The images of film and the categories of signs: Peirce and Deleuze on media



Publication Details

Sykes, G. (2009). The images of film and the categories of signs: Peirce and Deleuze on media. Semiotica: journal of the international association for semiotic studies, (176), 65-81.


In his two Cinema books, Gilles Deleuze updates his lifelong philosophical inquiry using semiotic terminology, which explicitly draws on concepts of Peirce. In a direction that is arguably of utmost significance for contemporary semiotics and media studies, Deleuze upgrades his lifelong interest in philosophy and psychoanalysis using a pragmatic semiotics that involves major claims for the non- linguistic status of semiotics, as suitable for his subject matter, film, and for a fundamental distinction between semiotic and logical or linguistic based semiology.

Philosophy as theory, and semiotic theory at that, becomes grounded in innumerable case studies of individual films. In the same way, Peirce drew on case studies in science, mathematics, and logic, synthesizing these in proposals for existential graphs that could assist practical reasoning, so the Cinema books are quite distinct writings by a conceptual philosopher like Deleuze, in their sustained attention to enumerated technical subject matter.

The Cinema books can be regarded in part and, interpretively, as a whole, as an inspired, albeit intuitive, translation of Peirce for and as media studies, and through extrapolation, new and televisual media. This paper argues that the Cinema books provide a pertinent and foundational basis for an encompassing semiotic model of contemporary media.

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