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Philosophy of the Social Sciences

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Conspiracy Theories of Representation
Noel Carroll
Philosophy of the Social Sciences 1987 17: 395
DOI: 10.1177/004839318701700306

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but rather they study the role and function of art within society at large. As graduate students and now professors. viz. reception theory.sagepub. of course. indeed in any representation from David's Oat11of the Horatii and. that the radical temperament of which I speak is not to be found primarily or significantly in the study of philosophical aesthetics as that subject is pursued by organizations such as the American Society for Aesthetics. Indeed. A sociological explanation of the rise of the current socio-political tendency in art theory is not hard to come by. Sci. editing journals and book series. And because they endorse the sixties slogan that everything social is political. They are doing what academics normally do. that the country is now far more conservative. as this inventory might indicate. There. However. the temper is decidedly radical. as you will recall. Soc. decon- struction. genealogy & la Foucault. critical social theory. in terms of what are thought of as our signifying practices. by the followers of New Criticism who urged them not to stray from the text itself. Philosophy. their values supply the pervasive colouration in their fields. hiring colleagues. 2010 . training graduate students. I hasten to add.Pbil. they prefer those avenues of research-such as semiotics. getting tenure. Weskyan University Looking at the political landscape of America today. Everyone would agree. and even dance departments.-which they feel. is the generation whose rites of passage were performed in the late sixties and early seventies. the Muppets and the six o'clock news. this generation revolted. 17 (1987) 395-412 Conspiracy Theories of Representation NOEL CARROLL. Rather the politicized approach to the arts and the theories that underwrite it have been developed and popularized in the environs of language and literature departments. rightly or wrongly. the politicized theorists study neither art nor the respective arts in isolation. Now they are publishing. one is forced to admit a major change in the climate from that of the late sixties and early seventies and the crises of Vietnam and Watergate. there is at least one arena where conservatism and even liberalism are on the run. in high school and in college. But because they are entering the productive phase of their careers. etc. etc. What are some of those values? Though this generation of academics was trained.. hermeneutics. There is nothing sinister in this. That is in the area of the contemporary study and theory of the arts. the ascendant academic theory does not conceive of itself as aesthetics but rather identifies itself as a species of social theory.com by Sergio Tonkonoff on October 15. many contemporary theorists identify their task as the con- struction of analytic frameworks that will enable them to pinpoint and unmask the ideological factors in operation in any artwork. Lacanian psychoanalysis. I think. As these new titles suggest. cinema and art history departments. A new generation of academics has matured and is acquiring academic power. will provide a means of discussing relevance and for continuing the revolt against their formalist Downloaded from pos. arranging conferences. immediately. Velasquez' Las hfeninas to deodorant ads. demanding relevance. That generation. Marxism. Often new labels-such as semiotics and cultural studies-are adopted to accommodate the novel emphases of the contemporary theorists of the arts. obviously.

Barthes rather than Iser. philosophers cannot avoid contact with the new political theory of the arts much longer. representation in mass media. That is. Nevertheless. Eiiclitic and Sirbstntice. codified in the glut of textbooks now available in fields such as literature. politicized post-structuralism does. film theory. that representation in art. it is not a monolithic movement. In terms of its sources. and now they are becoming the faculty senate. Demda rather than Gadamer along with Lacan. The methodologies displayed in New Gerriiari Critique are not the same as those found in Diacritics.com by Sergio Tonkonoff on October 15. there are sev- eral conspiracy theories of representation before us today. Here I have in mind the influential New Accents series published by Methuen--containing Catherine Belsey’s Critical Practice. tutored by teachers in other fields. more invidi- ously. The reasons philosophical aesthetics has stood generally aloof from the tendencies of contemporary art theory would require an essay unto itself. we are unaware of the ideological machinations representation. one tenet of politicized post-structuralism. Dick Hebdige’s Sribciiltrrre: The hfeanitzg of Style. one might say that it is more French than German. These can be variously named the illusion effect. or. They just stayed in school. etc. Macheray. the practice. Though there are many variations in this group as well. Though the shift toward a political-theoretical approach to the analysis of the arts is on the upsurge. Deleuze. Representation itself is an agency through which the domination of the statirs quo is sustained. It is in this regard that the politicized post-structuralist’s view of representation is what I call conspiratorial. there is nevertheless an emerging party line.ists offer us different accounts of the ideological operation of representations. Christopher Noms’ Decotistrirctioti. Hence. Genette. critically. are entering aesthetics classes with strong political sensibilities. that in a class on ‘Of the Standard of Taste’. Moreover. is inherently ideological. proponents of this approach might be called politicized post-structuralists. Althusser rather than Habermas. as such. indeed. post-structura1. fine art criticism and so on. and all these diverge from the types of analysis found in the arts coverage in Socialist Revolution. in the burgeoning fields of literary theory. Kristeva. One colleague told me. However. the ‘regime’ of representation has built into it negative political capacities apart from the points of view or thematic commitments that a given work may offer about whatever it represents. For students. Baudril- lard. are its references.. all the students were interested in saying was that Hume was elitist. I must stress that this phenomenon is more in evidence outside philos- ophy. Benveniste. the transparency effect and the naturaliza- Downloaded from pos. 2010 . Those students of yesteryear have found a more effective means of taking over college buildings than hlark Rudd ever dreamed of.sagepub. works on us. cinema and what is called cultural studies. one politico-theoretical approach does appear to be more ascendant than the others.. Lyotard. Politicized post-structuralists claim that representation is ideologically SUS- pect because it supposedly supports a range of disreputable effects. On the other hand. Foucault. and Oxford’s The Sirbject of Semiotics by Kaja Silverman. Loosely. The purpose of this paper is to examine. exasperated. The politicized post-structuralist approach extends beyond academic journals to magazine and newspaper coverage in such publications as Art in America and New York City’s The Villnge Voice. in contrast to non- politicized post-structuralists such as the late Paul de Man. Again. Saussure. Antony Easthope’s Poetry ns Discourse.396 Noel Cnrroll forebears. viz. F’atrick Pamnder’s Fatztnsy: The Literntiwe of Subversion-as well as Routledge and Kegan Paul’s Latigrrage ntid hlaterinlisrti by Rosalind Coward and John Ellis. If any form of contemporary arts criticism has a right to claim that it is thriving. and.

