Representation is the use of signs that stand in for and take the place of something else. It is through representation that people organize the world and reality through the act of naming its elements. Signs are arranged in order to form semantic constructions and express relations.
Bust of Aristotle, Greek philosopher
For many philosophers, both ancient and modern, man is regarded as the "representational animal" or animal symbolicum, the creature whose distinct character is the creation and the manipulation of signs – things that "stand for" or "take the place of" something else. Representation has been associated with aesthetics (art) and semiotics (signs). Mitchell says "representation is an extremely elastic notion, which extends all the way from a stone representing a man to a novel representing the day in the life of several Dubliners". The term 'representation' carries a range of meanings and interpretations. In literary theory, 'representation' is commonly defined in three ways.
To look like or resemble To stand in for something or someone To present a second time; to re-present
Representation began with early literary theory in the ideas of Plato and Aristotle, and has evolved into a significant component of language, Saussurian and communication studies.
1 Defining representation 2 History 3 Contemporary ideas about representation 4 Peirce and representation
5 Saussure and representation 6 Notes 7 See also 8 References 9 External links
Reproduction of the Mona Lisa
To represent is "to bring to mind by description," also "to symbolize,
to be the embodiment of;" from O.Fr. representer (12c.), from L.
repraesentare, from re-, intensive prefix, + praesentare "to present,"
lit. "to place before".
A representation is a type of recording in which the sensory
information about a physical object is described in a medium. The
degree to which an artistic representation resembles the object it
represents is a function of resolution and does not bear on the
denotation of the word. For example, both the
Greek theatrical masks depicted in Hadrians Villa mosaic
Since ancient times representation has played a central role in
understanding literature, aesthetics and semiotics.
The object: The symbol being represented. Manner: The way the symbol is represented. Means: The material that is used to represent it.
The means of literary representation is language. An important part of representation is the relationship between what the material and what it represents. The questions arising from this are, "A stone may represent a man but how? And by what and by what agreement, does this understanding of the representation occur?" One apprehends reality only through representations of reality, through texts, discourses, images: there is no such thing as direct or unmediated access to reality. But because one can see reality only through representation it does not follow that one does not see reality at all… Reality is always more extensive and complicated than any system of representation can comprehend, and we always sense that this is so-representation never "gets" reality, which is why human history has produced so many and changing ways of trying to get it. Consequently, throughout the history of human culture, people have become dissatisfied with language's ability to express reality and as a result have developed new modes of representation. It is necessary to construct new ways of seeing reality, as people only know reality through representation. From this arises the contrasting and alternate theories and representational modes of abstraction, realism and modernism, to name a few. Contemporary ideas about representation It is from Plato’s caution that in the modern era many are aware of political and ideological issues and the influences of representations. It is impossible to divorce representations from culture and the society that produces them. In the contemporary world there exist restrictions on subject matter, limiting the kinds of representational signs allowed to be employed, as well as boundaries that limit the audience or viewers of particular representations. In motion picture rating systems, M and R rated films are an example of such restrictions, highlighting also society’s attempt to restrict and modify representations to promote a certain set of ideologies and values. Despite these restrictions, representations still have the ability to take on a life of their own once in the public sphere, and can not be given a definitive or concrete meaning; as there will always be a gap between intention and realization, original and copy. Consequently, for each of the above definitions there exists a process of communication and message sending and receiving. In such a system of communication and representations it is inevitable that potential problems may arise; misunderstandings, errors, and falsehoods. The accuracy of the representations can by no means be guaranteed, as they operate in a system of signs that can never work in isolation from other signs or cultural factors. For instance, the interpretation and reading of representations function in the context of a body of rules for interpreting, and within a society many of these codes or conventions are informally agreed upon and have been established over a number of years. Such understandings however, are not set in stone and may alter between times, places, peoples and contexts. How though, does this ‘agreement’ or understanding of representation occur? It has generally been agreed by semioticians that representational relationships can be categorised into three distinct headings: icon, symbol and index. For instance objects and people do not have a constant meaning, but their meanings are fashioned by humans in the context of their culture, as they have the ability to make things mean or signify something. Viewing representation in such a way focuses on understanding how language and systems of knowledge production work to create and circulate meanings. Representation is simply the process in which such meanings are constructed. In much the same way as the post-structuralists, this approach to representation considers it as something larger than any one single representation. A similar perspective is viewing representation as part of a larger field, as Mitchell, saying, "…representation (in memory, in verbal descriptions, in images) not only 'mediates' our knowledge (of slavery and of many other things), but obstructs, fragments, and negates that knowledge" and proposes a move away from the perspective that representations are merely "objects representing", towards a focus on the relationships and processes through which representations are produced, valued, viewed and exchanged. Peirce and representation
Charles Sanders Peirce
Charles Sanders Peirce
Speculative grammar, on meaningfulness, conditions for meaning. Study of significatory elements and combinations. Logical critic, on validity, conditions for true representation. Critique of arguments in their various distinct modes. Speculative rhetoric, or methodeutic, on conditions for determining interpretations. Methodology of inquiry in its mutually interacting modes.
