Merleau-Ponty - The Madness of Vision

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146dernFrenchvisualtheory
A critical reader

6/ited by Nigel Saint and Andy Stafford

Manchester University Press Manchesterand New York distributed in the United States exclusively by Palgrave Macmillan

the madness of Merleau-Ponty:
vision
NathalieAubert
Il y a unesortede folie dela vision. (Merleau Ponty1968: 106)

published in ofPerceptionwas MauriceMerleau Ponty'sPhenomenology at the samelime ds Sartre's Existentialism Is a Humanism;it was lr)45, *-+<'LesTemps modernes. ln his article The dlsoIhe yearthey both crea'tsdtl War Ha. faken Place'that appearediniT.refirst issueo[ Leslemps nes, Merleau-Pontynoted: 'We havelearned history and we claim moder that it r]ust not be forgotten' (l19 5l l964a: 150). At the heart of Phenomenology of Perceptio,is a discussionofconsciousness ofbeing in theworld, and perhaps,more precisely, of being in-rhis world. The kind of concretephilosop\ thut M"rt.uu-ponfilJr iiiinding to establish therefore claimed that we could not escape our coexistence with others and for this reasonphilosophy could not be severedfrom languageand hrstory. His ambition to find truth in our being in the world - and this coexistence with others is also one of the stepping stones towards a philosophyaimed at defining the nature of the look - called first of all ior i returnto the perceived ra orld a, the presupposed foundationof all rationality.The perceivedhrld for Merleau-Pontyis alwaysthe presupposedfoundation of all rationalitv, all value and all existenceeven if there is a whole cultural world which constitutes a second level of experience. Perceptual In this chapter,I will first examineMerl eau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception and its thesisof the'primacy of perception'and progressively follow the philosopher'semphasison llsral perceptionasthe archetypal iorm of all perception.Looking for truth in perceptionmeant that Merleau-Pontytook an unprecedented level ofinterest in art: I will then examinethe way he articulateshis'topography of a phenomenology of Painting' (Johnson 1993: 3) and move on to his unfinished text, The

SEMIOTICS PRECURSORS: PHENOMENOLOCYAND

MERLEAU-PONTY: THEMADNESS OF VIStON

Visible up againa numberof his and theInvisible, in which he takes analyses of the object, the body, and the relation betweenthe seer the visible, in order to show that they acquire their full meaning outside of a psychologicalinterpretation and when they are in a new phenomenologicalontology. with a of Perception Merleau-Ponty opens the Phenomenology question:'What is phenomenology?' Anchoring his answerin works,r he provides a deceptivelysimple definition:
and according to it, all problems Phenomenology is the studyof essencesl of perception. or the the essence oftisences: amount to finiing definitions for example.([1945] 2001:vii) essence of consciousness, lrnmediately, however, things get more comPlicated: back into But phenomenology is also a philosophy which puts essences existence, and does nol exPectto arrive at an understanding of man and the world from any starting point other than that of their'ptj.cityl (ilid.)

At the same time, this facticity servesas a basis for a philosophy, which 'placesin abeyance the assertionsarising out of natural attitude, the bett€r to understandthem'(ibid.). The task as they appear phenomenologyis the descriptiveanalysisof essences our intellectual intuition. Its realisationrecuires the searchfor a I thar is, absolutely; dation,a sphere inilich thingsgivethemselves which rendersthem a:larity, dislinclness and completeness or demonstrablycertain.The originality of Merleau-Ponty'sapproach that it is seeking this facticity in a world that is always ' To tr% as Descartes had attempted before, to establisha and an'account of space,time and that is both a'rigorous science' of world as we'live'them'(ibid.)appears. against the background nalist philosophy,an impossible,contradictory task. And yet this is

ofthe inter:4a;nirg ofthe subiectand the object 1qregainthe experience been los-t-j1L-dualistic philosophies.So doing, Merleau-Ponty had that the qu€stion that of perception merged with the ontological found questionin its simplestform, namely an inquiry into the meaning ofthe beingof what is. arguesthat it is in and through our experilndeed,Merleau-Ponry primord-ially perceptuJ.lhat we are initiatedinto ire tt ingi;etl ence, what we'live'that we find a path r;wards Ir is in the'immiffiof This explains the pfi!ose of the phenomenological transcendence. asa return to perception.In ThePrimacy return to the things themselves Merleau-Ponty establishesthat 'the perceived world is 0f Perception, alwaysthe presupposedfoundation of all rationality, all value and all existence'(1964b: 13) even if'there is a whole cultural world which a secondlevel about perceptualexperience'(ibid-: 33). Prior constitutes to this 'second level of perceptual experience',there is perception in itself,'thefundamental basiswhich cannot be ignored' (i&id). Insteadof approachingperception on the basis of consciousness, he approached consciousness as.basedon perception. This means not only that consciousness is a rnoment of perception,but that consciousness ofself lJa PercePtlon: At theoutsetofthe studyofperception, we find in language the notion of sensation, which seems immediateand obvious:I havea sensation of redness, ofblueness, ofhot or cold.It r^rill, however, be seen that nothins could in fact be more confused, and thar because thev acceoted it readily, tradilionalanalyses missedrhe phenomenon of perception. ([1945] 2001:3) Significantly, the first sentence of the first chapter of his study mentions language and how we wrongly assumethat we understand perceptionTetause we accept a certain type of_formulation without questioning what is at the hearr ofthe sensalion (of red, blue, hot or cold) itlEtF--Pbitdition is the sensation and its expressionand that is

very programmeof Merleau-Ponty's Pheidltenologyof
which is supposedto account for the paradox of immanence and 1 scendence that are both..present ir perciption. In this book it Merleau-Ponty's intention to establish a solid basis tor the I which would takehim forward from the phenomenology of to studies on imagination, Ianguage,culture, reason and on poliLical ethical, and evenreligious experience.'z With the thesisof the 'primacy of perception',Merleau-Ponty to assed first of all that the perceivedl.ifj-world is the prima he Following Husserl'scall for a return to 'things themselves',

PRECURSORS: PHENOMENOLOGY AND SEMIOTICS

MERLEAU-PONTyr THEMADNESS OF VIStON

Phenomenology of Perception the pre-reflexivephenomenal field which he called'being in the world' (ibid.: xiii), examining the experienceof perception prior to the construction ofthe body asobject and the cogrto as a rational subject,'Vision' for him could not be reduced,as in ths empiricist tradition, to a mere sensationnor could it be an escape into 'The perceivedis not limited to that the purer world of eidetic essences, which strikes my eyes'he contended,'when I am sitting at my desk,the space is closedbehind me not only in idea,but also in reality'(1965: 249). This'inherence to the world'explains Merleau-Ponty'semphasison the body; he goes so far as to claim that vision is linked with the other senses, and that touch for example plays a role in our perception of colours.There is no objectifying gazein his work,r rather an'inherence' to the textured quality ofthe world surrounding us. The world is apprehendedby him on the level ofan interactivepresence and the liv-ed body is irreducible to a static image observedfrom without:'the lived perspective that which we actually perceive, is not a geometricor photographic one' ( Johnson1993:64). Equally,because the body is not a static image,Merleau-PontyechoedBergsonin stressing temporality asone of its constituentelements.4 This position emerges towards the end of Phenomenology of Perception, particular in in the chapter dedicatedto temporality.5Merleau-Ponty'swork thus arguesthat visual images are not instantaneous snapshots of external realitt that they have a duration. Most importantly, this temporal dimension forms the basisof his definition of the visual as a knot of words and imases. Having criticised classicalpreffdices iiuting totf,.i."ption (and in particular the hegemonyof a vision based,vision-centredepisteme found in the division between object and subject as presentedin both the empiricist and intellectualist tradition) rn Phenomenology of Perception,he endeavoured,in an unfinished text (€dited by Claude Lefort after the author's untimely death in 1961) known as The Visible and the Inyisible, to take up again a number of his early analysesby concentratingespecially on the thing, the body,the relation betweenthe seerand the visible. The Visibleand the Inylsibleis the result of MerleauPonty's exploration in his latter_years of the relationship between perception and language. ln Phenomenologyof Perception,MerlealJPonty set out an optimistic hermeneutic belief in the saturation of the world with meaning, but came up againsthow to extract this meaninS without losing altogether the directnessof the initial contact with the world, with the things themselves; in other words, how the visible and

the invisible can interact in a non-contradictory way is one of his key PreoccuPatlons. Appearing at the end of The Visible and the Invisible. his ,working notes' allow us to seeMerleau-ponty,s thought on languageat work. Under the date 27 October 1959,he wrote: I describe perceptionas diacritical,relative, oppositionalsystem the primordialspace astopological (that is, cut out in a total voluminosity whichsurrounds me,in whichI am,whichis behindme aswell asbefore me.. .) Thisis right.But thereis all thesame thisdifference between perception andlanguage, that I see theperceived thingsandthat the significations on thecontrary areinvisible. ([196a] 1968: 2I3-14) Perceptionis now almost entirely concentratedin the act ofseeing: We seethe thingsthemselves, the world is what we see: formulaeof this

meaning. the description of this perceptual processhas to be firmly anchoredin an elaboratedefinition ofvision; True philosophy consists in reJearning to look at the world,([1945] 2001:lrrj. Since The Phenomenology of perception, and evenmore so The Visibte qnd the Invisible,Merleau-ponty,s insistenceon the absence of exterior

ments or of "solutions'l but as a veil lifted, a verbal chain woven,(

[1964]

