Signs and Meaning in the Cinema  

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"Robin Wood has shown how Scarface should be categorised among the comedies rather than the dramas: Camonte is perceived as savage, child-like, subhuman."-- Signs and Meaning in the Cinema (1969) by Peter Wollen

"My shelves are crowded now, but there was a time when Signs and Meaning had only a few meaningful companions: the first volume of Andre Bazin's What is Cinema?, Siegfried Kracauer's Theory of Film and Stanley Cavell's The World Viewed." --David Rodowick, preface, 2012

"Despite all that is fashionable about a taste for horror movies, it is still much less unquestioned than a taste for East European art movies. What has happened is that a determined assault on the citadels of taste has managed to establish the American work of Hitchcock, Hawks, perhaps Fuller, Boetticher, Nicholas Ray."

Related e



Signs and Meaning in the Cinema (1969) is a book by Peter Wollen.

It helped to transform the discipline of film studies by incorporating the methodology of film semiotics and structuralist film theory .

Signs and Meaning in the Cinema was followed by a revised edition, with a new appendix, just three years later. It quickly gained traction in the burgeoning film-studies world of the 1970s. In 1976, Robin Wood contended, "Peter Wollen's Signs and Meaning in the Cinema is probably the most influential book on film in English of the past decade." And the book has continued to wield influence decades later—having been released in a fifth, "silver" edition in 2013. In a Sight & Sound poll in 2010, Signs and Meaning repeatedly cropped up—leading critic Nick Roddick to exclaim, "If there is one book to rule them all, it is Peter Wollen's Signs and Meaning in the Cinema. The revised and enlarged edition of 1972 is the most concise, lucid and inspiring introduction to thinking about film ever written."

More praise

"Without doubt, it is the best study of cinema published in English for years." —Cinema

"... a major achievement... drawing on the results of aesthetic inquiry—from Shaftesbury and Lessing to Jakobson and the formalists—in order to relate the cinema to wider areas of linguistic theory and theory of art." —Times Literary Supplement


Roland BARTHES, Elements of Semiology, Cape, London. Andre BAZIN, What is cinema?, California, Los Angeles. Robert J. CLEMENS, Picta Poesis, Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura, Rome. Sergei M. EISENSTEIN, all his works, especially Film Form and The Film Sense, Faber, London. Victor ERLICH, Russian Formalism, Mouton, Hague. Sigmund FREUD, all his works, especially The Interpretation of Dreams, Hogarth, London. Jean-Luc GODARD, Godard on Godard, Seeker & Warburg, London; Viking Press, New York. Also the scripts of his films. Peter GRAHAM (ed.), The New Wave, Seeker & Warburg, London; Doubleday, New York. Stephen HEATH, Colin MAcCABE and Christopher PRENDERGAST (ed.), Signs of the Times. Introductory Readings in Textual Semiotics, Granta, Cambridge. Goran HERMEREN, Representation and Meaning in the Visual Arts, Scandinavian University Books, Lund. Roman JAKOBSON, various writings, especially 'The Metaphoric and Metonymic Poles' in Fundamentals of Language, Mouton, Hague; 'In Search of the Essence of Language' in Diogenes 51, Casalini, Montreal; 'Linguistics and Poetics' in Style in Language (ed. Sebeok), MIT, Boston. 174 Michael LANE (ed.), Structuralism: a reader, Cape, London. L. T. LEMON and M. J. REIS (ed.), Russian Formalist Criticism, Nebraska, Lincoln. Claude LEVI-STRAUSS, various writings, especially 'The Structural Study of Myth' in Myth: a symposium (ed. Sebeok), Indiana, Bloomington, and 'The Story of Asdiwal' in The Structural Study of Myth and Totemism, Tavistock, London. Richard MACKSEY and Eugenio DONATO (ed.), The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man: the Structuralist Controversy, Johns Hopkins, Baltimore. Christian METZ, Essais sur la signification au cinema, Klincksieck, Paris, shortly to be published in English and Langage et cinema, Larousse, Paris. Erwin PANOVSKY, various writings, especially 'Style and Medium in the Moving Pictures' in Film: an Anthology (ed. Talbot), California, Los Angeles. Pier-Paolo PASOLINI, Pasolini on Pasolini (ed. Stack), Seeker & Warburg, London; Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Ind. C. S. PEIRCE, 'Speculative Grammar', 'Letters to Lady Welby' and 'Existential Graphs' in Collected Papers, Harvard, Boston. Vladimir PROPP, Morphology of the Russian Folktale, Indiana, Bloomington. Ferdinand de SAUSSURE, ]]Course in General Linguistics]], Peter Owen, London. Josef von STERNBERG, Fun in a Chinese Laundry, Seeker & Warburg, London; Macmillan, New York. Andrew TuDOR, Theories of Film, Seeker & Warburg, London; Viking Press, New York. Peter WOLLEN (ed.), Sociology and Semiology: Working Papers on the Cinema, BFI, London. A number of magazines are also of interest. See especially Semiotica, Mouton, Hague; Screen, SEFT, London; Afterimage, Narcis, London. 20th Century Studies 3, Kent, Canterbury, is a special number on 'Structuralism'. The French review Communications, CECMAS, Paris, is invaluable, as are Cahiers du Cinema, Paris, and Cinethique, Paris.

See also

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