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Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies / Revue de l'Association Internationale de Sémiotique

Editor-in-Chief: Danesi, Marcel

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Film as specific signifying practice: A rational reconstruction of Stephen Heath's “On screen, in frame: Film and ideology”

1Professor at Oxford Brookes University.

Citation Information: Semiotica. Volume 2011, Issue 187, Pages 49–81, ISSN (Online) 1613-3692, ISSN (Print) 0037-1998, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/semi.2011.064, September 2011

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This essay presents a commentary on and rational reconstruction of Stephen Heath's influential and groundbreaking essay from 1976: “On screen, in frame: Film and ideology.” As a commentary, it attempts to make explicit the implicit assumptions behind Heath's dense and challenging essay; rewrite and clarify his inexact formulations; and develop a microanalysis of the essay's language. As a rational reconstruction, this essay follows Rudolf Botha's philosophical study into the conduct of inquiry to analyze Heath's formulation of conceptual and empirical problems and the strategies he uses to deproblematize them. This rational reconstruction rearranges the parts of Heath's essay according to the four central activities Botha identifies in the formulation of theoretical problems: 1) identifying the problematic state of affairs; 2) describing the problematic state of affairs; 3) constructing problems; and 4) evaluating problems according to well-formedness and significance. The result is a close reading of Heath's essay that reveals in minute detail his reasoning strategies, and highlights how he revolutionized film theory by attempting to integrate Lacanian psychoanalysis and Althusserian Marxism into continental semiotics, under the influence of Kristeva's theories of the signifying practice and the subject-in-process.

Keywords:: Stephen Heath; contemporary film theory; Althusser; Kristeva; suture; signifying practice; subject-in-process

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