The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema

Christian Metz’s The Imaginary Signifier: Psychoanalysis and the Cinema is--like his Film Language: A Semiotics of the Cinema from seven years earlier--a valuable contribution to semiotic film theory. Yet rather than focusing primarily on the language of cinema itself, Metz turns to Freudian and Lacanian psychoanalysis to deepen his study of the nature of cinematic spectatorship. What we see on screen does not, in essence, exist. The images are imaginary, a play of light and shadow, yet we are still drawn in by an illusion of reality. By way of psychoanalysis, Metz attempts to answer why this is so, including in his scope the cinematic apparatus (the camera and the projector, for example).

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