PRECURSORS: PHENOMENOLOCY AND SEMtOTtCS

MERLEAU-PONTYT THEMADNESS OF VISION

1968: 199). The ontological affinity betweenvision and the visit meansthat vision cannot piercethe ontological texlureout oi;hich is made. This transc,endence is what the philosopher calls cftl equally,the incarnate condition of vision, the fact that vision the milieu of the world, 'as an envelopment irreducible in principle frontal grasp' (Barbaras2004: 156) is what Merleau-p;nly c;ll following Husserl,the,/lesfi.More precisely, since vision cannot distinguished from theiorld, it followsthar rheworld c)nnor be disii guished from vision either. The duality between subiect and which raer3es ar the levelof peqceg.lion requiresa new philor languageto describe this paradoxical inteia?tio-rior irreri

work Cdzan-ne's Doubt.Rathertellingly,Cd.zanne\ Doubt appeared in Fontaine, aiffireview of poetry and Frenchletters.6 ihis clearly reflected Merleau-Ponty's beliefthatin orderto lorm a new ideaof

(of 'rationality') are ultimately (rructuresof categoricalthought We are always immersed in the world and in iounded PercePtion. to it. Equally, because our encounter with the DerceptuallyPresent become Iost in darkress, it has to be underpinned by Sepething'would constitutes it, that grasp that tries to its significance. It is not an activity programme doctrine but a of phenomenological research a dogmatic whichhe left incomPleteat his death. Although Ctzanne's Doubtwas dedicated to the study of two painters: Leonardoda Vinci and C€zanne,Merleau-Ponty was more interested, more attun€d to Cezanne'sefforts to 'paint from nature'. For, in the Frenchpainter, the philosopher found a modern artist who did not techniquesoflinear perspectivd'lnd to b.eslaveto the Renaissance seem 'instinctive' This appibach to painting, ridillEd-with anxiety and outline. (the discordance posthumous recognition of between the doubt achievements and the critical reception of his works during Cizanne's his lifetime is well documented)7results,in Merleau-Ponty'seyes,in a genuinely originary.form ofexpression:'the artist launcheshis work just asa man once launched the first word, not krowing whether it will be anything more than a shout' (Johnson 1993: 69). C6zanne himself reportedlysaid that he did ngt-lvant to make a picture, but to attempt'a piece \,Vhen of-gqllurel he quotedC€zanne saying'The landscape thinks itselfin me' (ibid.:671, Merleau-Ponry seemed to see i iri<iofthai lrithis paintei-r-work the visible world is reconstructed in the process of appearing to visual sensation, which, for the philosopher epitomisedhis phenomenology of painting, The painter does not depict representations in his mind but rather paints with his body which is mingled with the perceivellurprld. This immeJsisir of ttre viewer in the world on view The selfrevealed by painting is thus 'not a self through transpareiriy, like thought, which only thinks its object by assimilating it, by constituting it, by transforming it into lhought. It is a selfthrough confusion, narcissism, through inherenceof the one who seesin that whiih_hr sees'( 1964b 162-3). And yet, although at one with the world, the painter is also apart from it, which is the paradoxical, enigmatic 'madness' of visioil?7e and Mind, which was the last work Merleau-Poriiy sdw publishedfiras conceivsd, accordingto Claude Lefort, as a preliminary statementto the book that the philosopher was writing at the time of his death, which became ?fie Visible and the Invisible. Tellingly, C€zanne's painting (alongsidethat of Matisse,Klee and some Dutch artists) is still at the

progl,J,al€ryor It is aspainstaking asthe worksof Balzac, Feanne by reason ofthe same kind ofattentiveness andwonder,ihe same demand foi awareness, the same will to seize the meaning ofthe world or ofhistory as lhrt meaning comes intobeing. Tnthiswayit merges into thepeneral efforl o fmo d er n t houghr {. [ lc 4 5 l2 0 0 t:x x i ) A central difficulty of Merleau-ponty's approach to phenomenology is that although there are'maq4poeys for conscious_ness to be conscious,, as he saysin a famous phrase(ibid.: 124),we never completelyescape lrom the realm of perc.eptual reality;even the seemingly ind-pendent

PRECURSORS: PHENOMENOLOCY AND SEMIOTtCS

THEMADNESS OF VISION MERLEAU-PONry:

heart of the reflection on science and painting in Eye and Descarles's Dioptrique is criticised for failing to appreciatethe ical importance of painting. One can indeed argue, as Merleaudoes, that Descartesis more concerned with draw-ing than p when light, lighTfiig,shadows,reflectionsand colours are 'all the of fthe painter's] quest'(ibid.: 166).Merleau-Pontyconcentrates on b_ojy"going as far as arguing that 'we c annot imagine how a mind paint' (ibid: 162):
It is bylending his bodyto the world that the arrist changesthe world paintings. To understand these transsubstantiationswe must go back the working, actual body- not the body asa chunk ofspace or a bundle functionsbut Lhatbody which is inlertwining of vision and movement.

(ibid.) According to Merleau-Ponty, this is this li4k between vjsion mov-qment that forbids us to conceivevision asdn operation ofthou 'that would set up beforethe mind a picture or iiiFresentation of world,a world oI immanence and of ideality'1ibid.). For MerleauPo paintiggreveals the,e&igma of the body simultaneously bgigg seen.This is what Merleau-Pontyattemptsto describein terms chiasma or intertwining between body and world. The body envel the world, that is to say makes it appear, only to the degree to-wfiiiienvelopedby it. Thus, the manifestation of the world for the body is the sametime a manifestation of the world by itself within the body, that the body's constituting power coincideswith the phen of the world. This intertwining reveals an ontological conti between the body and the world, a co-belonging deipii.than

sense that of c]osEre.grd infinity__of as ahsence oI exp-r€ssion discovery of the tr4rorld, imPUed rDhed the tbe he was writing The Prose lhe time lime .,me at the came Merleauits authentic, originary appearance. unveilingof the world in in which the world is only pontythus offered an approachto expression its obscurity, gives as a presence which, through eivenas a withdrawal, absorbed into the expressed. 6irth to expressionwithout everbeing The Visible antl the Invisible at work in If a number of the categories the novel, of pictorial expression, areborrowed from the description provide Time, rs also able to ln Search of Lost andin particular, Pro.ust's is a movement as one which a model for this conception of exPression, and continiring perceptuallife (even while transforming it) preserving and which is simultaneously apprehending ideality.'The difference perceplionwhich dominated Phenomenology of langu3gqand between visible the World ro The and iiiiiiueEJrom Tfte P.os e of Perreprior, theInvisible as tr;voffioments of,oIt:, more fundaloental reality: The philosopher knowsbetter than anyonethat what is lived is livedbut spg\eD.-that, is nalJr maskoverBeing, born at this depth,language ifone knowshow to grasp it with all its rootsand its foliation- the most that valuable witness to Being, that it doesnot interruptan immediation wouldbe perfect without it, that the visionitself,thethoughtitself,are,as hasbeensaid,'structured beforcthe lette\ asa language', arearti.ulation apparitionof somi[hing ivhere there was nio-thing or somethii]*dlse. ([196a] 1968: 126) Merleau-Pontyarguesthis on the basisof a new definition ofperception, sonceivedas exegesis'. The Iived is already'spokenlived'before the letter.Paraphrasing liEan, he eiplains thql-vision, placed at the same levelasthought is 'structured as a language'. This 'articulation before the letter' (as well as the velv use of a bot,tnical termsof what in philosophical metaphor)is a Lransposition Proust expressedin literary terms with the episode of the hawthorn 6.ash in Swann's Way. It wasin vain that I lingeredbeside in their the hawthorns - breathing invisible andunchanging odountrying to fix it in mymind (whichdid not knowwhatto do with it),losingit, recapturing myself in the it, absorbing

opposition. To illustrate this, Merleau-Ponty uses the concept of'fler Fleshdesignates the co-appearance of the world and the subJ'iii iry3$ated. In this theoreticalelaboration, painting as ari art is
essential stepping stone; its creations, a 'figured philosophy': '

paintings themselves (ibid.:t68). wecouldseek a figuredphilosophy' means of painting,Merleau-Pohty is hopingto be ableto openup originarysignifiing of language, its inscriptionin the world before world transmutes this signifying into ideality.
After havingdescribed the mute expression of our contactwith world which he seespainting accomplishing (especiallyin C6zannel art), Merleau-Ponty shows that pictorial expressionannouncesthat

language. Ifthe world canbe painted, it is because a scatterefGiG
contains already all of what painting and languagewill unfold on

