth century:
Pity would be no more,
If we did not make somebody Poor:
And Mercy no more could be,
If all were as happy as we:
And mutual fear brings peace:
Till the selfish loves increase.
Then Cruelty knits a snare,
And spreads his baits with care...
Media texts often act to hide their ideological values and act in ways that reinforce and maintain existing ways of thinking about the world and its peoples - ways of thinking that are often referred to as the status quo.
To take an example, you will all have seen advertisements for the iPod Nano. Such ads operate at many ideological levels, but perhaps most obviously they act to reinforce and maintain materialist and consumerist ideologies that create in us a world view that might be articulated thus: 'I want it; I deserve it; I'll have it..'. The way such texts work is to create a persuasive construction - a cultural code - of what it means to be "cool" and "modern".
Such texts cat by "calling" their audience to respond as what might be called the ideal reader. Ads tend to work by suggesting that to stay "cool", we need to buy the goods on offer. An attractive lifestyle is created into which the product is inserted and linked.
You might have seen the word 'ideology' used negatively in the popular press, but it is, in fact, an entirely neutral word. The bias it attracts is because it is sometimes linked with the politics of communism and the perceived failures of that political system.
The next pages introduce you to ideology and then provide a step-by-step analysis of a front page newspaper article. Whilst this is clearly a Media Studies analysis, if you are studying English Language or Literature, fear not - the ideas you will learn apply equally to texts of all kinds, whether fictional or non-fictional, spoken or written. You can apply these techniques to any text, be it still or moving image, including those you produce and write yourself.