“Qu’est-ce que Le Discours?” (Part 1)


                 Christian Metz

In a series of highly influential books and articles published in the 1960s and 1970s, the French theorist Christian Metz (1931-1993) established the case for semiology (or semiotics) as a major theory of cinematic technique and structure.[1] As it came to be practiced by Metz, semiology first gained currency with the work of the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913), whose model of meaning as a function of “signs” exerted a profound influence not only on linguistics, but on philosophy, psychology, sociology, and anthropology as well.

What Is Semiology?

  According to Saussure, humans exchange messages about the phenomena of experience by means of signs, each of which is composed of two elements:

A sign performs its function when someone interprets it as signifying something—that is, as standing for or referring to a concept; under this condition, the relationship between signifier and signified is that of signification. Signs do not indicate any fixed relationships between signifiers and signifieds; they function only because they are embodied in a system of signs developed within a cultural context (say, among speakers of the same language). Semiology is the study of the functional use of signs.


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