AND SEMIOTICS PRECURSORS: PHENOMENOLOGY

THEMADNESS OF VISION MERLEAU-PONry:

51

hereand therewith a yourhful rhythm which disposed the flowers
heartedness and at intervals as unexpectedas cettain intervals in music they went on offering me the samecharm in inexhaustibleprofusion, without letting me delve any more deeply,like those melodies which without coming any nearerto can play a hundred times in succession secret.I turned awayfrom them for a moment so asto be able to leturn them afresh [...] And then I returned to hawthorns, and stood which, one imagines,one will them as one standsbefore masterpieces better able to'take in'when one has looked away for a moment something else;but in vain did I make a screenwith my hands,the they aroused in me to concentrate upon the triowers, lhe feeling obscure and vague,struggling and failing to free itself, to float across become one with them. They themselvesoffered rne no enlightenment, and I could not call upon any other flowers to satisir this longing.(Proust1988:151-2)

which is, for him, the disclosure of a universe iav.isible o[ ideas. ^tan science, and an important with one in his view is that ifiidifference cannot be detached from'the sensible appearance ideas and be lrese posi ti vi ty' ([196 41 i nto a 1968: quot ing second 149) . lt is wor t h erecred comment on Proust'stext at length, sinceit allowsus to yerleau-Ponty's way p.erception and expressionint€rconnect, and the way, even the se€ speaking of music, Proust is still, in fact, speakingof the visible: when can of course close in the'little phrase'betr{een the marksof Swann ascribe the'withdrawn andchillytenderness'that makes flusicalnotation, or its sense to the narrow rangeof the five nofes that up its essence it and to the constantrecurrence of tlvo of them: while he is compose signsand this sense, he no longerhasthe 'little phrase' thinkingof these he hasonly'bar€values substituted for the mysterious entityhe had itself, for the convenience ofhis understanding: perceived, Thusit is essential to appear'undera this sort of ideasthat they be'veiled with shadows', They give us the assurance disguise'. that the'great unpenetrated and discouragin8 night ofour soul'isnot empryis not'nothingness'; but these thesedomains, theseworlds that line it, peopleit, and whose entities, presence it feelslike the presence of someone in the dark, havebeen acquired onlythroughits commerce with thevisible, to whichtheyremain (ibid: 150) attached. This example ftom Proust's novel is in a way more telling than those derivedftom painting, since,it is, after all, a visual art. There is no doubt that Merleau-Ponty deliberately chose a musical example - in a novel where pictorial descriptions abound - to expand and illustrate what 'visible'means for him. Thq'ivisibility he has in mind is bom out of our unmersion in the -world and <i?our ability to,.r:qress it. Expression is anchored in intentioraliry which is part of what I he process of perception ts.The possibility of erpression inscribed in things themselves is t-he guarantee tlat 'tiere is somethingl There is a 'lining in the 'texture' of all lhings that is potenl.ially the bearer of meaning: the 'absence', which Merleau-Pontyalso calls 'a certain hollow, a certain interior'is the 'negativity that is not nothing' (ibid: 151);it is, ashe saysquoting Valery, something like the 'secretblackness of mik' (ibid; 150).What Vinteuil's sonata's notes offer is a sort of screenedpresentation oiideas, enti;;;tr-ed oehind these few notes, 'perfecrly-distinct ftom one anolher, unequal among themselvesin value and in significance'(Proust 1988: 505). Merleau-Pontyconcluded, after a passage €ntirely dedicatedto music: With the frrstvision,the first contact, the first pleasure, thereis initiation, that is, not thepositingof a content, but the opening of a dimension that

In this episode, Proust stages powerfully the idea of a 'plqcqdeJ its strictbalinguistic expression. Languageis here-sense consi as an analogu,eof perceptual life rather than a transforming of meaning; Proust indicateshere, and in other moments of his long (bearing all the marks of a quest for truth), the insertion of And the reason why into the world, the world as veiling of sense. author of In Searci of Lost Time coulil-arovide such a model Merleau-Ponty's conception of language is that Proust better than anyone else,the movement which, in vision, opens texture of Being of which the sensorial- yet enigmatic - messages onlv the Dunctuations:
No one has gone firrther than Proust in fixing the relations behveenthe visible and the invisible, in describing an idea that is not the contrary of the sensible,that is irs lining and its depth. ([196a] 1968: 149)

Expressionis not a veil draped over the world but'insofar as it is verybecoming ofthe world, what can open us to it'(Barbaras 2004: or, in other words: 'The eyelives in this texture asman lives in his (1 9 6 4b: 166) . Merleau-Ponty specifically r€fers to'the little phrase' which, Swann'slove story with Odette, is like the 'anthem of their love',and quotes from Proust: 'the notions of light, sound, of relief, of p voluptuousness, which are the rich possessions with which our domain is diversified and adorned'(Proust 1988:503). For Ponty the arts,but also human passions and generallythe experience the visible world, all contribute (no lessthan science)to the exp

52

PRECURSORS: PHENOMENOLOCy AND SEMtOTtCs

MERLEAU-PONTY: THEMADNESS OF VISION

can never again be closed,the establishmentof a level in terms of every other experiencewill henceforth be situated. The idea is this this dimension. ([1964] 1968:l5l)

aftistic forms anrsrrc torms are a.tanquage a lanquagecapableof introducing us lo perspecttves lnsteadol confirming us us in our our own. own. Cezanrd Cezan amohg others, supplied Merleau-ponty with a conception of co her entdef or m ati o n 'b y w h i c h th e y c o n c e n tra te.the sti l l

lilg"1.t: their styleis what allowsthem to makemanif.r,

uswithsyrnbols rt"r neu., itof lnul pro.vides

ifr. ,jriif.-rrrij

3"11i"S

of [their] perception and maket, .r", .*pr.rrfy;ii

Preciselybecause it dwells and makesus dwell in a world we do not have to think abour-asno aIf.lytical work can.(ibid.:77) "lifio#t?;;

us to seeand \ey !o--rhework of art teaches

;;;-#

Following Husserl,Merleau-pontF came *:.*..I^:t_{,*"phy :,j:i""1 T:"Tllcl:]:

to considerthat:

i: lhe veryvoice of the rhings, rhewaves and ,h" fr.;;,;. iil;;l :r::: it 1 9 68: I 55)

jTi'::;#j ffi ,:l;lili"J,'fi h#l":,Hn::f.:tttr

rn resrormg [...] consists a powerto sr.gnifi, wild mearing. an expressjon of erperience-b-y e>cp

:; il:'J::ffi :1: Hil::,X:; ;8"J#t?il1H ;.fl"fl *;l

Aubert,N. (2OO3), Proust:La traduction du sensible, Oxford: Legenda. Barbaras,R. (2004) The Being of the Phenomenon:Merleau-Ponty's The keynotions introduced in some oft Ontology, ttans. Ted, Toadvineand LeonardLawlor, Bloomington and Indianapolis,IN: Indiana University Press. Derrida,f. (1973) Speech and Phenomenon: And Other Essays on Husserl's Theory of Signs,trans. D. B. Allison, Evanston, IL: Northwestern L.lj::,T"."rdimensions.iinees----Api*,r,ii*""."1,r;;;;";;i,il; th-emselves to a strict definition.io University Press. * uescombes, V. (1980) Mod.ern French Philosophy, Cambridge: One of the problems that the later generatron had with CambridgeUniversity Press. Ponty's writings was_ that, as Marjlulay explaintd, ,natier toucault,M. ([1969] 1989)TheArchaeology ofKnowledge andthe Discourse imbrication .F,r,. ii,."i,i". ylual rr"'ie"..r on Lqnguage,ttats. A. M. Sheridan London: Srnith, Routledge. ffl*:""llg*: the , flesh_ofthe world, theywould question anypositi ""a iay, M. (t993) Downcast Eyes,Berkeley,CA: University of California Press.

is certainly one of the reasonswhy _ 21s"g *i,h l_ri":";l; ;;;;t_ was considered an-imlgsse by many of his successors. lillr:rfnl CJaude Leforrpointedout:

language in particular andrhemeraphorical ,f,fr L iir""*i'i

In the end however, rhis reliance on artti(ic lansuaqe.

