For more information about Royal Holloway, please see this promotional video. To see a promotional video for the MA Consumption, Markets & Culture see here. To see a promotional video for the Royal Holloway School of Management, click here.

For more information about the Royal Holloway MA Marketing and MA Consumption, Culture & Marketing and the application process see here.

To get an understanding of the unique values that underly the MA Marketing and MA Consumption, Culture & Marketing programme please read these blog posts: Value of Scholarly Values, Importance of Reading and Morris Holbrook and Business Interest in Education.

Monday, 9 January 2017

Is a cigar more than just a cigar?

In 1923, Sigmund Freud - founder of psychoanalysis - was diagnosed with a serious case of oral cancer, which would eventually prove to be fatal, caused by his constant cigar smoking. While the link between cigar smoking and cancer was not clearly established at that time, Freud was well aware that his cigar habit was damaging his health. For example, in 1894 Freud was diagnosed as having nicotine poisoning that was causing chest pains and ordered by his doctors to stop smoking. Yet the withdrawal caused him to experience the 'horrible misery of abstinence' and he abandoned his efforts. Interestingly at the same time, he and his wife had also decided, after having five children in six years, to abstain from sex yet unlike abandoning his cigar habit, he found this latter form of abstinence more readily achievable.

Perhaps in denial of the seriousness of his lesion, Freud arranged for an operation to be conducted at an outpatient clinic by a non-specialist – a traumatising procedure during which Freud haemorrhaged and almost bled to death. The operation consisted of the construction of a prosthesis that separated the oral and nasal cavities, and Freud wore it for the rest of his life and it remained a persistent source of torturous pain. For the next 16 years of his life, Freud underwent more than 30 operations on his throat and despite the great pain involved in opening his mouth wide, he constantly underwent excruciating throat inspections. Even then, his pain seems to have been induced and acerbated by his constant smoking yet Freud did not attempt to give up his habit. As his biographer, Gay, describes it ‘The pleasure that continued smoking gave Freud, or rather, his incurable need for it, must have been irresistible. After all, every cigar was another irritant, a little step towards another painful intervention’.

Freud declared that smoking was ‘one of the greatest and cheapest enjoyments in life’ and the development of psychoanalysis unfolded under a constant cloud of smoke. Though accepting that his smoking habit was a ‘vice’, Freud noted that he relied on cigars to help him concentrate and focus on his work. At the weekly meetings of psychoanalysts held in his apartment, from which the practice of psychoanalysis came to be formalised, there was considerable smoking; as one witness attested, the room ‘was still thick with smoke and it seemed to me a wonder that human beings had been able to live in it for hours, let alone to speak in it without choking’.

Psychoanalytic theory conventionally holds smoking as a form of oral gratification and therefore an erotic pleasure, analogous to sucking a nipple or a penis. Throughout Freud’s case studies, he was quick to attribute oral references to phantasies of sucking at the mother’s nipple. The desire for performing the act of fellatio, Freud stated:

May be traced to an origin of the most innocent kind. It only repeats in a different form a situation in which we all once felt comfortable – when were still in our suckling days.. and took our mother’s (or wet nurses’s) nipple into our mouth and sucked at it. 
In terms of object relations, Freud argued that when a loved object is lost, a form of pathological mourning may take place in which the person identifies with the first stage of object choice. “The ego,” he states, at this stage, “wants to incorporate this object into itself, and in accordance with the oral or cannibalistic phase of libidinal development in which it is, it wants to do so by devouring it”. This constant need to devour the absent loved object can lead to forms of oral addiction, such as excessive sucking or drinking, or indeed… smoking.

That a cigar looks so similar to a penis leads to an obvious interpretation of sublimation and Freud accepted tobacco smoking as a form of sublimation: in 1897 he told a colleague that tobacco addiction substitutes for the “single great habit, the ‘primal addiction,’” masturbation. Yet this thought was never developed into a paper and he steadfastly declined to interpret his own cigar smoking as a form of oral addiction, or as expression of latent homosexual impulse; he famously responded to a colleague who pointed out that cigar smoking is clearly a phallic activity; ‘sometimes a good cigar is just a good cigar’.

