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Meaning when the Author is Dead: Foucault on Gilliams Brazil (1985) - Essay Example

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Meaning is a contested concept in the production and consumption of films. This essay answers the question on who controls meaning and relates it to the idea that the author is dead. …
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Meaning when the Author is Dead: Foucault on Gilliams Brazil (1985)
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Meaning when the Author is Dead: Foucault on Gilliams Brazil (1985)

Download file to see previous pages... The main case study is Gilliam’s Brazil (1985). The primary theory to be used comes from Foucault, although beliefs and concepts from Saussure and Lacan are used in this essay too. Foucault (1991) explores the creation of the author, an exploration that reveals that because an author is hard to define and to describe, authors become products of their own discourses. This essay seeks to explain the process of controlling meaning, so as to reveal that since anyone can control meaning once they have consumed the text, a fixed meaning from a singular perspective becomes meaningless once a text is produced. The author is dead because whoever produces and interprets the text can provide meaning/s to it through complex interconnections among various intrapersonal and interpersonal relationships. The key historical debates on who controls meaning focus on the language that produces meaning in modern society, where scholars debate on the death of authors and the rise of textual interpretation from diverse perspectives. Saussure underscores that the signifier and the signified affect one another, which contrasts other linguists’ belief that people compose the signs without being affected by the signs they make. Jancovich (1995, p.127) underscores that Saussurian linguistics emphasises the dominance of language in shaping meaning and human identity. Lacan focuses more on how people find meaning when they shift from being “split and divided” into being whole once more (Jancovich 1995, p.134). People find meaning through overcoming what is lacking in them. Foucault (1991) suggests that the author is dead because writing (the text) has autonomy and the writer and death are related concepts. He further explores the difficulties in defining who an author is and what constitutes his/her work. He introduces the topic discourse analysis as a critical process of discovering the meaning of the text: “The relationship (or nonrelationship) with an author, and the different forms this relationship takes, constitute in a quite visible manner one of these discursive properties” (Foucault 1991, p.117). Discourses affect meaning, which means that meaning is fluid, not static. For him, culture impacts discourses too because discourses are heterogeneous products of cultural components (Foucault 1991, p.117). These debates and themes are important to the topic because they study how meaning is discovered and controlled. After discussing the context, the first point to be discussed is: the author is dead because directors are one of the significant factors that shape meaning in films. Directors have the power to choose what to add and what not to add in their films, which may or may not have meaning to the interpretation of the film. Directors can immerse themselves in any particular part of the film, and this immersion can affect their products. An example is how Gilliam immerses his dystopian belief in humanity through Brazil (1985). Gilliam admits that he is the kind of director who is not cautious in taking risks and his identity affects the form and content of his films (Derbyshire 2009, p.24). His immersion kills the author because he re-authors the written text. Orr (2000) explores poetry in cinema. He describes the immersion of directors in their film’s characters through “free indirect subjectivity” which means “it entails immersion of the filmmaker in the experience of the subject who possesses some clear affinity with the auteur” (Orr 2000, p.134). Gilliam connects to his film in a subjective way that impacts the meaning of his product. The beginning scene with the TV ad for designer-coloured ducts in Brazil, for instance, manifests Gilliam’ ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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