(197]: 94). o[ a mel.aphysics, tbe mqtaphysics_ofgesence' confines was it especially struc-turalism which iiduced a crisis in FinalJy, and 'deconst ru cl ion' was used as a mefhod to enology,r'z phenom 'phenomenologwhat wasconsidered naivein Merleau-Ponty's unmask not alwayscoherently icalpositivism',This critical discoursecoalesced, (Jay 1993:327), into an attack on visuality in all its or self-consciously corncidi.ng with the proclamation of the death of the subject fotms disqualified a philosophy essentially centred on the expei;inceof which 'beingfor myselfI however,we can saythat Merleau-Ponty'senduring legacy, Today, his of an incarnatedreality ofyision in the corporeal and social conception havebeen developedagainby a number ofphilosophers (Nanry, context and then Rancidre)r3whose reflection on the visual, like his, is often basedon art; painting in particular, not as rep-resentationof the empirical world - understood in the platonii, metaphj'iieal way- but as presentation of world, of sense, of existence. References

::i'i,'.lJ:::i,'ffi"::::"511;:-,".t1fi ::tr#*m'.*"i:y,::l

ffi mld#':r##*f i#krrtr:#::!*{#

PRECURSORS: PHENOMENOLOGY AND SEMIOTtCS

MERLEAU-PONTYT THEMADNESS OF VtStON (seeJay Sartret conception of a'reifying look'goes as far as'ocuJarphobia, D93i276) 4 Bergsontinfluence on Merleau-Pontyis significant,and fully acknowledged by the arlthor of Phenomenohgyof Percepioa.Bergsoncrucially associaied perceplion not with knowledge but with aclion. for him. perception ;mounts lo the produ(tion of imageswhich a." in mouement bec"r"e the perceiving subject is a living subject. It is the singularity of rhis movement explaining the emergence of specific manifestations that accountsfor perception. Perceptualmanifestation does indeed proceed in this instance from the stricl relation between livinq marem.., a^a phenomenalfield. ln so far as it stems fro- moue-int, perceDtion is wirh focusing on the thing irselfin order ro circum;crib; ir; it is sarisfied intentional becauseof its mobility. This is the reasonwhy the way to access perceptionin a satisfactoryway cannot thereforebe either by coincidenceor fusion with things: an essential component ofthe processofunderstanding perception is an interrogation on language. Merleau-Ponty usesboth Heideggerand Bergson,even ifhe 5 In his analysis, thinks that the latter'was wrong in explaining the unity of time in terms of its continuity' preferring to follow Heidegger'sdefinition h Sein snd Zeit accordingto which 'temporality temporalizesitself as future_which lapses into-the-past-by-coming-inro-the-present, (Merleau-ponty[1945] 2001: 420). 6 Fontaine:Reyue mensuellede la potsie et des lettres 6(47) (Dec. frangaises I945), 80-100. The director of rhe journal was Max_pol Foucher.This issue of the journal included essays by Roger Caillois on Bossuetand pascal,by GeorgesBlin on Gabriel Marcel, by paul Eluard and paul Claudel. It also containedthe announcementofthe first nu mbet of Les Tem\s modernes,the poliricaJ and philosophicaljournal editedby Sartre and Meileau_ponty isee Iohnson i99J: J75). 7 It famously causedhis break-up with his childhood friend, Emile Zola, who. in i'Grlre [The Masrerpiece]had depicted a failed painter, Claude Lantier. who,Cezanne largely assumed, had beenbased perceotion on his friend.s of hlm.

fohnson, G. A. (1993) The Me eau-PontyAesthetics Readcr, lL: Northweslern University Press.

Lefort,C. ( 1982) 'Philosophie et non-philosophie', (Jun.),10 Esprlr
Merleau-Ponty,M. ([1945] 20O1)Phenomenology of perception, Smith, London: Routledge. ([1964] 1968) The Visible and the Invisible, trans. Evanston,IL: Northwestern University Press. ([1945] 1964a) 'The War Has Taken place', trans. Dreyfus Dreyfus in Sense qnd Non-Sense, Evanston, IL: University Press. ......._(1964b) The Primacy of Perception, tans. J. M Fdie, Northwestern University Press. (1964c) Indirect Language and the Voicesof Silence Eyanston,IL: Northwestern University Press, (1965) The Structure of Behatiour, trans. A. L. Fisher, Methuen. Proust, M. (1988) Swann\ Way, trans. C. K. Scott Moncrieff, Penguin Classics. Rancidre, f. (1998a) La Chqir des mots: Politiques de I'dcriture, Galilde. (1998b) La Pqrolemuetle: Essai sur lescontredictions de l.l trre, Paris:Hachette.

(2000)LePartage du sensible, Paris: La Fabrique. Zola,E. (2008)TheMasterpiece, ed R.Pearson, trans.T.Walton, OxfordWorld'sClassics. Notes
I ln Phenomenology of Percepion, Merleatt-Ponty,immediately the possible 'contradictions of a 'docrrine which savs mentioned both Husserl and HeideggeralongsideDescartes. For Ponty, Husserl's Cartesiafi Meditations is the primary p reference for anybody trying to establish a philosophy which shall be 'rigorousscience' ([1945]2001:vii). In The Primacy of Perception, the 'r,lhercMerleau-Ponty addressed Frangaise de Philosophiein order to defend the central thesisofhis

ptb\shed Phenomenology of Perception shortly after its publication,
acknowledgedthe programmatic aspectofhis phenomenology of

Gallimard published it asa book in 1964.
9 As I have tried to showin Aubert(2003i. l 0 'Les notionscl6s introduites danscettains essais deSignes, dansLaprose du

study, [it is] 'only a preliminary since it hardlyspeaks of cultureor 11964b:25).
3 This is where he differs significantly with Sartre'sanalysisof the gaze.

Vonde,dans L'(E il et I'esprir, darls Le Visible er l'jnviible surrour | . . . I n'ex_ er(aient plusmanifestement la fonction qu on preterux con.epi. Jun"le

56

PHENoMENOLOCY ANDsEMlOTlCs PRECURSORST ftvenibilitt, citculatift, Chair,chiasme, discours m€taphysiqr.re.

or dimensions,charniires, PilotJ, ces mots ne semblaient Plus d'une stricte d6finition (Lefort 1982:101). l 1 In a letter to Alphonse de Waelhensof 1962,he wrote:'The only

but futile with is a varietyof serious paintingMerleau-Ponty deals humbugs. The only tissement, of interest only to well-intertioned
wortl lookine at has the same rqisox d'6trc as lhe raison d'ttre of lhe

Metz: constructing Christian
tn film rneaning
JolY Martine

- mystery'(quotedin lay 1993t326) pointsout (1980:77), 12 Although,asViocentDescombes
not a philosophical school in the way that the phenomenological

uponphilosophical Nonetheless: 'Theeffectofstructuralism was.
is [...] incontestable.' RanciCreusesthe category of the'flesh as defined by number of his books su.h as La Patule fluette, La Chair des mots Partagedu sensible.

ChristianMetzJ1931-93) is righdy considered as the founder of the gkjnq.ma. His semiologicalthought, part of a wider strucsemiology dominant at the time, brought together cinema and movement turalist cinema and psychoanalysis, and later cinema with utt€rance finguistics, $eory.rNeyer one to be an intellectual'maitre' [guru], Metz was neverexemplaryin his opennessartd innovation, as well as his rigour. theless In an interview, Marc VeuELleminded ChristiaAJ[etz of his 'trois r6gimes.d'6critulgj!(rentb' [three different writing regimes]:'celui des Essais, celui de Langageet cin(ma (qu'il a) explicitement voulu "#i6nne'l technique J. n i 2l.nnn c"toi du Signifinr imaginaire, avec ur stylebeaucoup plus litt€raire, plus fl.yide,parfois presquetransparert' lthat of the Essdb, that of Language and cinemawhichhe explicitly wanted to be 'rock solidl and finally that'of the lmaginary Signifierwith a much more lit6' style that is fluid, sometimesEc-nilihnsparent] (Marieand Vernet 1990t276).