Some theorists have argued that Freud’s cigar smoking ought to be understood as representative of an unacknowledged (and therefore unresolved) oral need. Freud’s own inability to recognise his oral addiction may have lead to Freud opting for certain forms of interpretation where others may have been possible. For example, in Freud's famous dream of Irma which was the starting point for his book the Interpretation of Dreams where psychoanalytic theory was first formally introduced, the dream begins with Freud and a colleague peering down Irma's throat. As Madelon Sprengnether was to note ‘it’s as though Freud’s dream had turned to nightmare – one in which he was condemned to play the role of Irma until he died’. Yet Freud’s own interpretation of the dream about Irma’s throat emphasised his masculine anxieties concerning professional mastery. In the light of his eventual experience where his own throat came to be excruciatingly gazed into over and over: may we speculate if Freud’s dream may have consisted of an identification with Irma which did not occur to him due to his own strength of repression? As his biographer, Gay puts it, ‘plainly there were depths to his mind that his self-analysis had never reached, conflicts it had never been able to resolve’.

Rene Magritte's famous image takes which translates as 'this is not a pipe' takes on a new irony in this discussion. Meltzer writes 'unlike the rest of the world, which generally has difficulty in being convince that a pipe, for example, is not necessarily a pipe at all, psychoanalysis needs at times to remind itself, in a type of return to an adaequatio, that it is possible for a cigar really to be a cigar'

However a deeper conundrum emerges in Freud’s own refusal to recognise his cigar habit as a phallic activity representing an oral addiction. From a consumer behaviour perspective, what are we to make of Freud's claim that a ‘sometimes a good cigar is just a good cigar’? If psychoanalysis is to be understood as a method in which we see everything as being "really" something else,  a subject that is grounded on understanding transferences, projections, associations where meaning constantly seeps from one object to another, then where are the limits of interpretation to be found? From this starting point, what does it mean to insist that a cigar is really just a cigar?


Gay, Peter. 1989. Freud: a Life for our Time. London: Anchor Books.
Gay, Peter. 1995. The Freud Reader. London: Vintage.
Laplance, Jean & Pontalis, Jean-Bertrand. 1973. The Language of Psychoanalysis. London: Karnac.
Makari, George. 2010. Revolution in Mind: The Creation of Psychoanalysis. London: Duckworth Overlook.
Meltzerm Franmoise. 1987. Editor's Introduction: Partitive Plays, Pipe Dreams. Critical Inquiry. Vol 13(Winter):p215-221.
Sprengnether, Madelon. 2003. Mouth to Mouth: Freud, Irma, and the Dream of Psychoanalysis. American Imago, Vol. 60 (3):p 259-284.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Research seminar: narratives of the healthy online self

Today we were delighted to welcome Teresa Davis from the University of Sydney to give a research seminar titled ‘In the (double) Mirror Darkly: Narratives of the healthy online self’. This co-authored research with Ellese Ferdinands examined ‘healthy self' narratives presented by individuals when posting images of health, such as food consumed and exercise on social media.

The seminar was attended by students from the MA Consumption, Culture and Marketing as well as PhD students and lecturers from sociology, marketing and criminology at Royal Holloway. Teresa's presentation generated interesting discussions about identity, social media and the audience of the displayed digital healthy self.

Research seminars are a great way to find out about current and recent research and we look forward to further research seminars in the next academic year.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Congratulations to Michelle Casey

Students of the MA Marketing and the MA Consumption, Markets & Culture will all be familiar with Michelle Casey, who is the Administrator for both programmes. Michelle was recently awarded the Principal's Exceptional Citizen Award. 

