‘A hypnotic viewing experience’. promotional features in the language of exhibition press announcements

Cecilia Lazzeretti and Marina Bondi


Museums have become fully active cultural agents, pursuing educational aims but also trying to attract the largest number of visitors. Exhibition press announcements (EPAs) issued by museums reflect this tendency and address journalists as if they were ‘customers’ in a very competitive market. Building on Bhatia’s work on promotional genres (1993, 2004) and recent corpus-based studies devoted to press releases (Catenaccio 2008; Lindholm 2008; McLaren and Gurâu 2005), this paper investigates lexico-grammatical forms typical of EPAs with the aim to demonstrate that they carry a strong promotional intent and reflect the value-system of the professional communities involved, i.e. art journalists and museum professionals. The study was carried out on a corpus of contemporary Anglo-American EPAs and shows the recurrent use of linguistic features that express positive evaluation of the exhibition, especially with regard to the semantic areas of novelty, quality, extensiveness and exclusiveness. Emotional linguistic features are also used in order to create ‘news value’ and excite curiosity around the artists and their artworks.

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