Film astext
It was the 1950s and 1960s that saw the founding of a semiology of

AND SEMIOTICS PHENOMENOLOCY PRECURSORS:

METZ: CONSTRUCTINC CHRISTIAN MEANINC lN FILM

des unitds de discours,en s'obligeantpar ld i rechercherles

s/tef#i,(qutils' sbientou non descodes)qui viennent informer of en eux' [a definitiontodayof thesemiology textes et s'impliciter
is the wish to considerfilms as ferfs,asunits ofdiscourse which the searchfor the different s/sfemswhichinform thesetexts and part of them, whether basedon codesor not] (Metz 1971:l4). From first article onwards,'Le cin€ma:langue ou langage?'(1964), right up to his final publi work on film asdiscoursewill be based, on'l'6nonciation au cin€ma' [utterance in cinema]. All his work sentsa constantquestioning oflanguage and its materials,including ways they work, the signifying processes,and using theories there was utterance.Along the way,aswith studiesof all discourses, bound to be a fundamental questioning of the links between analysisand language,and the whys and whereforesof and cinema. The famous issue 4 of the structuralist brought together;feries of seminal articles, Communications Roland Barthes's additio;To 'Le cindrni, langlueou langage?': nar?aiif', rh€torique de I'image',Claude Bremond's'Le message Todo.loJ's'Ladescription de la signification en litt€rature'.Looking on his first article, we might be struck by the programmatic the piece,and this may be part of our a posferiorisynthesisof the of Christian Metz. Indeed, there are ilijlg "flecadesthat

t lEnonciationimpersonnelle ou Iesitedu frIm ftom thisearlyarticle, in the latterwecanalreidysee Metz's futuretrajector|,aswell asthat
many of his successors. For each new research topic Metz begins with a th€orique des dcrits pr6c€dents'Itheoreticallybasedsurvey of writing] (1964: 66). Hence his referencenot only to the or Bela mentioned but alsoto the RussianFormalists,Eisenstein,

came with his commentsattached, as recalJed by those unconsciousl) the Let us not forgetthat his seminarwas very r/ho attended seminar. in that it was both closed and open to the public; closedin the 5pecial that Christian Metz allowed in (and with great generositybesides) sense only those people he had already spoken to individually about their jmondain' Ifashionmotives,thereby avoiding the seminar becoming the case with certain other seminarsat the EHESSat the able],as was dme;but open, in the sensethat he allowed many French and internato attend and to talk about th€ir own work, in such a tional researchers on cine-ma ftom asmany different wayasto nourish theoreticalrese_arch points of view as possible.Metz's weekly ieminar allowed for an exploration of major and ancillary themes, both complementary and contradictory. In line with the essentiallyinterdisciplinary nature of there were French and international theoreticiansof sound, semiology, of '6nonciation' Iutterance], gestalt, didactics, media studies, experimental cinema, narrative theory, generativegrammar; not to mention sociologists,historians, experimental directors, French and international critics, and young researchers coming fiom many horizons. 'La ... est"interdisciplinaire" par elle-mdme [...] elle entretient sdmiologie ddji, et couramment, desrapports avecautre chose:critique desiddologies,psychanalyse, f€minisme, analysetextuelle,histoire structurale . . . sciences de l'6ducation, etc.' [Semiology is 'interdisciplinary' by its nature,it already has regular links with other subjects:forms of ideological critique, psychoanalysis, feminism, textual analysis,structural history,educational theory etc.l, as Christian Metz argued in a 1990 rnteryiew(Mari€ and Vercet 19901 277).

'Lecinema: Iangue ou langage?'
As for the links betweencinema and linguistics,it fell to Christian Metz to '6puiser' (research thoroughly) the expression 'langage cin€matographique'. In his book Langqgeet cinlma which is based on the article'Lecin€ma:langueou langa$fwt{nd from the outset a concern with producing a systeqgLi9._$qqy of the question in irs Lheoretical oomain:here, that of linguistics; 'La sdmiologie peut et doit s)appuyer fortement sur la linguisiiqie, mais elle ne i.e-.eodond pu, uu.i .il"' Lsemiology can and must rely heavily on linguistics, but it is not to be confused with itl (i971: 58 n. 4). Thus we can seethe appearance, progressively, that is to say 'programmatiquement',of a dpfinition of a semiologyof cinema:'une th€orie du fait filmique est ngd pas sp€ciale-

There is work on Chgglin, o-nth'e-Frenclr3ant-gardistes'dh not Epstein, Dellucand Dulac,and then Bazinand Merleau-Ponty;
mention on contempo,raries such as Souriau, Cohen-S6at, Robbe-Grilletand Zazzo.Here the Germanistin Christian Metz (

formerteicherat th€ Institut frantaisin Hamburgdn?lnterpreter
Radio Hamburg), allowedhim to read works by Rudolph Arnheim, he even thought about translating Film als Kunst (Film-E{Art) in seminar at the EHESS.T Justas he would fl&ie ['d€pouiller'] F{eud . Lacat for Le signifiantjlnagi.naire(I97 7b), his translatibn (also unl (Le lished) of Freud's Witz und sein Beziehungzum Unbewussten d'esprit et sesrapportsatec I'inconscientlJokesand their relation to

\,^ /'

PRECURSORST SEMIOTICS PHENOMENOLOCYAND

METZ: CHRISTIAN CONSTRUCTINC MEANINC lN FtLM

ment une approcheinspirde de la linguistique, m€me s'il faut passer ceci pour atteindr€a cela'la theory of the filmic is not especially evenif one has to go thio6![ one approachinspiredby linguistics. reach tfie diherl (ibid.:13). Far from it being about an application asit hasbeenoftensuggested and much linSuistics to cinema, ('on n'applique jamais rien' Iyou never apply anlthing], Metz would in his seminars), instead it is about a conftontation, of a mea the languagesystemandtinema. If we can agree betweenlanguage, the lineuist Andrd Martinet that what characterises a phone.m^e-moneme, which is possible the doulle arli_cu,lation thanks to the isolation of smallestunities ofsound and meaning, becameclear that this isolation was no longer possiblewhen applied the cinema any more than to the image in general, Christian insisted then on the heterogeneity of cinematographic language showedthat it was indeed a langgagebut a languagein the w_idest ofthe Lerm, one.which operates on five.types of signifringmaterial: moving image, the w_ritten text,speech, noiseand mijiic.

ilbwever,if cinemiiographic lailuage hdi no s*nall unitsof
it nevertheless assembles large syntagmaticunits, which can be seen the way they permutate, and theselarge units are describedby Metz 'segments autonomes'[ftee-standingsegments]and for which he was try to write an inventory,a'Grande syntagmatique'. Thus graphic languageshareswith the languagesystema certain number rules of functioning: those of developing along the two axes of s)'ntagm and the paradigm, or also according to the laws of (1977b).Theseobservations by Christian Metz were made following major theoretical advance made by Roland Barthes in'Eldrrents s6miologie',4 by making semiology part of linguistics and not the way round as Ferdinand de Saussure had argued in the introduction hi.s Cours de linguistique gdndrale.The cinema appeared then like 'languagewithout a languagesystem'and furthermore stuck with tivity. 'Passerd'une irnage i deux images, c'est passer de l'image langage' [to move from one to two images,is to move from image language],declaredChristian Metz (1964163). He was showing all while that aslong aswe do not forget what will later be calledla' jmpdnitent'I by'l'esprithumain,cediachroniste Istitchingloperated human spirit, that impenitent diachronistl, this language'ne fait qu' aveclanarrativite du film' [is but one with the narrativityof fi]ml ( 64). Therefore it was necessarvto underline the irresistible need narrativise th€ montage between two frames, to fictionalise

analysis iusl as Koulechovhad once shown.Semiological of stitching. ' 4tude d es discour set des"t ext es". . . qui l i ke an becomes rhen fi l m relcoltrera in6vitablementla sociologie,l'histoire des cultures,1'esth6[a study of discoursesand'texts'which comes dcue, la psychanalyse' inevitably into contact with sociology, cultural history, aesthetics, (i&ld). p5ychoanalYsisl ' But still, what preciselydoes the term 'cinemalcayer?How is cinema differentftom film? Here Metz usesthe cinema-film distinction made by Gilbert Cohe!:S€at (1958), in order to sharpenthis distinction and showthe extent to which the filmic includes the cinematographicand certain specificitiesof viceversa,allowing Metz to describenevertheless language, this'languagewithout a languagesystem'. As cinematographic *grammafes" cindmatographiques', was it an acceptableform of for terminology for film? Christian Metz pointed out in the first two of Langage et cintmathal clnemawas notj__uqt_achapters language', but phique', film constitutesa vast complex'au sein a [ait cindmatogra duquel trois aspectspredominent avec force: aspect tggb,Jlologique, aspectdcongglque, aspectso-q,iplogique' [at the heart of which three dominate heavily; the technological,the economic and the sociaspects ologicall; whereas a 'fait filmique' sees in each film an 'espace delimitable' spacel, an'obietvoue de part en part A lJsigniIa definable fication' [an object wholly given over to creating meaning], a'discours clos' ia closed discoursel,which allows itself to be considered'comme un langage'uike a language]only'dans son entier' las a whole entity]. In other words,'le cin6matographique'would cover anlthing to do with the phenomenon 'cinema': economics (let us not forget the famous comment bythe then culture ministerAndr€ Malraux,'cinema is alsoan industry'); sociology ('going to the cinema'); forms of expression (particular language, screen-play, cameras, microphones, actorsJ settings,etc.); world cinema (European, Indian, Arnerican, etc.); whereasthe'filmic', for its part, would be concerned stdctly with the work itself, with the film in as much as it displaysits cinematographic (1971). Potential