1. Speculative Grammar. By this, Peirce means discovering relations among questions of how signs can be meaningful and of what kinds of signs there are, how they combine, and how some embody or incorporate others. Within this broad area, Peirce developed three interlocked universal trichotomies of signs, depending respectively on (1) the sign itself, (2) how the sign stands for its object, and (3) how the sign stands for its object to its interpretant. Each trichotomy is divided according to the phenomenological category involved: Firstness (quality of feeling, essentially monadic), secondness (reaction or resistance, essentially dyadic), or thirdness (representation or mediation, essentially triadic).
Qualisigns, sinsigns, and legisigns. Every sign is either (qualisign) a quality or possibility, or (sinsign) an actual individual thing, fact, event, state, etc., or (legisign) a norm, habit, rule, law. Icons, indices, and symbols. Every sign refers either (icon) through similarity to its object, or (index) through factual connection to its object, or (symbol) through interpretive habit or norm of reference to its object. Rhemes, dicisigns, and arguments. Every sign is interpreted either as (rheme) term-like, standing for its object in respect of quality, or as (dicisign) proposition-like, standing for its object in respect of fact, or as (argument) argumentative, standing for its object in respect of habit or law. This is the trichotomy of all signs as building blocks of inference.
Lines of joint classification of signs. Every sign is:
I. Qualisign or Sinsign or Legisign
II. Icon or Index or Symbol
III. Rheme or Dicisign or Argument
Some (not all) sign classes from different trichotomies intersect each
other. For example, a qualisign is always an icon, and is never an
index or a symbol. He held that there were only ten classes of signs
logically definable through those three universal trichotomies. He
thought that there were further such universal trichotomies as well.
Also, some signs need other signs in order to be embodied. For
example, a legisign (also called a type), such as the word "the,"
needs to be embodied in a sinsign (also called a token), for example
an individual instance of the word "the", in order to be expressed.
Another form of combination is attachment or incorporation: an index
may be attached to, or incorporated by, an icon or a symbol.
Peirce called an icon apart from a label, legend, or other index
attached to it, a "hypoicon", and divided the hypoicon into three
classes: (a) the image, which depends on a simple quality; (b) the
diagram, whose internal relations, mainly dyadic or so taken,
represent by analogy the relations in something; and (c) the metaphor,
which represents the representative character of a sign by
representing a parallelism in something else. A diagram can be
geometric, or can consist in an array of algebraic expressions, or
even in the common form "All __ is ___" which is subjectable, like any
diagram, to logical or mathematical transformations.
2. Logical critic or
Icon Index Symbol
This term refers to signs that represent by resemblance, such as portraits and some paintings though they can also be natural or mathematical. Iconicity is independent of actual connection, even if it occurs because of actual connection. An icon is or embodies a possibility, insofar as its object need not actually exist. A photograph is regarded as an icon because of its resemblance to its object, but is regarded as an index (with icon attached) because of its actual connection to its object. Likewise, with a portrait painted from life. An icon's resemblance is objective and independent of interpretation, but is relative to some mode of apprehension such as sight. An icon need not be sensory; anything can serve as an icon, for example a streamlined argument (itself a complex symbol) is often used as an icon for an argument (another symbol) bristling with particulars.
Peirce explains that an index is a sign that compels attention through a connection of fact, often through cause and effect. For example, if we see smoke we conclude that it is the effect of a cause – fire. It is an index if the connection is factual regardless of resemblance or interpretation. Peirce usually considered personal names and demonstratives such as the word "this" to be indices, for although as words they depend on interpretation, they are indices in depending on the requisite factual relation to their individual objects. A personal name has an actual historical connection, often recorded on a birth certificate, to its named object; the word "this" is like the pointing of a finger.
