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  • 1. Roland Barthes: Text and Image Introduction to Digital Media September 14, 2009
  • 2. Context: Structuralism • A mid-20th-century movement in the social sciences • Study of coded relations, or patterns, between phenomena traditionally studied in isolation • Beginning in linguistics, it was later applied to anthropology, sociology, and literature
  • 3. Saussure and the Sign • Ferdinand de Saussure, Course in General Linguistics (1922) • Language as a system of differences • A structure of meaning -- internally referential • Sign = signifier + signified • Langue and parole
  • 4. Arbitrary Links . . .
  • 5. . . . But Not Random • Language's rules are conventions -- historical and social • Cat, le chat, die Katze, el gato
  • 6. Freud & Levi-Strauss • Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams (1900) • Manifest content, latent content • Claude Levi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology (1958) • Myth as system: mythology as cultural communication, or code
  • 7. Roland Barthes (1915-80) • Began as literary scholar and teacher -- French literature and classical languages • Influenced by structuralism: 1950s • Turned to cultural studies and literary theory
  • 8. Roland Barthes (1915-80) • Began as literary scholar and teacher -- French literature and classical languages • Influenced by structuralism: 1950s • Turned to cultural studies and literary theory
  • 9. Image as Sign • Images are representations, or signs, of things, not the thing themselves, and they create meaning systematically • Like language, dreams, and myths • Therefore, they can be studied under semiology, or semiotics, the study of sign systems
  • 10. Image--Text • "[W]riting and pictures ... do not call upon the same type of consciousness ... pictures, to be sure, are more imperative than writing, they impose meaning at one stroke, without analysing or diluting it" • "But this is no longer a constitutive difference. Pictures become a kind of writing as soon as they are meaningful" ("Myth Today"110)
  • 11. Signification Is a Process • "[D]espite common parlance which simply says that the signifier expresses the signified, we are dealing, in any semiological system, not with two, but with three different terms. For what we grasp is not all one term after the other, but the correlation which unites them" • "[T]he signifier is empty, the sign is full, it is a meaning" -- the black pebble (113)
  • 12. Second-Order Systems • "Mythical speech is made of a material which has already been worked on so as to make it suitable for communication" (110) • "Myth" uses pre-existing cultural codes, including language but also images and socially created concepts--material from ideology--to perform its significations
  • 13. First-Order Signification "Tree" 1. Signifier 2. Signified Language: 3. Sign Tree
  • 14. Second-Order 1. Signifier 2. Signified Language: 3. Sign I. SIGNIFIER II. SIGNIFIED Myth: III. SIGN "Everything happens as if myth shifted the formal system of the first significations sideways" (115)
  • 15. Form & Concept Signifier Signified Language: Meaning FORM CONCEPT Myth: SIGNIFICATION Myth is a metalanguage, "because it is a second language, in which one speaks about the first" (115)
  • 16. "French Imperiality" • Form: "a young Negro in a French uniform is saluting" • Concept: "a purposeful mixture of Frenchness and militariness" • Signification: "There is no better answer to the detractors of alleged colonialism than the zeal shown by this Negro in serving his so-called oppressors" (116)
  • 17. Depoliticization • The mythic signifier (or image in culture) "has a sensory reality (unlike the linguistic signifier, which is purely mental), there is a richness in it" • A myth empties this meaning from the form, in service to the concept, "impoverishing" it: "only the letter remains" (117) • Myth "purifies" things of their history; it "makes them innocent" and "natural" (143)
  • 18. The Image's Three Messages • In the case of an image with text, such as an advertisement or news photo: • Linguistic (text) • Iconic, or symbolic, or connoted (image) • Non-coded iconic, or perceptual, or literal, or denoted (image) • The "message without a code"
  • 19. The Panzani Ad • Linguistic: the caption • Denotative: "Panzani" • Connotative: "Italianicity" • Acts as the "anchor"
  • 20. The Panzani Ad • Iconic -- here, 4 signs: • Fresh products to be picked up and prepared at home • Colors of "Italianicity" • Providing everything a meal needs • The still life tradition
  • 21. The Panzani Ad
  • 22. The Panzani Ad • Noncoded: • Objects as arranged in the scene, the elements of the image • "Naive," never met in pure form (in myths) • Naturalizes symbolic, cultural messages
  • 23. Myths: Cultural, Historical • "[T]here is no fixity in mythical concepts: they can come into being, alter, disintegrate, disappear completely. And it is precisely because they are historical that history can very easily suppress them" (120) • "[M]yth is a type of speech chosen by history: it cannot possibly evolve from the 'nature' of things" (110)
  • 24. Garbo Hepburn
  • 25. Garbo Hepburn Essence Existence Awe Charm Concept Substance Archetype Individual Platonic Idea Mortal Simplicity Complexity
  • 26. Full-Face: "Penetration, Gravity, Frankness"
  • 27. Full-Face: "Penetration, Gravity, Frankness"
  • 28. Full-Face: "Penetration, Gravity, Frankness"
  • 29. "The Gaze Lost Nobly in the Future"
  • 30. "The Gaze Lost Nobly in the Future"
  • 31. "The Gaze Lost Nobly in the Future"