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Structuralist film theory

Related: Christian Metz - film theory - Semiotics - Structuralism

The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema (1986) - Christian Metz [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Definition

The structuralist film theory emphasizes how films convey meaning through the use of codes and conventions not dissimilar to the way languages are used to construct meaning in communication --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Structuralist_film_theory [Oct 2004]

Not to be confused with structural film [...]

Structural film was an American experimental film movement. The term was coined by P. Adams Sitney. Exponents include Michael Snow, Hollis Frampton, Paul Sharits, Tony Conrad, Joyce Wieland, Ernie Gehr, and Peter Kubelka. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Structural_film [Oct 2005]

Six guns and society: A structural study of the Western (1975) - William Wright

New Vocabularies in Film Semiotics: Structuralism, Poststructuralism and Beyond (1992) - Robert Stam, Robt Burgoyne, S. Lewis-Flitterman [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Book Description
New Vocabularies in Film Semiotics provides a comprehensive lexicon of semiotic concepts, defining over 500 critical terms.

The authors address key aspects of contemporary semiotic and cultural debate--for example Metz's semiotics, Genette's narratology, the feminism of Mary Ann Doane, and Bakhtinian concepts. The book explores linguistically-oriented terminology in cinema studies; the semiotics of film narrative; the psycho-semiology of the cinema; and intertextuality, discourse, and transtextuality. References to individual films drawn from the work of a wide range of directors including Orson Welles, D.W. Griffiths, Alain Resnais, Jean-Luc Godard, Alfred Hitchcock, Jean Cocteau, and Chantal Akerman illustrate the concepts under discussion.

Although especially geared to the needs of film students, New Vocabularies in Film Semiotics is an impressive guide that will be useful for scholars in all areas of the arts, philosophy, and literature where an awareness of semiotic terminology and methodology has become indispensible to serious theoretical work.

About the Author
Robert Stam is Professor of Cinema Studies at New York University. Robert Burgoyne is Associate Professor of English at Wayne State University. Sandy Flitterman-Lewis is Associate Professor of English and Cinema Studies at Rutgers University.

Statistically Improbable Phrases (SIPs):
female enunciation, mimetic stratum, perceptual facet, cinematic narrator, primary cinematic identification, displaced diegetic, bracket syntagma, psychoanalytic film theory, parallel syntagma, autonomous shot, term focalization, episodic sequence, extradiegetic narrator, authentication authority, cinematic narration, film analysts, psychological facet, film semiotics, impersonal narrator, semic code, filmic narration, filmic discourse, cinematic signifier, tale roles, proairetic code

Capitalized Phrases (CAPs):
Stephen Heath, Russian Formalists, Grand Syntagmatique, Roland Barthes, Mary Ann Doane, Gerard Genette, Raymond Bellour, Christian Metz, Jean-Luc Godard, Stage Fright, Peter Wollen, The Imaginary Signifier, Paul Willemen, David Bordwell, Fritz Lang, Tel Quel, Kristin Thompson, Vladimir Propp, Boris Eikhenbaum, Will Wright, Prague School, The Formal Method, Daniel Percheron, Roman Jakobson, Bakhtin School

Six guns and society: A structural study of the Western (1975) - William Wright

Six guns and society: A structural study of the Western (1975) - William Wright [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Six guns and society: A structural study of the Western (1975) - William Wright [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
Paperback edition

Most criticism of the popular arts has had as its raison d'etre an assumption that these works have a particularly direct relation to our society and can tell us a great deal about our culture and ourselves. But the nature of that relation is so complex and little understood that much writing on popular culture degenerates into narrow analyses of a particular social phenomena, seen in a direct causal connection to a corresponding narrow aspect of movies, rock music, print media, or television. The result is seen in protests against violence in films, protests that assume movie violence causes violence in the streets, or "national character" portraits which find Americans to be violent because our films mirror this trait.

Obviously there is a reciprocal relation here, not a one-way, cause-effect one. Movies both reflect the values and ideology of the culture and are a means of reproduction of that ideology. The ability of popular culture to reflect and express a wide range of contradictions that arise from the tensions of our socio-economic structure is awesome. Thus, a writer with a foregone conclusion can assemble evidence for any position if his/her sample is "carefully" chosen.

If criticism is to reveal what popular culture expresses and reflects about ourselves and our society, we need a method which will allow us to interrogate this relationship. It must be capable of incorporating the mass economic base of the popular arts and the nature of the shared cultural experience, and it must not mystify its own assumptions and genesis. It must be able to find its structure in the works of popular culture themselves and not restructure or reduce their elements to "prove" an argument.

Structuralism is a method of analysis first developed to study the structure of language. It was then used to interrogate the relationship between a form of popular culture (mythology) and the culture that produced it. Anthropologists Claude LÚvi-Strauss and Vladimir Propp believed that the structure of the narrative elements in basic myths could reveal the structure of the society itself. The social, political, economic and psychological organization of primitive societies could be "read" in their mythology. According to LÚvi-Strauss, myths, like language, structure and communicate the world view and values of a culture through repeated patterns of narrative "functions."

Will Wright, an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of California, San Diego, takes structuralism as his methodology to examine the relation between Western movies and U.S. institutions and attitudes, drawing on the work by LÚvi-Strauss in anthropology and on that of Kenneth Burke in literary criticism. The idea of treating Westerns as the mythology of our culture is not new: Peter Wollen (Signs and Meaning in the Cinema), Jim Kitses (Horizons West), and John Cawelti (The Six-Gun Mystique) have written books on the subject. In Six-Guns and Society, Wright takes far more of a socio-historical and less of a psychological approach than any of the previous books on the subject of myth. --Janey Place via Jump Cut, no. 18, August 1978, pp. 26-28 copyright Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, 1978, 2005 via http://www.ejumpcut.org/archive/onlinessays/JC18folder/6gunsSociety.html [Dec 2005]

Jump Cut
Online journal on film and other contemporary media. Seeks to recognize media in social and political context in relation to class, race, and gender.

Co-editors John Hess - Chuck Kleinhans - Julia Lesage

Associate Editors
Edith Becker, Julianne Burton, Michelle Citron, Doug Eisenstark, Jane Gaines, Kathy Geritz, Deborah Holdstein, Ernie Larsen, Gina Marchetti, Sherry Millner, Manji Pendakur, Dana Polon, Mark Reid, B. Ruby Rich, Kimberly Safford, Robert Stam, Peter Steven, Tom Waugh, Claire Whitaker, Linda Williams

See also: Structuralism - Structuralist film theory - film theory - film genre - genre theory - 1975 - western film

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