Michelle receiving her award from College Principal, Paul Layzell

This award was presented by Principal, Professor Paul Layzell, and it is presented to individuals and teams who demonstrate the most outstanding achievements in some or all of the following:
  • Willingness to extend themselves to help others;
  • Improving the quality of life in the University and/or wider community;
  • Demonstrating good citizenship.
Michelle has been of assistance to many students over the years and is an excellent administrator and therefore a deserving recipient of this prestigious award. Congratulations to Michelle!

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Royal Fever

Launched last week, a book by Royal Holloway marketing expert Pauline MaclaranRoyal Fever, examines the British Royal Family and consumer culture.

With co-author Cele C Otnes of the University of Illinois, Professor Maclaran takes a fascinating journey through tourism, popular culture and memorabilia to create a portrait of the major global brand that is the British monarchy.

The Queen with College Principal Paul Layzell during her recent visit to Royal Holloway

In 2011, an estimated 2.4 billion people across the globe watched the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton on television. Now, as the UK and countries in the Commonwealth prepare to celebrate The Queen’s 90th birthday in June 2016, the authors shine a light on contemporary obsession with celebrity, fame and lineage.
An enduring British brand
In existence for more than a thousand years, the British Monarchy brand continues to shape consumer behaviour and maintain its economic and cultural significance in the present day. Using fieldwork conducted from 2005 to 2014, Royal Fever explores the myriad interactions between consumer culture and the Royal Family, exploring collectors, commemorative objects, fashion, historic sites, media products, Royal brands, and tourist experiences. Taking a case study approach, the book looks at both producer and consumer perspectives, from the organisers of ‘Royal’ tours to a woman who boasts a collection of over 10,000 pieces of Royal Family trinkets.

King Charles 1 was beheaded during a revolution in 1747
Pauline Maclaran is Professor of Marketing & Consumer Research in the School of Managementat Royal Holloway.  Her research focuses on cultural aspects of contemporary consumption, particularly in relation to gender issues, as well as fantasy retail environments and how the built environment mediates social relationships.  

Friday, 29 April 2016

Royal Holloway Marketing Ranked 4th in UK

The research and teaching excellence of marketing at Royal Holloway, University of London is recognised by the latest university league table.
The Complete University Guide(CUG) 2017 was published on 25 April 2016, placing Royal Holloway’s Marketing 4th in the UK. This is an improvement on last year's ranking of 7th. 

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Tracey Wechie Describes her Dissertation

Note in addition to being awarded the prize for Best Dissertation, Tracey also successfully applied for a scholarship for a PhD at Royal Holloway, which she is now pursuing. 

Even from the start of my MA Marketing course at Royal Holloway, University London, the prospect of writing a 12,000-15,000 word dissertation loomed in the ever distant horizon in quite an antagonising way. Was it a possible feat? Or would I crumble somehow at the last hurdle? Just the mere fact that it engulfs a whole summer term is credence to how challenging it would be and notably how crucial it was to my MA marketing course overall. It was definitely not something to be taken lightly! However during my Postgraduate year, as days and then months passed by, ever growing closer to the ominous summer term, no one was quite more amazed than I that my anxiety of writing a 12,000-15,000 word dissertation somehow turned into glee. Although it was not realised at the onset, as I progressed with my course, it began to slowly settle in that as a MA Marketing student at Royal Holloway you are not suddenly thrust into completing a dissertation at the onslaught of summer term. Rather you are thoroughly and deeply guided into it, making it significantly easier to comprehend and get to grips with. Not only does your assigned supervisor for your dissertation assist you every step of the way, but it can also be reasoned that every prior marketing module undertaken before your dissertation, is designed to cater to the finessing and harnessing of a suitable research topic and research method for your dissertation. Consequently once I overcome the initial fright, I was able to focus more, not on the challenges ahead, but the excitement of being able to choose whatever research topic, question and method I wanted, that would best allow me to thrive and achieve academic success.