to literature. roughly what in ordinary language we would call representational art (along with representational mass media). as inherently ideological is something called realism or classic realism. I am not opposed to analyses of the ideological dimensions of either works of art or the products of mass media. Unfortunately. I believe one can be opposed to specific theses of post-structuralism without being reac- tionary. Politicized post-structuralists hold that representation is inherently ideologi- cal. Nor is realism simply Naturalism. Hollywood films. the advertisements for Calvin Klein underwear and so on. especially Modernist abstractionism. It is to be contrasted with abstractionism. though I hope to indicate the ways in which they differ. I do not accept specific post-structuralist accounts of the inherently ideological nature of representation.e. and to the structural ploys of the New Novel B la Robbe-Grillet in temporal media. inherently in the service of oppression. in visual media. inadvisably. perhaps self-servingly. which is often. it is not clear that we cannot proceed by examining the post-structuralist attack without broaching the question of whether language is inherently ideological. Does it refer to language in general. called ‘a critique’. I must be permitted one caveat. However. since some theorists do not rely on all these effects-for example. For. I will attempt to show that none of these effects are plausible ones to attribute to representation in art or mass media tolit court. including emancipatory ones. we will Downloaded from pos. in practice. most politicized post-structuralist criticism is directed at ‘representa- tion’ where the effective scope of the concept is far narrower than language in general.. were articulated. Cotispirclcy Theories of Represeritcltiott 397 tion effect. i. The post- structuralist’s grounds for the notion that language is ideological depend upon elaborate extrapolations from the psychoanalytic theories of Lacan. inherently in the service of oppression. A representation as such possesses some politically discreditable effect independently of what it repre- sents. many avoid reference to illusion-I think it best to refrain from lumping all these items together. 2010 . though I suppose most post-structuralists will. and not a medium inherently committed to the side of the oppressor. throughout this paper.sagepub. And I will also try to offer a diagnosis of the factors that lead post-structuralists to mobilize explanations in terms of these effects in the service of ideological analysis. ‘Classic Realism’ does not simply refer to a particular art movement such as the one Courbet affiiiated with. For one would have thought that language was just the medium in which opposing political positions.com by Sergio Tonkonoff on October 15. I have not written a rearguard formalist tract nor an elaborate vote for Reagan. or to a Mondrian abstraction that the painter thought represented ultimate reality? Actually you can find some politicized post-structuralists who are willing to extend their criticism of representation to all these things. The mere exposition of this theory could occupy the rest of our day. to the novel. Also. The first question we must ask concerns the scope of ’representation’ in this proclamation. Nor does opposition to ideological studies across the board follow from anything in this paper. by theorists. paintings proposing a relation of similitude to their referents. However. What is debunked. The post- structuralist is vexed by things like photographs. snigger at such a pleading. Some theorists will use these concepts as cognates. though Courbet is a classic realist. But before initiating this project. TV soap operas and police shows. I have indulged in both myself. novels. even if it turns out that everyone rejects it. to a Monet painting of a haystack. Undoubtedly the most perplexing of these extensions is that language in general-not merely certain usages such as ‘man’ as a synonym for ‘humanity’-is inherently ideological.

the transparency effect and the naturalization effect. see Craig Owens. reference to the illusion effect is more a trope of the seventies than of the eighties. see Rosalind Coward and John Ellis. thus supposedly rendering revolutionary countermeasures inconceivable. in his railing against traditional theatre he accuses the representational practices of this genre with inducing illusions of reality and. That is. or a combina- tion thereof. However. 203 and 219. rooted in recognizable mimesis. in turn. advertisements. London 1977. post-structuralists appear to presume that we all know what they are referring to when they speak of realism. in Air and America. with inducing the illusion that things-e. post-structuralist critic. its ideological effects can. in Arthur Danto’s terminology.398 Noel Carroll have to rely on our everyday intuitions about the works the post-structuralists consider realist representations. Whether the representational form is. movies.. it must have some ideological effect that is a function of this type of representation as such. however. songs and so on. For an example of illusion terminology used in regard to literature. an exemplary artist for post-structuralists. the world o n stage is pur- portedly experienced as necessary due to the illusion of reality. since. be analyzed by means of the same analytic framework. plays. Dec. 2 Bertolt Brecht. ‘The Pro- scenic Event’. and trans. as well as a central reference point for Roland Barthes. and it is more often employed with reference to arts which propose a dimension of visual verisimilitude rather than literature. 2010 . ed.sagepub. intelligible diegesis. social relations-annot be This latter illusion. is claimed to be a causal effect of the initial illusion of reality. roughly. New York 1964. European. novels. Since realistic representation is ideological independently of its theme. Overwhelmed by the seeming reality before him. furthermore.’ The initial source of this particular criticism of representation appears to be Brecht.com by Sergio Tonkonoff on October 15. examples of reference to the illusion effect can still be found in the eighties as well as examples that apply the concept of illusion to writing. That is. by an historical category-the practices of representation falling in line with the dominant sensi- bility from the Renaissance to the advent of Modemism-nevertheless. I lack a single argument that shows that every conspiracy theory is doomed to failure. Let us first consider the illusion effect. they are experienced as real rather than fictional. in practice. 46-47. the vocabulary used by post-structuralists to criticize representation is not medium specific. rejecting each candidate in turn. Language and Materialism. Brecht on Theater. 1 For an example of illusion terminology in the eighties. by challenging the viability of the illusion effect. pp. for the politicized post-structuralist. Here the operative notion is that the pernicious effect of the art and media that post-structuralists dub ‘realist repre- sentations’ is the illusion of reality. I think that I can thrust the burden of proof back to the post-structuralist in a way that requires him to produce a new and finally plausible account of the conspiracy theory in order to sustain the thesis that representation is ideological. see especially pp. It is also important to note that though the type of representation that concerns the post-structuralist can be circumscribed. My strategy will be to examine the alternate formulations that have been offered of this effect. Though Brecht is hardly consistent on this matter. Post-structuralists were attracted to Brecht indirectly by two factors-Brecht was an important influence for Jean Luc Godard. the spectator’s critical powers are paralyzed so that he cannot conceive of any way in which the actions before him could be otherwise. 1981. photographs. J. Willet. perhaps the exemplary. Admittedly. the same language is used to describe the pernicious effects of representational paintings.g. Downloaded from pos.