Lagrandesyntatmatique
As for the need to classifythe various elementsin a'langage cin€matographique', Metz went on to establish the_firsl-grande syntagmaiique'(Metz 1968a).Its principle was to elaborateajpology of cinematographic sequencesin films with narratives typical of

PRECURSORS: PHENOMENOLOCY AND SEMIOTICS

CHRISTIAN METZ:CONSTRUCTTNC MEANiNCtN FtLM

Hollpvood, putting into play the eigblgpee-of syntagms that neededin order to start analysingat a level that reflectedthe mode in which films are put together,that is montage. So Metz lalgg-ua:ts, 'segments autonomes', into which went all elements of the t6inposition ('plao-"autdnome' Ifree-stan sec lionl/syntagms), oftime (descriptive sl.ntagms, parallel or

(sceneFquence, of compactnes5 *ith oi *itlooti.rnJgral?li-p-sis, variable length).This wasno differentfrom the seginents of monti
found in the major narrative codes that Todorov was studying at time in his narrative semiotics, alongside Greimas, Barthes Bremond. Many have cdticised the fact that this typology did not account the wholefuqglioning of the'cin€matographique', that certain films have no segment corresponding to the eighLoegmentsset out in particular,the typology did not correspond Srandes)-ntagmatique'.In

the practiceof the 'nouveau cin€ma'(Chxteau and tosfi9z9). In type of cinema, variation3'(iir irppositions) would be no longer matic but paradigmatic. Furthermore, in as much as lhe

s).ntagmatique' was interestedabove all in the visual aspect,Metz been accusedof ignoring the role of sound in cinema. In reality question ofsound, ofspeech,ofthe noisesand the music, is very in the preoccupations of Metz's thought, which had set out at earliest stage the notion of a language, be it visualor sound material. for the first objection raised concerning the relations between 'grande syntagmatique' and Holll.wood film - or those semiologyand fictional film - Metz replied by underlining the fact given that fictiofiii,film is in the predominant category, semio cannot but start by studying it. In so doing he went on to measure extent to which his 'grande syntagmatique'was adaptedto fit mo d e r n c inem a ( t 96 8 a ).H e p o i n te d o u t th a t ' mo dern' ci nema ( nout elle rague, in particular) was renewing narrative forms wi abandoning them:'Nous pensons. . . que le principal apport du "nouveari'est d'avoir enrichi le r6cit filmique' lWe believethat the effect of the'new' cinema is to have enriched the fimicl (ibidFurthermore, Christian Metz reco€lised that semiology'doit s'oc( aussi de tous les films qui sont plu!=ou moins noh:liftionnels' I also consider all films which are more or lessnon-ffETidhall.but with a nod towards his detractors;'je ne me senspas oblig6 de personnellement.,, tout le champ de la sdmiologie du cin€ma; et obligd non plus de remplir personnellementla totalit€ du programme

moi-memedansIangoge et cindma, par exemple. quei'ai pu esquisser Il (heureusemenl chercheurs pour moii)' Ll do not seemyself ;a d'autres obligedpersonallyto cover the whole field of semiology of cinema,nor personallyto cauy out in its entirety what I myself set out in Language 'aal Cinema.Thereareother researchers to do this (luckily fo, fi. that we -";f.t should understand semiology 'dans Ie sens d'analyse suggested sructurale du film et des films' [in the senseof structural analysisof fih and filmsl, with the aim of realising'une th6orie du fait filmiquel which usesfirst ofall a method inspired by linguistics,and then psychoand then by theoriesof utterance,as'les morceaux de I'acquis analysis, p€uvent et doivent circuler' [the collected data can and must move aroundl( 1971:l3). So 'La grande s)'ntagmatique'must got be considereda_!-a*rriversal bul one which revealsa dominant model o['cinemal and typ-olo_gy. us to isolate a system of oppositions (in accordance which enaourages with the first rule ofmodern linguistics) that is operativein eachparticular film, so as to understand the particular system of signification in use,Metz went on, with Michdle Lacoste, to establisha list of .sesments autonomes'in the film Adieu Philippine by lacquesnozier ftloo,1, despitehis declared aversion to 'exemples'. He preferred to work at a much wider theoreticallevel,he would say.Nevertheless, identifring the eighty-three'segmentsautolomes' that make up Jacques Rozier'shlm, allowed him to arrive ai a certain number of conclusions about the lengthofsegments,about the history of stylesin cinematography, about thc connection betweengrammar and stylisticsin cinematographics, all of which forms the basisof the particular rhetoric that belonqi to each work,As il happens. this type of analysis allowsus to show h-ow Adieri Philippine,a film about 1960syouth and above all this youth,s way of spelkingabout itself, privileges the'scine'andthe.plan -sequence' asthe 'types slrrtagmatiquesles mieux adapt€sa h conveisation, [sceneand sequence layout are the syntagmatictypes the best suited to conversationl. This work allowed Metz also to distinguish betweenthe ,sdquence cinematographique', the'unit6 filmique' (or'segment auton*oine,), on the one hand, and the nariitive sequence(normally called ,sequence') on the other which he calls the 'unitd sc€naristiquel

tfr

PHENOMENOLOGY AND SEMIOTICS PRECURSORS:

CHRISTIAN METZ: CONSTRUCTINC MEANINC iN FILM

sion de r€alit6' is intensified in the cinema thanks to the 'injection " f irr€a1it6 de I'imaee de la rdalitd du mouvement" et du son Iinjection'into the irreality ofthe image ofthe reality of movement' of (perceived) sound] (1965c: 82); Metz's insistence on the fact what ca1-de$lethe image cannot be reducedto an analogy,even if notion obviously needsto be preserved. It was imi.bitdnt for the st oloSist that the "'au deld"' ['beyond'] and the "'en de9d"' lthis side] ( analogy)be consideredin all the codeswhich add to the analogy. these codes construct the analogy (rhetorical codes, socio-cr codes,linguistic cirffef" and allow us to refute, at this stage,the' de la "puret€ visuelle"' [m1th of'visual purity'], which is very m preseni tdday and regularly invoked to point to the mlth of'pour commonly attributed to images (1970a: 9). Hence his work on notion of the 'vraisemblablecin€rnatographique' which is closerto 'effet-genre',a relatiiist'ariterion if ever there was one, and which impossible to bring up to date, accordingto Metz, unlessthere is form of a'possible'proposed;this would not be a conventional at all, allowing a new form of 'vraisemblable'lverisimilitudel (l Crucial in all this was the essayon'Trucage el cinemd (1972t I which helps us to understand the reception and the efflciency (or i ficienry) of what is known as'speqialeffects'which domiaate in cinema.In Darticular he insistei uJon iiiiidistinction be$een i effects aod visibleones;invisiblebut perceptible effects bring a sati tion to the viewer who appreciates that'l'on ne voit rien' [we nothing], it is that well done, but enjoying also the feeling of complicit in a particular type of cinema (1975c).

lmpersonal speech
It is in the area of impersonal speechthat Metz's research tion in the cinema appears, evenifit is true to saythat, in terms, this dnly comes in the final publications Metz. To study enormous areaMetz usesthe samemethod; exploring existingworks enunciation, understandingthem fully and working out if Efidhow might help to think about enunciation in the cinema. In 1983,a number of the journal Communications(38) is gi}en over 'En o nc iat ionet c ind m a ' . In 1 9 8 7 .' e n ma rg e d e tra vaux recents l'6nonciation au cin6ma',Metz p-iblished a first consideration of q u e stionin t he f ir s t n u m b e r o f l h e j o u rn a l Ve rfg o(19881 usi ng sametitle asthat of h is fi nal work, L'Enon ciation impersonnelle ou le

