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> Rhetoric of the Image, Roland Barthes
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post Feb 04, 2010, 10:38 PM
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Roland Barthes (12 November 1915 – 25 March 1980)

.... was a French literary theorist, philosopher, critic, and semiotician. Barthes's work extended over many fields and he influenced the development of schools of theory including structuralism, semiotics, existentialism, social theory, Marxism and post-structuralism.

Notes from Rhetoric of the Image (Image-Music-Text)

Barthes provides an analytical system by to discuss the reading/interpretation of an image

First, He defines the root of image as being close to the word "imitari":
an imitation or representation. A copy.
The Issues

1) If the image re-presents, can it shape meaning?

2) And how does meaning get into the image?

3) Can an analogical representation produce true systems of signs or is it just a container of free floating information?

4) If language is based on rules of combining discreet units, concepts articulated symbolically? Can there be an analogical code as opposed to a digital one?

Strategy used is one of deconstruction: to skim off the different
messages that an image may contain.

Three Messages

- The linguistic message
- A coded iconic message
- A non coded iconic message

The linguistic

- Captions, labels
- Need cultural knowledge (language) to decode text
- Connotates "Italianicity" through the sound and familiarity of this particular text

Do images exist outside of text?
Do images go beyond illustrating texts?
Do they duplicate certain information in the text or is there something new that occurs in the reading of the image?

The linguistic message present through:

Caption, title, explanation, film dialogue, comic strip balloon.Function of text: Anchorage and Relay


- Helps me to choose the correct level of perception,
- Permits me to focus not simply my gaze but also my understanding.
- The text guides not only identification but also interpretation.
- It limits the projective power of the image.
- The text directs the reader through the signifieds of the image, avoiding some and receiving others.
- Text remote controls viewer towards a meaning chosen in advance.
- Text with an image is an ideological control.

Relay: Sequence in cartoons, comic strips, films

- Text in a complementary relationship with the image.
- Text provides meaning not found in the image.
- For quick reading, text illustrated with image.
- The image seems "lazier". Conveys information readily through less symbols.
- Text and images are both fragments. The unity of message realized at a higher order, that of the story

The Image A series of discontinuous signs
Coded iconic messages
1) Open bag : Return from market
Signifies freshness, domestic preparation
2) Colors as cultural messages signify "Italianicity".

Resonates with Panzani text.

Italianicity is a specific knowledge, signifying only to non-Italians.

3) Inventory of Objects signify a complete system: a total culinary experience.
4) Aesthetic referent: the still life, nature morte. Heavily cultural, requires specialized knowledge.
5) The image/text as ad : Contextual information. The messages placement within a magazine, etc.

Non coded iconic message
The literal visual message

- The photographic representation repeats rather than transforms the source subject matter.
- It is a literal message as opposed to the previous symbolic ones.
- But it functions as the support of the symbolic messages.

The photograph:
a message without a code

Opposed to a drawing, which even when denoted, is a coded message

1) Drawings: Rule based transpositions (historical: perspective)

2) The drawing does not reproduce everything: (often very little)

- Division between significant/non essential.
- Whereas one cannot intervene within the photograph.
- Drawings highly connoted: there is no drawing without style.

3) Drawings require apprenticeship.

- Photographs reinforce the myth of natural representation even though framing, focus, lighting, speed belong to the plane of connotation.

- A new space-time continuum : Spatial immediacy and temporal anteriority.

The photograph:
An illogical conjunction between the here-now and the there-then

- It is never experienced as an illusion
- is in no way a presence
- its reality is that of the "having-been-there". A reality from which we are sheltered.
- Photographs innocent ideologically coded messages through their literalness:nature seems spontaneously to produce the scene represented.

taken from

for the text of rhetoric of the image
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post Feb 06, 2010, 01:43 AM
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Barthes gave us the panzani advertisement as his first dissection:

In it there are some packages of pasta, a tin, a sachet, some tomatoes, onions, peppers, a mushroom, all emerging from a half open string bag, in yellows and greens on a red background! He asks us to "skim off" the different messages it contains! What are some things that immediately come to mind?
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post Feb 06, 2010, 02:02 AM
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Mise en abyme has several meanings in the realm of the creative arts and literary theory. The term is originally from the French and means, "placing into infinity" or "placing into the abyss". The commonplace usage of this phrase is describing the visual experience of standing between two mirrors, seeing an infinite reproduction of one's image.

Mise-en-abīme occurs within a text when there is a reduplication of images or concepts referring to the textual whole. Mise-en-abīme is a play of signifiers within a text, of sub-texts mirroring each other. This mirroring can get to the point where meaning can be rendered unstable and in this respect can be seen as part of the process of deconstruction. The film-within-a-film is an example of mise-en-abīme. The film being made within the film refers through its mise-en-scčne to the ‘real’ film being made. The spectator sees film equipment, stars getting ready for the take, crew sorting out the various directorial needs. The narrative of the film within the film may directly reflect the one in the ‘real’ film

In Western art "mise en abyme" is a formal technique in which an image contains a smaller copy of itself, the sequence appearing to recur infinitely. The term originated in heraldry, describing a coat of arms that appears as a smaller shield in the center of a larger one.

In film, the meaning of "mise en abyme" is similar to the artistic definition, but also includes the idea of a "dream within a dream". For example, a character awakens from a dream and later discovers that he or she is still dreaming. Activities similar to dreaming, such as unconsciousness and virtual reality, are also described as "mise en abyme". This is seen in the film eXistenZ where the two protagonists never truly know whether or not they are out of the game.

In literary criticism, "mise en abyme" is a type of frame story, in which the core narrative can be used to illuminate some aspect of the framing story. The term is used in deconstruction and deconstructive literary criticism as a paradigm of the intertextual nature of language—that is, of the way language never quite reaches the foundation of reality because it refers in a frame-within-a-frame way to other language, which refers to other language, et cetera.

The ability of computers to so repeat a task has led to modern forms of this technique: screen savers that fly through space forever, looping and churning tunnels.
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