44. 24. if we are not deceived by representations as such. Taken literally. post-structuralists concerned with visual media. edible apples before them. No one thinks that the Empire State Building is in the screening room during King Kotig: how could it be? Moreover. we must know we are viewing a painting in order properly to respond to it as a representation. like Gombrich? attempt to characterize my mental state before a picture on the model of ‘seeing as’. responses we make to representations as opposed to the things which they represent. 24. This is just false. But the experience of ambiguous figures does not appear to be a proper analog to my experience of viewing paintings. then in order to do it. he claimed. say. Refraining from criticizing o r being bothered by implausibility is something that is in my power. the thesis appears to claim that spectators confronted by repre- sentations of apples are deceived-like those famous Greek birds-into believ- ing that there are luscious. whereas. but that they are in some other kind of state. but it does not affect my beliefs. something over and above recognizing what the representation is a representation of. I do not flip-flop between seeing painting as flat and then seeing their referents as 3 For an example of the appropriation of Greenberg-style anti-illusionism. 5. 2010 . Nor am I inclined to believe that it is within my power to convince myself that the painting before me is not a painting but the referent of the painting. Tarzan teaching himself to read. then I must protest that I have no recollection of ever taking a portrait tobe a person. I always supposed that what suspendingdisbelief amounted to was my decision not to criticize the improbability of the events in certain stories-cg. painting was by nature flat. 1983. Thus. Indeed. how would we account for the very different cognitive and aesthetic. Afterinrage. One might. Typically. Conspiracy Theories of Represerttrrtion 399 If Brecht supplied a major source for the notion of illusion. I must be continually aware that I am in a certain context-such as viewing a picture of the ninth circle of hell or reading a fiction about life on Mars. also appropriated the anti-illusionism of Clement Greenberg as part of their a n a l y ~ i s . and typically we have this knowledge and do respond appropriately. it becomes difficult to understand why we should morally deprecate representations. Art and Illusion.. the representational of realist films. That is. H. the predictable countermove is to claim that the term ‘illusion of reality’ does not entail that spectators are deceived. October. At this point. if people were deceived by representations. p. Gombrich. 5 E. see Noel Burch and Jorge Dana. 1974. if this is the correct interpretation of the ‘suspension of disbelief‘. First we see the traditional realist painting as flat. painting and photography. ‘Propositions’. film and painting is one of illusion has been effectively challenged by many authors.sagepub. ‘Suspension of disbelief‘ is a favourite term of art here.com by Sergio Tonkonoff on October 15. Furthermore. not to mention behavioural. such as film. The issue of whether the effect promoted by representational theatre. ‘suspension of disbelief‘ really means the bracketing of the criticism of improbabilities (rather than. London 1%2. of immoralities) in certain appropriate circumstances. photography and painting came to be criticized by pst-structuralists for their imposture of three-dimensionality. then it is a three-dimensional object. ~ Greenberg excoriated traditional painting for promoting the illusion of depth. then it appears to have depth-first it is a picture plane. if it is said that the suspension of disbelief is something that happens to me.4 It suggests that I do something to myself or that something happens to me when confronted by a representation. Downloaded from pos. 4 Stephen Heath makes such a move in his ‘Le Rre Noel’. following Wittgenstein’s account of ambigu- OUS images like the duck-rabbit. In fact. Of course. Phenomenologically I have no sense of such an internal process.