Peirce treats symbols as habits or norms of reference and meaning. Symbols can be natural, cultural, or abstract and logical. They depend as signs on how they will be interpreted, and lack or have lost dependence on resemblance and actual, indexical connection to their represented objects, though the symbol's individual embodiment is an index to your experience of its represented object. Symbols are instantiated by specialized indexical sinsigns. A proposition, considered apart from its expression in a particular language, is already a symbol, but many symbols draw from what is socially accepted and culturally agreed upon. Conventional symbols such as "horse" and caballo, which prescribe qualities of sound or appearance for their instances (for example, individual instances of the word "horse" on the page) are based on what amounts to arbitrary stipulation. Such a symbol uses what is already known and accepted within our society to give meaning. This can be both in spoken and written language. For example, we can call a large metal object with four wheels, four doors, an engine and seats a "car" because such a term is agreed upon within our culture and it allows us to communicate. In much the same way, as a society with a common set of understandings regarding language and signs, we can also write the word "car" and in the context of Australia and other English speaking nations, know what it symbolises and is trying to represent. Saussure and representation
Ferdinand de Saussure
Ferdinand de Saussure
The signified: a mental concept, and The signifier: the verbal manifestation, the sequence of letters or sounds, the linguistic realisation.
The signifier is the word or sound; the signified is the representation. Saussure points out that signs:
Are arbitrary: There is no link between the signifier and the signified Are relational: We understand we take on meaning in relation to other words. Such as we understand "up" in relation to "down" or a dog in relation to other animals, such as a cat. constitute our world – "You cannot get outside of language. We exist inside a system of signs".
Saussure suggests that the meaning of a sign is arbitrary, in effect; there is no link between the signifier and the signified. The signifier is the word or the sound of the word and the signified is the representation of the word or sound. For example, when referring to the term "sister" (signifier) a person from an English speaking country such as Australia, may associate that term as representing someone in their family who is female and born to the same parents (signified). An Aboriginal Australian may associate the term "sister" to represent a close friend that they have a bond with. This means that the representation of a signifier depends completely upon a person’s cultural, linguistic and social background. Saussure argues that if words or sounds were simply labels for existing things in the world, translation from one language or culture to another would be easy, it is the fact that this can be extremely difficult that suggests that words trigger a representation of an object or thought depending on the person that is representing the signifier. The signified triggered from the representation of a signifier in one particular language do not necessarily represent the same signified in another language. Even within one particular language many words refer to the same thing but represent different people's interpretations of it. A person may refer to a particular place as their "work" whereas someone else represents the same signifier as their "favorite restaurant". This can also be subject to historical changes in both the signifier and the way objects are signified. Saussure claims that an imperative function of all written languages and alphabetic systems is to "represent" spoken language. Most languages do not have writing systems that represent the phonemic sounds they make. For example, in English the written letter "a" represents different phonetic sounds depending on which word it is written in. The letter "a" has a different sound in the word in each of the following words, "apple", "gate", "margarine" and "beat", therefore, how is a person unaware of the phonemic sounds, able to pronounce the word properly by simply looking at alphabetic spelling. The way the word is represented on paper is not always the way the word would be represented phonetically. This leads to common misrepresentations of the phonemic sounds of speech and suggests that the writing system does not properly represent the true nature of the pronunciation of words. Notes
^ a b c d e f g h Mitchell, W. 1995, "Representation", in F
Lentricchia & T McLaughlin (eds), Critical Terms for Literary
Study, 2nd edn, University of Chicago Press, Chicago
^ a b O'Shaughnessy, M & Stadler J, Media and society: an
introduction, 3rd edn, Oxford University Press, South Melbourne, 2005
^ Childers J (ed.), Columbia Dictionary of Modern Literary and
Cultural Criticism, Columbia University Press, New York, 1995
^ a b <Vukcevich, M 2002, "Representation", The University of
Chicago, viewed 7 April 2006
^ a b c d e Mitchell, W, "Representation", in F Lentricchia & T
McLaughlin (eds), Critical Terms for Literary Study, University of
Chicago Press, Chicago 1990
^ a b c Hall, S (ed.), Cultural Representations and Signifying
Practice, Open University Press, London, 1997.
^ a b Dryer 1993, cited in O’Shaughnessy & Stadler 2005
^ Mitchell, W, Picture Theory, University of Chicago Press, Chicago,
^ On his classifications, see Peirce, C.S. (1903), CP 1.180–202
Eprint Archived 2011-11-05 at the Wayback Machine. and (1906) "The
Basis of Pragmaticism" in The Essential Peirce 2:372–3. For the
relevant quotes, see "Philosophy" and "Logic" at Commens Dictionary of
Peirce's Terms, Bergman and Paavola, editors, U. of Helsinki.
^ Peirce, C.S., 1882, "Introductory Lecture on the Study of Logic"
delivered September 1882, Johns Hopkins University Circulars, vol. 2,
no. 19, pp. 11–12, November 1892, Google Book Search Eprint.
Reprinted in Collected Papers of
Charles Sanders Peirce
Aspectism Cultural artifact Culture theory Figurative art Foundation for the Advancement of Art
Media influence Painting Program music Realism (arts) Representative realism
Symbol Western painting Work of art Conceptual art
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