of I he very nolion \\. Metzoffersus first a problematisation daf.tn I I.q9 (comi ngori gi nal l y from linguislicsJ. t o adm il lhat ,once 6fenunci ati on the argumentsover the pseu{o-transparencyof the filmic have elded, r,e can counterpos-Lallfnonciation didgetisde(donc imperceptible) d dnonc€e qui sesignale tdonc'percefiibi?). d'dne lagon unednonciation (therefore losrin ihe dlegesis imperceptible) ou d'uneautre' Iut-t?iance with an utterance that is uttered (therefore perceptible) which signals itself one way or another]. If 'l'€nonciation c'est le fait d'6noncer' [utterance is the act of uttering], then to borrow from linguistics appearsfounded; but to see how it works in films, then we haye to abandonthe--lrum-anterms, according to Metz, such as '6nonciateur' lutterer] and 'dnonciataire'[utteree]. Indeed Metz consideredthat in the cinema is never 'personnifiante'but alwaysimpersonal utterance it is always'accroch€e au texte' ltied to the text], its'site':'Tout because comme si Ie film ne pouvait manifesterf iastancede proferation sepasse qu'il porte en Iui et qui le porte, qu'en nous parlant de camdra,de spectateur,ou en ddsignantsapropre filmitude, c'est-i-dire dans tous les cas enser4g"rrlrant du.doigt' lEver]'thing happensasifthe film can show the moment of its proferation that it carries in it and which carries it only by speakingto us about the camera,the spectatoror by pointing to its ' own filmic status,that is only by pointing to itselfl (1991: 214). This proposalqual , i fi edby an' envol det hdor ique'wr it t en by M et z libid. i 173),is carried out after closeexamination ofthe main forms ofaddress in the cinema: the look towards the camera,screendivided into boxes. split screens, mirrors, ihttusion ofth! planning in the film, di-mwithin the filn, 'subjective'images,I-narrations, etc. But it is the chapter on imagesand sounds that are called 'neutral' which allows Metz to make his point d5"ofi't"iimpersonal'speechildr, as he reminds us, there is no 'nobody'sshot', ngloljectif' ftaming ('not ftom point') that is able to hold, even if the regime he d?scribesas 'objectif-non-conditionn6' can Deseento correspond to what we call'neutre': 'il faut tourner Ie dos d cettefaton de voir, quelque ancienneet E6urantequ'elle soit, il n'existe d'imagesneutres.Tout 6l6mentvisuel ou sonorede tout film . . . s'est Pas consl rui t sur des choi x mul ri pl ei im pliquant une act ivit € . . . Ldnoncialion - a ne pr-f6frTcindre avecsesmarqueset sesconfigurations - est omniprdsente et responsable de chaque detail' [we ha;e to turn our back on tEilway of looking, howeverold-fashionedor current ]t may be, as there is no image that is neutral. Every visual and sound elementin every film is basedon a range of choiceswhich suggest that someonehas taken an active role. Utterance- not to be confusedwith

PRECURSORST PHENOMENOLOCY AND SEMlOTlCS

MEANING lN FILM METZ: CONSTRUcTING cHRISTIAN

its markings and its configurations - is omnipresent an{ responsible e.yery-debill (ibid.: tTUt.ln a[, ry-fierher perceptible lii6i] *ft.t hidden or not, 'dans un certain sens fl'dnonciation] se

puisque le texJe estoffegi la rue et i l'ouiel Thissuggestion tiesin
the theory of enunciation based on the very idea that sub manifest also in language,even in the most 'neutral' aspects!But Metz, 'm€me si le concept d'dnonciation filmique r€sisteassez bien 'dnonciateur' does not exist,or rather he is but a personification of enunciation, of the origin of the text that is 'profdr€', and that is to the concretebody that is the spectator. That is to say,meta and impersonal (necessarily) as it is, 'l'€nonciation elle-m€me n' jamaiq44tiropoide, elle reste4ccroch€e a-u texte' [uttering itself is anthropoid, it remains tied to textl (ibid.:2I4). This utterance,possiblein a,!gok, is declaredimpossible in a film by for its origin is always and necessarily collectiviitrnd tliversified. points now made, Metz does_no-t_howevii then evacudtethe notion 'sgjet in its psychoanalyticalsense.On the contrary Metz psychoanalysis an indispensable discipline on which he important study, whicE'lobked at its relations with the cintma' (1977b). Le signifiant imaginaire

First published in the Communicqtions number (1975d) given over 'Psychanalyse et cindma',this book (1977b) was to be published thesametitle in the l0/18 series withEditidnsUGE,but benefiting three extra chapters:'Histoire/Discours (Note sur deux (l alreadypublished in the collectivehomageto Emile Benveniste 'Le film de fiction et son sp€ctateur(Etude m6tapsychologique)', appeared in the same i.ssue of Communicqtions (1975a); 'M6taphore/M6tonymie, ou le rdf€rent imaginaire', not pub elsewhere, These texts, which are very important and hard summarise.still influence contemporary cinema-relatedresearch. include an assessment (on of Freudian and'ti&:rqian psychoanalysis mirror) with regardto cinema, of the-work of MelanieKlein (the of the.object),aswell as an analysisof the different sorts of lytical studiesavailableon cinema,Metz observes that many ofthese often'des tentativesde diagnostic (nosographiqueou

(lescin€astes)' portant sur despersonnes to provide [attempts
nosographic or characterial diagnostics on certain people (

no.23.called'Le.llocage symbolRaymond Pellourin Communicalions part, Metz proposed to study proposed But, But, for for his his part, Metz study ( 1975). 1975). ,.,," rS"ttol-,i ique' ,directement, hors de tout film Particulier' [directly, outside of any film in particularJ,the psychoanallticalimplications of the cinematographic so as to'6clairer en termes freudiens des ph€nomdnescomme le hors le montage court ou le tournage en profondeur'[to Ie cadrage, charnp, phenomena such as the off-screen, framing, the Freud using explain deep-vision filmingl (1977b:. I79). or film short We might want to indicate severalareasof progresswhich seemto be crucial,in particular the analysisofthe'l'6tat filmique', distinct for Metz from the dream state,but which is lirked by hidden motivations, the ofthe unconspiousand the relativelowering of vigilanceto engagement waking dreaming, to fantasy,more than to dreams, while remaining from them through the very materiality of the film, radicallyseparated ofthe imagesand the sounds.Another crucial areais the analysisof the process of identification in the cinema,which is invoked today in order to back up the supposedefEciencyof visual communication especially in advertising or politics. A quoi s'identifle.lg tjgglut"ot durant la projection du film?' lWith what does the spectatoridentifr during the pro.jection ofthe film?] The character? The actor?Theseare possiblebut only in a way that is 'secondairiJfi"ihe psychoanalltical senseof the term. that is. afgr a necessary which identification with one\ o.119;lqqk hasbeenconfusedwith that of Lhecamera'dansun double mouvem€nl Projectifet introjectif' [in a dorible movement ofthe projective and the ntroiective]. We are clearly a long way from a simplifying reductionism that is supplied by this psychic phenomenon to a supposeds)'npathy for one or another character. Finally,Metz helps us to understandthe cinema-machineby the very titleof hiswork: Au cindmacommeau thdalreIe reDrdsentd estpar defi-.'--+-,. ":^ nltton imaqinairei la liction comme telle... Mars c'estce qui caractdrise ld reprdsentation le mat€riau ... au cinema est a son tour imaginaire. 6tant d61ffi1eflet . .., [In the .fi.rrru ii the theatre that which is ", represented fiction as such.But is imaginary; it is this that characterises representation in the cinema is itself imaginary, as the material is

'fi

PRECURSORS: PHENOMENOLOCY AND SEMtOTtCS

METZ: CONSTRUCTING MEANING lN FILM CHRISTIAN

alreadya reflection].Metz is Iooking then for the psych implications of an art form'ou tout est absent,ol) tout est Iwhere everything is absent, where everything recorded], wheie entire signifier'est abtence'Iis absence]. He points out this very redoublin&that Qf the referent,which then acts more to the

thetriegesis, tends morelo gerstuck in ir, to bepaidinto its the Lrrc :pe'ctatort-pelief sPecrarors\Dellel \19 (1977b;92,s).It / /D:9 2,5 is this absence which
tne scoprc the scopic rmputse impulse ln in a dual dual act act ofvoyeurism: of in order that the lieu' [take place],'jeregarde er j'aide' I et watch and I help],'j' helpl,,i,a [I
.-\ii _j _

asrist eretre-adjuvanC l. asiI ablero'etri"Lemoin I robeboihwitness counsel], L i a text both bo ' e x h i b i ti o n i s i ' . a " w e w a tc h, and' lrgqriueI of the'dispositii; rigne'lthesto I plan l, sothar'l histoire in chargel. This absence alsoleeds rhe imaginary capaciry of
researcher asmuch asofthe spectator, in a way which is rnoreproj, than that of identification. Metz's main preoccupation is then to for'la consiitution psychanalytique du slgndant au cin6ma, I psychoanallticaldimension ofthe signifier in tliri cinemal (ibid.:51) discover by which 'chemins' [routes] the cinema is able to set into unconscious and to explorethe specificity of the mechanisms of idt fication, of voyeurism, of exhibitionism, or fetishism, which are operation. Elsewhere,the aim is to show how the mechanisms metaphor and metonymy, of displacement and con overwhelm us again within this absence, how the rhetorical tions are there, traditionally, in order to highlight,dans des a d'op€rations,des parent€sdans le travail du sens' [within those tions which have affinities, the deep links that exist in the work meaningl. Here, and as we have seen elsewhere, we can seeone of characteristicsin the work blr' Metz, which is that of previous ideas,evenpieconceivedones,and then explorinffiem=to I point of ieieclingor accepling them: in eithercase tireyari modified a systematicmode of thought that is linked to linguistics and to turalism, and which privilegesthe contemporary notion of in all its dimensions.