how could the post-structuralist parlay that into an ideological machination? Here we will be reminded. do so because they already accept the ideas implicit in such works and not because of some peculiar ‘ideologizing’ effect of representation. Indeed. as there are with ambiguous images. Reactionary fatalism is not an invariant effect of representation. There are not complete transformations of my visual field. Novels are often written so that the reader is moved to criticize the statrrs quo and to affirm that things ought to be otherwise. the Greenbergian formulation. are these less exercises in classic realism than reactionary items such as Lord oftke Flies or Ben Hirr? That is. they nevertheless are causal factors in the produc- tion of a consequent. But though I enjoyed the play and understood it. by a complex production. as such. Language and hfaterialism. thematically speaking. in any case. Nor is there any reason to suppose that our critical faculties are crippled by traditional representations whose thematic viewpoint we reject. When I focus on the scene in apainting. even if there were a Greenbergian illusion of depth. the impression we produce of a real world.com by Sergio Tonkonoff on October 15. which will induce a flip-flop between two ways of seeing a representational painting . while Looking Bnckwards and Typee attempt to show that things could be otherwise. For example.‘ How does this happen? 6 Coward and Ellis. Rather. misdescribes the situation.. we read for the story. They write . that seeing a representational painting causes a deceptive illusion that something flat is deep. And the plays that Aristotle used as his data were. which is a technical term whose application is consistent with the notion that.400 Noel Carroll three-dimensional objects in the way that I shift from first seeing a duck and then a rabbit. 2010 . it is within the rhetorical resources of traditional representation to convey the possibility of social change. are fatalistic. What we value is its truth to life. But this hypothesis does not square with the facts. it does not matter that realism is produced by a certain use of language.sagepub. that even if the various illusions or impressions of reality-said to be imparted by traditional representations-are not themselves ideological. I do not see it as ‘deep’ in some univocal sense which is the logical contrary of ‘flat’. Ira Levin’s Deathrrap presupposes the old saw that human beings are inevitably driven by envy and greed. in a certain sense. Audience members who assent to the thematic commitments of a given representation. pp. fatalistic. But there is no reason to think that independent of the details of particular stories. just as blacks in 1915 had no trouble rejecting Griffith’s Birth ofa Nation. the story. 46-47. consider Gorky’s Mother and Remarqoe’s All Quiet on the WesternFront. I did not accept its world view.. Nor are there heuristic promptings or pointings. We do not read Agatha Christie or John Braine for the productivity of their language. Furthermore. ideological effect-throwing our critical faculties out of gear in such a way that makes us accept depicted human actions and relations as they way things must be. I suspect. all that matters is the illusion. 5 la Brecht. And. They imply that human relations should be otherwise. A denser account of the purported ideological illusion afforded by realist representation in literature has been propounded by Coward and Ellis. the accuracy of its vision. But how. the content. I perceive ‘pictorial depth’. Downloaded from pos. that stories. recall that the theatre that upset Brecht was often referred to as Aristotelean. the picture plane is flat. qua representational fiction.

the preceding account is absurd. but in this confusion. that Eskimos see the world by means of different conceptual schemata (different signifieds). The business of realist writing is. an epistemological error. no doubt. epistemological realism? Does Feyerabend feel shaken after reading Enznra? Like many philosophy teachers I have found that most of my students are inveterate relativists as regards both morality and cognition. Language is treated as though it stands in for. the real world. Would reading novels sway them toward realism? I think not. the real world. just as if it were referring to nothing but its own presence' (Demda. recall the strategies of shifting and conflicting points of view. reflect or correspond to things-in-themselves. mimcry. 32-3). If one has a n epistemological view. non-naive. pp. to be the equivalent of a reality. 7 Ibid. taking our cue from Coward and Ellis. Posirions. This is something akin to presupposing that our concepts. This *imitation' is the basis of realist literature and its technical name is mimesis. for example. the signifieds in this jargon. according to its philosophy. which Ellis and Coward suspect on the grounds of Kantian-type linguis- tic considerations. but an identity: the signifier is treated as identical to a [pre-existent] signified. But is it not strange to think that novels engender epistemological positions? More precisely-do realist novels in any way lead their readers to believe naive. In so far as it suggests that people take what they encounter when they read to be the actual referent of the writing. because novels are fictional and are clearly marked as such. Nor does naive realism tally with the practices of writing traditional realist representations. The signifierand the signified are not seen as caught up together in a process of production. though it pays to note that Ellis and Coward have not shown that some variant of epistemological realism. I do not propose to enter the epistemological debate concerning realism and anti-realism. They would explain away any novel I gave them as reflective of merely the author's view or the views of his society.com by Sergio Tonkonoff on October 15. Furthermore. ones that grew out of their needs and history. 2010 . reminding me. to imitate it. one is a relativist or a critical realist already. and if. I find it difficult to understand how a novel could lead someone to naive realism.' This passage is somewhat confusing. carrying it over into a medium that exists only as a parasitic practice because the word is identical to. The nature of this error is obscure. epistemological realism which novels encourage. The whole basis of mimesis is that writing is a mere transcription of the real. they are treated as equivalents: the signifier is merely the equivalent of its pre-established concept. But Coward and Ellis suggest that there is yet another false belief that we fall err to when we read the realist novel. other than naive realism. the equivalent of. it cannot be the case that people believe that what they read in realist novels refers to something that literally happened. one has it independently of reading novels. we might claim that it is this version of acceptable. So the illusion promoted by representational realism is a form of naive epistemological realism. 'Not only do the signifier and the signified seem to unite. might not be advisable. is identical with. one can accommodate novels into one's framework with no tension.sagepub. Then. and that the relation between concepts and what they referto might be formulated within that framework. It is that we take the meanings of words and larger linguistic units to mirror reality. Downloaded from pos.just by virtue of being a representation. Cotispiracy Tlieories of Represeiitatioti 401 This repression of production takes place because realism has as its basic philosophy of language not a production (signification being the production of a signified through the action of the signifying chain). but merely to express or communicate it. the signifier Seems to be erasedor to become transparent so as to let the concept present itself.