It is no surprise that completing work on such a grand scale requires a real passion for the topic chosen to explore. Marketing encompasses a broad depth of areas and I believe strongly that everything in some way or another can be related back to its broad concept. Subsequently I chose to work from ‘the outside in’ whereby I found a theme which I loved and then looked for areas in marketing that could encompass such theme. Of course there was also a plethora of more standard marketing topics which were available for me to choose from, helpfully explored in great depth during the various marketing modules I undertook in the autumn and spring term. However when it did actually become time for me to seriously consider and craft my research topic; the best thing to do was research… research… research! A well thought out and suitable research question is not going to just fall on your lap. It requires gaining deep insight into your desired general topic area and thus my advice for anyone about to undertake a dissertation would be to think carefully about the topic you want to spend 3-4 months researching. From discussing with further students when I undertook my MA course, it seemed apparent that picking a general topic did not reap as much benefit as when students challenged themselves with their topic and pushed the limits. 

After extensively exploring all the options available I chose to take a socio-cultural approach to marketing when formulating my research question. Namely I chose to explore the socio-semiotic gendered nature of contemporary romance novels as tools of marketing and whether and to what extent patriarchy is still the overarching theme within them. This research built on previous research findings concerning the gendered nature of romance scripts in popular culture and used thematic analysis in exploration of the gendered socio-semiotic constructions of Harlequin romance novels.  I chose to explore contemporary popular romance novels as they represent one of the biggest sites for the representation of individuals as gendered subjects.

I was relieved that I was not bound to the first research question I came to develop. This was because during my research, many new and exciting themes of exploration began to stand out to me which called for further exploration. Namely it became apparent that more ‘guised’ forms of patriarchy namely; ambivalent sexism, bigendered subjectivity and phallic symbolism were prevalent in romance scripts. Thus further exploration was needed to determine whether recent challenges by academics as to the patriarchal nature of contemporary romance novels was distorted owing to such novels continued unconscious expounding of patriarchy in light of many un-explored gendered ideologies. It was clear from my research that there seemed to be a vehement acceptance by academics of patriarchy in such novels without appreciation of the manifest attempts of romance novels to reconcile the hero/heroine dichotomy with society's changing attitudes about gender. Specifically such 'skipping over' by academics of the nuanced albeit 'misleading' feminist thought within such novels meant that much of the previous research within this field was unable to adequately challenge contentions that oppose the continued prevalence of patriarchy within them. Thus it was crucial that my research question allowed for a more critical understanding of the hero/heroine dichotomy in such narratives by having recourse to more micro patriarchal theories which would enable the materialization of a framework of patriarchy.

Inevitably, I was constantly revising my research question, of course with the approval of my supervisor and as long as it did not stray too far away from my initial proposed research question. In the end my analysis found that a practice of symbolic annihilation in relation to the heroine's mention in romance titles was a prevalent concurrence wherein which the heroine was given an unimportant relational status in comparison to the hero's dominant status. The descriptions of the hero in such novels were also found to be congruent with patriarchal theory in the form of phallic symbolism as the males anatomical organ was consistently represented as a symbol of his physical dominance. Finally findings showed that within the narrative structure the heroine was allowed to assume a relative level of independence at the start of such novels, mainly through her assuming of bigendered practices. However such practices as well as the hero's ambivalently sexist practices against the heroine eventually came to devalue her positioning further.

I would suggest to those about to or in the process of writing their dissertation to fully submerse yourself in your chosen topic in absolutely any way you can. Notably as soon as you have a rough idea about the topic, it won’t hurt to begin to do exciting things revolving around it. For example I knew quite early on in the year that I wanted to look into patriarchy and thus developed a keen interest in watching films and reading books which portrayed family dynamics with a strong presence of male-dominance within them. Engaging in fun actives such as this really helped in making my dissertation not something too onerous, but rather a fun and exciting process. In light of this,  I must concede that although my MA Marketing dissertation was possibly one of the most challenging tasks that I’ve ever had to complete and certainly the longest academic piece of work I’ve ever had to submit, it was also the most stimulating and thought-provoking written academic task. I was also privileged to be awarded best MA marketing dissertation in my graduation ceremony.