Teaching and influence
It would be irnpossiblenot to mention, by way ofa conclusion,the i lectual influence of Christian Metz. This appreciation of his work consciouslytargeted fiom an early stagethe educational aspect,but was soon to spill over into other areas,all testamentto a success

throughoutthe world. While all this experimentation was taking place therewereall sorts ofthoughts, observationsor seminarsat which Metz waspresentand which have led to publications in article, journal or report form.6 Meanwhile there were similar experiments in many authorities (such as in the Midi-Pyrenees,or in the Paris educational unfortunately,that, at the very moment when we find It seems, resion).7 more than ever'envahi' Iinvaded] if not 'manipuld' by images, ourselves all the conclusions and educational suggestionsemerging from this work have disappearedand have not been taken up in contemporary institutionsnor in discussionin the mainstream media, which rely on outmoded ideas,while ignoring totally these pioneering ideas of the 1970s. For his part Metz recommendedthat we respectcertain stages which arenecessary pedagogica\ speaking;first, we have to 'regresser - c'esti-dire progresser perceptifs - d'abord en direction des m€canismes fortement cod€s culturellement' [regress - that is, progress - first towards thoseperceptualmechanisms that are heavily culturally coded]; then, we need to institule a form of teaching that is 'proprement iconique' Iproperly iconic], coded in socio-cultural terms; finally, we need Io move'du niveaulangagier au niveaumdta-langagier' lfrom the level of language nguage], in order to allow srudents to to that o[ metaja developa form of intelligence 'que seule l'6cole peut ddvelopper d grande 6che11e' [that can developon a wide scaleonly by being in higher educationl(ibid.: 165).This preoccupationwith and respectof the ntelliSence ofothers, be they pupils, students,colleagues or researchers, wasa central element in Metz's aDDroachand which 'contribua iLlui donner cette sensibilit€ de culture-civilitd int€rieure que sa pr€sence lmpo\aildjscritementet peremptoirement a sesinterlo;uteurs; Ihelped to Sivehim an inner sensitivityboth cultural and civil that his presence u^ould impose discretely and peremptorily on his interlocutors] \\.arroni1994/95).

PRECURSORS: PHENOMENoLocY ANDsEMIoTIcs What is alsosymptomatic of the personalityof Christian Metz is

CHRISTIAN METZ:CONSTRUCTTNC MEANTNG tN F|LM

71

offorty or so researchers ftom all theoreticaland geographi.alhoilz, who_all underline his human, as well as i",el"f..l""j, Girio conclude, it is worlh remembering once again Barthes for whom ,respectueux wa5aboveall someone de: autres.Irespectful of ot and also a'didacticien merveilleux, lwonderfui tr,orl, i, S, words: 'lorsqu'on le lit, on sait tout comme si on l,avait appris soi_ {whenreading Metz you understand everything h. *ys 'J;;; learnedit yourself] (Barthes1975:6). So,let,s read him and ,,seiis and thought, which today are more relevantthan ever,

in thewords oIChrisrian Merz,.cela ,ensei$fieiu. t" non-, theorie'Iitrells us aboutfashion but nor about,f,.o.yt -oa.,if"l"i[ Vernet1990: 276).Then,inLesCahiers du CRC,qV Gfi, igSS-iii, is_another homage to Metzwith, onceagain, the respectful particip

in the.I990swhen,as Metz pointeJ out, the theory *u, lonn", "o mode'.Nowadays, not onll is semiology no longer'.b la modei L'ri

in j293..lfthe'galaxie sem iologie' wasi" *. in,.ff".ru"iJri"ing, t::1." research for abouta qudlter of a cenrury, it *as n-ot :o.1.'

his own work, with a measuredand modest eye, in t,r-g;;J; while announcing his next book Ie zot d,esprir, aswell a's the final in his work on enunciation.This lasi prolect appeared asa book in . whereasthe'mot d'esprit'work was ngver to le puUlisnea, asirA'E

with Marie and Vernetat the end of the volume,Metz is keento *j!t oI_Barthes s, sonseulvrai maitre'Ihisonly true ma: ,ia5. wno ,il nad diedln dn accident nineyears earlier. He alsotriesto rer

clnema anc lmage theory was made in 19g9,at a,Cerisy,cor called'Chrisrian MetTet la thdoriedu cinemalpublished in the lfis (Marie and Vernet 1990).Here American ,eseurchers, as'w British, tapanese, Italian, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Uruguayan French all worked on, and testified to the theoretical imio Christian Metz for their generation and their work. In the

Reletences R. { l9t'4).'Eldments de semiologie. Commun ications 4 | 1964 Barrhes. ), ql-lJ5; reprintedin R. Barthes. paris:Seuii, I'Aventure semiologiqae, trans. A. Layeri and C. Smith, 985, 17,84; Elemenx of semiology, gew York: Hill & Wang, 1968.

A. (1_97.5) Pour une pddagogie paris: La Ligue Bergala, de I'audio-yisuel, de l'Enseignement. frangaise (1977) Ini.t.iation d lo sdmiologie du rdcit en images,parrs:La Llgue de l'Enseignement. frangaise D. and Jost, F. (1979) Nouveau cindma, Nouvelle s1miologie, Chateau, Paris: UGE, 10/18. Cohen-Sdat, G. (1958) Essctis sur lesprincipesd'une philosophiedu cifiima.Parisi PUF,

(1965a) 'Une 6tape dans la rdflexion sur Ie ctnlma'. Critique 2t(214) (Mar.),227 -48; lsee1972: 1.3_341. = -- { 1965b)' Le ci ndma,monde et r dcit . ,Critique 21(216) (May) , 485_6. (1965c) A propos de l,impressionde r€alit€ au cin6ma,,Cahiersdu ctnem.t166_7(May_Jun.),74_g3 -

-=- ( 1968b)'Le dire et le dit au cindma: vers le ddclin d,un vraisem_ .Le blable?'. Communicariorj I I, Vraisemblable. I ed. RolandBarthes r, \ (1970a) Au-deld de l'analogie, l,im age., Communications 15, l_10.

PHENOMENOLOCY PRECURSORS: AND SEMIOTICS

-

-

-

-

-

(1970b)'Images et p€dagogie', Communications 15,162-8. (1971,)Langageet cindma,Paris:Larousse(new edition with afterword: Paris:Albatros, 1977); trans. C. Umiker-SebeokHaque:Mouton. 1974. (1972) Essais sur la signit'ication au cindma, vol. 2, Klincksieck; Film Language:A Semioticsof the Cinema, tra\s. Taylor,Oxford: Oxford University Press,1974. (1975a)'Le film de fiction et son spectateur(Etude chologique)l Comtnunicatiotls 23, 708-35(1975b) 'Histoire/discours(Note sur deux voyeurismes),. Kristeva, J.-C. Milner and N. Ruwet (eds), Langue,discours, Pour Emile Benyeniste, Paris:Seuil,301-6. (1975c)'Lepergu,le nomm6l in Pour une esthdtique sans MtlangesMikel Dufrenne,Pans:UGE-10II8, 345 77. (1975d)'Lesignifiantimaginaire', Communiuttions 23, 3-55. (1977a) Essais sdmiotiques,Paris: Klincksieck. (1977b) Le signifiant imagjnaire (Psychanalyse et cinlma), UGE, 10/18 (new edition with a new preface,paris: Chr Bourgois, 1984); trans. C, Britton, Psychoanalysis anrl Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1982. (1991) L'Enonci.ttion impersonnelle ou Ie site du film, Mdridiens-Klincksieck.

PartII New art historiesand genealogies

Notes
I Between1966and 1968,working with Emile Benveniste and Algirdas_ Greimas,he also participated in founding the Association (AIS). S6miotique SeeMetz (1965a) (on vol. 1 of fean Mitry, L'Esthitique et psychologie clnima) at\d,Merz (1965b) (on Albert Laffay, Logiquedu cindma). Originaliy called the Ecole Pratique desHautesErudes(EpHE), the tion in which Metz worked was renamed the Ecoie des Hautes Etudes (EHESS)in 1975. Sciences Sociales (1964). 4 SeeBarthes 5 In'Christian Metz: EntuetienavecM. VeI net et D. p ercheron, cinima 7 la (1 97 s),1 9. Seethe Centre R€gionalde Documentation pddagogiquein Botdeaux. pout une pldagogie(le I' Seelor example,the works by Alain Bergala, vlsuel and, Irlitiation d la simiologie du rtcit en images (parrs: La frangaise de l'Enseignement, 1975and 1977).

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