reference to a speaker is included: ‘I said “Charles went to the movies”’ is discourse.. In so far as proponents of this theory conceive of the transparency effect in terms of illusions of reality. one can only wonder about the way in which a depiction of a Minotaur or a Gremlin could inspire a chain of psychological events that culminates in felt assent to the correspondence theory of truth.sagepub. One of the most popular formulas for referring to the transparency effect is to say that in the classic realist representation events and reality appear to narrate themselves. 15. signatures on paintings. ‘Charles went to the movies and met Iris’ is an example of history. 9 See Craig Owens. I think we can be comfortably sceptical about the postulation that typical consumers of representational art suffer from epis- temological illusions as the result of reading novels. there is no mention of ‘you’ or ‘1’. The idea of transparency occurred in the quotation from Coward and Ellis.The historic mode of narration is ideological because it imparts the impression that the representation results from no interests whatsoever or that its production is disinterested.e. If 8 Emile Benveniste. in Art in Anzericu. ‘Representation. We cannot but attribute an author to it. Realist representation is supposed to exemplify the historic mode of narration. we irresistably infer that some agency executed it.402 Noel Carroll Perhaps Coward and Ellis think novels enjoin beliefs in the correspondence theory of truth? But how would fictioris do that? Remember that the question here is causal not philosophical-i. they are subject to the criticisms we have already reviewed. pro- gramme notes at theatre. The account of the transparency effect is often introduced by a discussion of the linguist Benveniste’s distinction between two modes of narration: history and discourse. what would it take for a represen- tation to have the effect of appearing as a n instance of an event narrating itself’?Is the idea even comprehensible? If a representation is intelligible. and brand names in advertisements? Furthermore. A. it is claimed.^ Why is this transparency effect ideological? Because the lack of reference to a speaker is assimilated to the suppression of acknowledgement of the representational apparatus and the situation of utterance (the production of the representation) which includes the suppression ofreference to the interests that motivate the utterance.. There are myriad problems with the standard accounts of transparency. pp.com by Sergio Tonkonoff on October 15. is transpar- ency. deceptively by all accounts. Such narration is said to impart an impression that it is authorless. Miami 1971. hlay 1982. to narrate themselves. In discourse.Appropriation and Power’. Problems in General Lingctisfics. 2010 . not whether the correspondence theory of truth is adequate. copyright notices in photo- graphic captions. Downloaded from pos. like novels and feature-length movies. that it is an instance of events or reality appearing. 206-207. The effect of history. the transparency effect does seem distinguishable from the illusion effect. Can it really be the case that by adopting the historic mode of narration. p. Hoffman? Turning to traditional visual representa- tions. on the other hand. Would a correspondence theory of truth be a likely concomitant while either reading or writing a tale by E. even though post-structuralists are sometimes careless in this matter. spectators are brought to the false belief that the representations set before them are none other than events narrating themselves? What about the title pages of novels. credits sequences at the beginning and end of movies. T. Until post-structuralists supply an acceptable account of this. You might think that this account only applies to temporal representa- tions. However. but it is also extended to static pictorial representations including portrait^.s In narration that is dubbed ‘history’. but whether traditional novels could instill faith in it.

Instilling the impression that a novel is authorless is. then I must point out that this metaphor is spoken of as if it described a state that has certain effects whose sequence makes no sense if the ‘appearance of author- lessness” is. hforeover. The history/discourse model just does not fit the phenomena that the post-structuralist seeks to describe. will not turn the trick. 23. Taken literally. and in my ‘Response to Heath’. would result respectively in the awareness or unawareness of the motives and interests that underlie a given representation. The notion of an intelligible narrative as mi gerteris violates our sense of natural order.com by Sergio Tonkonoff on October 15. To avoid the preceding objections. they mean either the repression of the acknowledgement of the spectator’s interpretive activity. Fielding acknowledges the reader in Torn Jones. just impossible. ‘enunciation’ is also a term drawn from continental linguistics. Are not Goethe’s Yoicrig Wertlrer and the epistolary novel in general full of discoirrse along with the movie Sirriset B k d . the transparency effect might be explicated without reference to the purportedly linguistic distinction between history and discourse. . 10 Sometimes this is stated by saying that the realist representationeffaces the fact that it is an enunciation. I have questioned the putative connection between the linguistic accounts of enunciation and the larger applications post-structuralists make of it in my ‘Address to the Heathen’. what is the connection between the lack of reference to ‘I’ and ‘you’ in narration and the putative effect of authorlessness? Surely narration can be discourse without the ‘I’ contained in it referring to the actual author of the work. Ocrober. or. realist representation. linguistic trappings aside. furthermore. more frequently. the mere inclusion of first and second person references.1o Realist representations impart the impression of transparency by effacing reference to the conditions of their production. Rembrandt’s self-portraits and Frank Per- due’s chicken advertisements? But certainly they are all also examples of clas- sic. especially afictional. Certainly omitting references to an authorial ‘I’. And.1982. or why the lack of such references causes the impression that the work is authorless. in fact. while many televised. October.sagepub. authorial ‘I’. 27. Nor is it clear why discourse. Like the historyldiscourse distinction. used car ads include actual dealers ad- dressing us (‘You can’t beat this anywhere’) unabashedly. And more mysterious still is the notion that somehow the inclusion or exclusion of first and second person reference. strictly speaking. It might be said that realist representations mask the fact that they are productions or constructions. consequently. thereby appearing authorless and. when post- structuralistsspeak of the suppression of enunciation. without motive or ideological interests. the masking of the ideological interests that motivate the work. In practice. only a metaphor. nor do I understand what plausible interests the authors of novels could have in convincing us that their work is authorless. this scenario is false for the kinds of reasons already rehearsed. or the pictorial equivalents thereof. Moreover. 1983. 2010 . Of course. it is also mistaken to believe that the corpus of classic realist representation can be assimilated to the historic mode of narration. Thack- e n y refers to himselfjokingly in Variity Fair. Normal readers cannot be deluded into believing that novels are authorless. if the post-structuralist accuses me of taking literally what is meant as a metaphor. Downloaded from pos. enjoins a reminder of the author’s role. Cotispiracy Theories of Represeritatiori 403 when reading a novel we were suddenly taken by the conviction that the events that comprise the book were narrating themselves. we would be as dumbfounded as we would be by the sight of the Pentagon levitating and turning orange as a result of Yippie chanting. works of classic realism may indeed contain references to the actual author and audieiice of a representation. Nor do we have any idea of what it would take for an intelligible novel to override this natural prejudice.

