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Cinema and Semiotic

Cinema and Semiotic: Peirce and Film Aesthetics, Narration, and Representation

Johannes Ehrat
  • Book Info
    Cinema and Semiotic
    Book Description:

    Based on Peirce'sSemiotic and Pragmatism, Ehrat offers a novel approach to cinematic meaning in three central areas: narrative enunciation, cinematic world appropriation, and cinematic perception.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7295-6
    Subjects: Film Studies, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-7)

    This book is about film, not films. The business of film theory is theory, not the interpretation of films.¹ In principle, we must assume film to be a certain kind of meaning, a cognitive conduct. That is, film theory scrutinizes meaning as such, and does so in its cinematic specificity.

    Philosophy reflects the possibility and the conditions of meaning and cognition as such. It also contributes to a better understanding of cinema – an understanding that is measured by philosophy’s answers to crucial problems of cinematic meaning. One of the most difficult problems is art, including film art. Do aesthetic...

  5. 1 On Signs, Categories, and Reality and How They Relate to Cinema
    (pp. 8-111)

    Peirce in film theory: he is seldom fully integrated, but even when rejected, he seems to be generally known about. Judging from the cursory remarks scattered in film literature, he would have felt misunderstood. Sometimes this misunderstanding has an actual genealogy, one that reflects an interpretation of an (imaginative: Deleuze) interpretation of an (early systematizing: Deledalle) interpretation of Peirce; and Deledalle considers only sign theory. Small wonder that Peirce’s signs have become a ‘regression à l’infini’¹ and a ‘quadrillage universel monté … autour de la représentation.’ Another voice, Peter Wollen’s Peircean classification of films through the use of one of...

  6. 2 Semiotic and Its Practical Use for Cinema
    (pp. 112-164)

    Now we are finally in a position to use the full richness of Peirce’s concept of Sign. We started in the previous chapter with a somewhat cryptic and apodictic statement – warranted by common obvious misunderstandings – that a Sign ‘is’ not something; rather, whatever is something is a Sign. The reason for this lies in trimodal Reality with its logical form of the triadic relationship, as expounded earlier. Once it is attained, this level of comprehension indicates the inadequacy – or univocality – of sign ‘definitions’ that make it one thing among others. It is not unfair to these...

  7. 3 What ‘Is’ Cinema?
    (pp. 165-282)

    How can we compare film theories? We could formulate a practical problem and then compare what theory X and theory Y have to offer as solutions. In the best of all circumstances, this would yield a panorama of views, but it would not enable a decision on the theories. All theories could address the problem, but what would tell us which treatment is better?

    Some film theorists claim for their (mostly ‘middle level’) theories a ‘best fit’ to data. This is certainly no solution. What is ‘best’ in a theory fit? Albeit suggestive, this functions only metaphorically (clothes fit bodies)....

  8. 4 Narration in Film and Film Theory
    (pp. 283-344)

    To paraphrase Garfinkel ‘If narration is the answer, what is the question?’ With this question, and in a typical Pragmaticistic frame of mind, we are now ready to approach a peculiar form of meaning. In the beginning, it was important to allow plenty of room for the representational achievements of cinema as a whole.¹ This meant paying special attention to meaning other (and more) than narration. The challenge of grasping the meaning of Godard’sJe vous salue, Mariehighlighted the need for such a free space. Nevertheless, narration is still the most conspicuous form of meaning in cinema. To understand...

  9. 5 Narration, Time, and Narratologies
    (pp. 345-397)

    Not every theory of narration conceives narration proper as a production of time. ‘What is a narration?’ finds very different answers. Aristotle’sPoeticdefined it as imitation of praxis. Ricoeur locates this imitation in the imitation of existence. Hermeneutic narratologies see narration as reflecting the immediacy of consciousness in a derived temporal extension. Semionarratology comprehends narration as a linguistic metauniversal. For Deleuze, narrating reflects an approach to time that divides movement into parts.

    All of these theories are time-aware, and contain time as a more or less central aspect, but ‘time’ is never the same ‘thing.’ Then there are theories...

  10. 6 Enunciation in Cinema
    (pp. 398-554)

    Enunciation has not much meaning in itself, yet it has an enormous practical meaning (to put it a little paronomastically). It is a necessary part of the semiosic process, considered in isolation. All theories of meaning must comprehend enunciation in some form and under some name, even though we might declare it evasive and unanalysable¹ or simply take it for granted.² Semiotic has accounted for ‘utterance’ from the start; no other theory attributes so much importance to the use or occurrence of Signs, the event of cognition.

    For entirely different reasons, however, ‘enunciation’ has also become a cherished ‘pragmatic’ addendum...

  11. Conclusion
    (pp. 555-560)

    At the end of this investigation one can ask: What has been achieved? What is still in need of further investigation? The objective was to develop a theory – as comprehensive a theory as possible – of the entire phenomenon of cinema. This aim differs from the purpose of many current film studies, which are concerned with particular aspects of cinema, for instance, cinematic narration, and which show scant interest in and awareness of the problems of meaning as a whole in cinema. I do not deny the usefulness of specialized, ‘middle ground’ theories. However, the many assumptions these specialized...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 561-648)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 649-662)
  14. Filmography, by Director
    (pp. 663-666)
  15. Index
    (pp. 667-682)