In order for a representation to be processed. The realist representation. the Lacanian interaction of the spectator’s Imaginary and Symbolic. is to promote the impression that they always lack ideological motivations. it is unfortunately a commonplace that everyone has his own interpretation of everything. It is outlandish to claim that ordinary consumers of representations are not aware that interpretation is involved in responding to representations-they are the first to admit it. However. ready to yield itself automatically. anthropomorphic. is not the effacement of the production history of the representation but rather a denial of the spectator’s interpretive response at the moment of his reception of the representation. the spectator must do things such as comprehend conventions. Contemporary Americans. That the audience is unaware of its interpretive activity is implausible. it is certain factors of the production of meaning in the context of the communicative act that are the facts of production that the post-structuralist believes the realist representation re- presses. a necessary condition for the cognitive assimilation of a representation is the recognition that it is a human product..e. is unaware of these postulated. especially their own interpretations of representa- tions. while experiencing representations.. But perhaps what is meant by the suppression ofthe fact ofproduction. Now in some cases. Downloaded from pos.e. The impression of transparency here is that the meaning of a representation somehow is completely internal to the work. that it is not surprising that the spectator. Obviously the story about the way in which realist representations appear authorless-i.g. err in a direction that is exactly opposite than that of which post-structuralists accuse them. if not downright dubious.404 Noel Carroll We are always aware that representations are the products of human agency. Of course. that is. it is claimed. and engage in a range of interpretive acts. post-structuralists have very specific notions of what the spectator’s ‘productive response’ entails. these accounts themselves are so controversial. the bottom line in the transparency account of realist representa- tion is the claim that such representations impart the impression that they are not ideologically motivated. appears authorless-then what would an ideological viewpoint be attached to? I have dismissed the idea that a realist representation appears authorless. If a work appears uncoloured by an authorial viewpoint4. it might still be the case that an effect of realist representations. However. The notion is so obscure that until it can be rendered intelligible. the lack of awareness of the operation of these processes would not be a special characteristic of realist representation since unawareness of these processes is also supposedly occur- ring even when we are not confronting realist representations. even if this hypothesis is discarded.. post-structuralists should refrain from attributing it to anyone. author-transparent-is meant to suggest a causal explanation of ideological transparency. That is.sagepub. interpretive response from the spectator. A communicative exchange requires an active. 2010 . in that they do not appear ideologically coloured. and that the meaning of the work is self-sufficiently reflected in the representation. e. with their exorbitant claims to unique and personal views in every domain of life. in the post-structuralist context. inner goings-on. almost nihilistically-while it is also apparent that everyone knows that a completed communication requires a receiver. They appear transparent. And anyway. supply presuppositions. In our own society. qiia their representational apparatus.com by Sergio Tonkonoff on October 15. Nor is it easy to see what is involved in the supposed impression that the meaning of a representation is self-sufficiently contained in it. encourages a spectator in the impression that this interpretive activity is not occurring.

At the same time. I should say that I am not persuaded that every popular representation conveys a message that is ideological. it seems predictable to adopt a conspiracy view if American advertisements are your paradigms of representation. derive their impetus from anti-formalism.I2 Nor do I think that viewers are automatically blinded to the ideological 11 It is ironic that while post-structuralists. I am not denying that representation plays a part in the educational process through which people acquire beliefs. 12 Especially among American. I t becomes hard to understand how and why simply by being a realist representation. partly because it is unclear that every one of them contains a message and partly because a suitably constrained concept of ideology may not be applicable to all of those remaining representations which can be said to have messages. These analyses at least recall a species of formalist functionalism. But the post-structuralist might claim that it is not those sorts of works that the transpar- ency effect is meant to explicate. before encountering these respective representations. we would. be better advised to attend to the antecedent beliefs such people have than to some special power of realist representation. we should think of more quotidian and covert examples such as T V police shows. nevertheless in their accounts of representation they appear to offer generic accounts. That is. Are there not works of realist representation of unmis- takable ideologicaI affiliation-West's Tlze Death of General Wore. First. politicized. But if we want an account of why some people believe ideologically skewed representations. Certainly no one who antece- dently rejects the ideological postions inscribed in the previous examples will be prone to accept such representations as ideologically neutral. something could give the impression that it was bereft of ideological affiliations. I think. he was already predis- posed to accept as an ideologically untainted fact. the argument proceeded by means of examples of representations whose ideological commitments were quite overt. the history of the inculcation of certain beliefs instead of the investiga- tion of the structure of representation-in terms of a quasi-formal effect like transparency"-will be our best avenue of research.com by Sergio Tonkonoff on October 15. Huxley's Brave New world and so on. In this regard. 2010 . such a person probably takes the ideological messages in question to be true rather than ideologica14n the basis of antecedent beliefs-and he regards the works as illustrations of what. more likely. What would we say of someone who denied that these realist representations appeared to lack an ideological viewpoint? I conjecture that either such a person really does not understand what these works are about or that. Gros's Napoleon at Arcole. That is. Downloaded from pos. Cotispiracy Theories of Representntiori 405 Undoubtedly once we reject the causal hypothesis that in realist representa- tion there is an jmpression of authorlessness which propones an aura of ideologi- cal neutrahty. advertisements seem to hold a particular fascination. for reasons external to the work. such a person embraces. it may be interesting to note that this was a generation steeped in Vance Packard's exposes of the ad industry.sagepub. which are not very specific historically. Rather I am suggesting that it will be the examination of concrete cases of educational processes over time which will deliver accounts of why certain ideological messages are not regarded as such by ordinary spectators. Rather. of the invariant struc- tures of realist representation. This fascination with advertisements certainly must have contributed to this generation's appreciation of Bathes. horror films and advertisements. In the preceding paragraph. the ideological positionsfound in these works. post-structuralists. Furthermore. of the politicized variety. I think it isjust false to suppose that ordinary viewers are lulled by some transparency effect into believing that advertisements are not motivated by interests which the viewer easily identi- fies. Riefensthal's Triirnipli of the Will.

thus. one finds quite a lot of things posing as natural in the practices of realist representation. Like the notion of transparency. Likewise. Poerry as Discorme. in current horror films. cool. this appears to occur most often when an ideological conviction is presented by a character whom the spectator already admires or approves because of that character's non-ideological virtues-strength. it may be the case that many viewers do not recognize the ideologi- cally skewed representations found in popular entertainments. Psychological and sociological study of both the causes and effects of compla- cency and of prevailing notions of entertainment seem better starting points for investigation here than the examination of the structure of representation as such-that is. i. 64. sexually active women are often punished by gruesome executions. Downloaded from pos.406 Noel Carroll function of the police shows and doctor's shows that reassure us that we are in the care of public servants who are incredibly committed and tremendously talented. the notion of naturalization is employed in diverse and confusing ways in the contemporary assault on representation. London 1983. But again this may have less to do with some transparency effect than with the fact that viewers already accept the ideology embodied in a work. acategory ofthings not to be taken seriously. To naturalize a depicted event is' to evoke the illusion that the spectator is witnessing a real event. naturalization is apt to be run together with the idea of the transparency effect of authorlessness. cunning. of spoken English. have the aura of reality o r nature narrating itself. for that matter) in every realist representation. But this is not the effect of realist representa- tion as such.. Realist representations are said to impart the deceptive impression that they are without authors and. At times. and there is no reason to believe that this rhetorical strategy must be placed in the service of ideology (or in the service of anything else. the referent of the representation is experienced as actually confronting the spectator. If audiences fail to recognize the ideological significance of this. If viewers fail to analyze these messages it may be attributable to a combination of the sort of complacency engendered by being bombarded by a surfeit of such messages and by the fact that viewers bracket such exercises under the rubric of entertainment. the idea of naturalization may be used synonymously with that of a deceptive illusion of reality. civility. I am not denying that a spectator may not acquire an ideological belief in the course of viewing a popular entertainment. Antony Easthope. It is a persuasive technique available to high school football coaches and popular artists alike. courage. holds that iambic pentameter in poetry imparts the impression that it is the natural poetic form of English. beauty.sagepub. Of course. However what is peculiar is his 13 Antony Easthope.e. it is probably because they accept these executions as morally appropriate.ls East- hope challenges the validity of this belief by showing that other meters suit English and by showing that the institutionalization of iambic pentameter was an historical rather than a natural development. for exam- ple.com by Sergio Tonkonoff on October 15. knowledge. However. wit. where that means the meter that is uniquely determined by the cadences. honesty. the natural cadences. p. if we want to study the ideological effectiveness of popular culture. Easthope's criticisms of the natural status of iambic pentameter seem acceptable. there are further applications of the notion of natu- ralization that require attention in their own right. This usage of naturalization is susceptible to our earlier arguments against the illusion effect. Canvassing post-structuralist polemics. For example. This concept of naturalization falls with the inadequacy of the proposal that realist representations impart the illusion of authorlessness. like Halloween. However. fortitude. expertise. 2010 . etc.

The post-structuralist. When a post-structuralist claims that a work of realist representation gives the impression of being ‘natural’. Perhaps the post- structuralists are confusing theoretical polemics with sociology. so to say. not the product of historically formulated conventions. mistakenly. the post-structuralist believes that all representations are the prod- 14 George Saintsbury. Moreover. An initially more probable foil to ‘natural’ may appear to be ‘cultural’. London 1910. However. Coiispirmy Theories of Rtpreseiitatiort 407 apparent belief that poems in iambic pentameter impart the conviction that they exemplify some sort of natural language.com by Sergio Tonkonoff on October 15. instead. In this case the post-structuralist would be claiming that though representations are cultural artifacts. and. the post-structuralists supply no evidence to support claims that viewers typically possess the arcane views of the various media that said media supposedly cause in them. theoretical. VisibleFictions. one wants to know. or.sagepub. 3 vols. If something is cultural then it is conventional and coded. There is no apparent reason to suppose that iambic pentameter affects ordinary readers in such a way that they come. have claimed that the choice ofiambic pentameter was determined by the structure of English. We also encountered this tendency to attribute theories to audiences in our discussion of the way in which language supposedly induces assent to the correspondence theory of truth. London 1982. However. the product of historically formulated codes. not a poll or a summary of the effects of iambic pentameter on readers. any other theory by.. if ever that effect were achieved. Often a form of classic realist representation is said to have as an effect upon the spectator the imparting of an impression which. conviction? Ordinary readers? Do ordinary readers finish poems suddenly deceived about the natural structure of verse? True. they appear to be natural. It. is led to say that representations appear natural rather than cultural because he tends to identify the ‘cultural’ with the ‘conventional’ and the ‘coded’. essentialist characterization of the nature of the medium of representation in question. Nor can representations be nppreciclted if they are thought to be natural in the sense of being siri getreris. appears natural-Le. for him these notions are intersubsti- tutable. it seems to me. Indeed. But this seems to me to be as absurd as the assertion that such objects appear to be authorless. We are told that classic realist cinema imparts an impression of reality-past. theorists. one wants to ask ‘Natural in contrast to what?’. as post-structuralists prefer to say. in short.” But that was a theory. Where ‘authorlessness’ is the effect that the post-structuralist has in mind. is identical with a rival. which observation is not based on any information about how film affects spectators but is an attribution of a belief in Bazin’s theory of the ontology of film to ordinary viewers: and we are told that TV imparts the impression of reality-present. I would imagine that the contrast is supposed to be ‘man made’. then it is not recognized to be cultural. is over- whelmed by such an unusual. thereby characteriz- ing ordinary spectators as untutored proponents of Marshal M c L ~ h a n . to believe something like Saintsbury’s theory. Furthermore. not to say false. more obviously. or for that matter.. ’Repre- ~ sentational media. I have mentioned this example because it represents a frequent trope of post-structuralist criticism. if something is not recognized to be the product of conventions. A History of English Prosody. Downloaded from pos. 2010 . osmosis. such as George Saintsbury. in fact. are often portrayed as inflicting discredited theories about themselves upon spectators. For it is a necessary condition for appropriately responding to representations that they be recognized as the types of cultural productions they are: pictures rather than states of affairs: fictions rather than events. I would be tempted to describe the representation as siipertiatuml. 15 These views about spectator responses to cinema and TV can be found in John Ellis. vice-versa. Who.

Film Language. they are not recognized as such. But is narrative as such conventional? That is. This is not to say that there are no conventions involved in narrative. and the frequent aim of such editing-to evoke suspense-would the preceding alternative method to parallel editing be successful? I doubt it. That is. However. To the extent that they are not recognized as such. What has this to do with representation? Well. not every object that is a cultural invention-that responds to a culturally evolved need-is the result of the formulation of a convention. rather than being co-extensive with conventions? However. what practice would succeed as well as narrative to make such things as human relationships intelligible? Perhaps this example is too abstract to be profitable. That need only appeared in certain societies-to simplify. We could not.com by Sergio Tonkonoff on October 15.a n d tint one of them red and the other blue in order to communicate their simultaneity. New York 1974. once one has the problem or the desire to drive certain types of nails most effectively.16 But is it really a code/convention? Simultaneity could be conveyed in other ways. we might say that the need for nails is society-specific. I think that we should want to distinguish between these things. we can establish the convention by fiat. they give the impression of being natural. for example. But even though narrative is cultural. the identification of the conven- tional and the cultural is even more problematic.sagepub. 2010 . because it is obviously cul- tural. Is everything that is cultural reducible to conventions? The claw hammer is a cultural artifact. in turn. given the aims of narrative-among other things.408 Noel Carroll ucts of conventionslcodes. But does that make the use of hammers a convention (or a code)? No. In film there is a practice of suggesting that two events are simultaneous which involves cutting from one event to the other. 128. it is not clear that it is purely conventional. the conventional and the coded. This is called parallel editing.. The viewer watching the first scene would not know what was going on simultane- ously in the second scene. decide to drive nails with butterfly nets.e. establishing a convention involves choosing between a range of equally acceptable alternatives. So. Just because the alternatives are equally acceptable. are conventions. Let us consider a more localizable example. depends upon conflating the cultural. One must attend to means-ends relationships and to the constraints imposed by physics and human biology. it was designed with a specific histor- ical need in rnind-driving and/or extracting a certain type of nail with a flattened head. Thus. i. We could show simultaneous events sequentially in their entirety-with no cutting between t h e m . Downloaded from pos. These societies needed these nails. p. The preceding account. Houses. Are not codes generally specific types of conventions. Perspective and narrative. their historico-cultural ongins in conventions and codes are suppressed or masked. solving that problem is not arbitrary. while if the second scene was very long the viewer 16 Christian Metz. the post-structuralist wants to treat things like narrative as purely conventional. putatively. might be built without nails. But given the structure of human minds. The problem of driving and extracting nails with flattened heads cannot be solved by fiat. to build certain types of culturally specific structures-again to simplify.a r e arbitrary. Rather. Conventions-such as which side of the road to drive o n . to promote understanding-and the structure of cognition along with human life as we know it. to a certain extent. let us say societies that had nails with flattened heads. the aim of mass movies to be comprehended quickly by untutored audiences. obviously. of course. they appear natural. Semiologists believe this is a code and have called it the 'alter- nate syntagma'. let us say to build houses.

A. again.com by Sergio Tonkonoff on October 15. The idea of the naturalization effect occurs in his ‘Myth Today’. cannot be taken as evidence that readers apprehend narratives as natural. ‘hlyth Today’. trans. in Image-Music-Text. I would argue. And. This is not surprising given the impor- tance of Brecht for Barthes. the Brechtian notion that realist theatricaI representation induces the illusion that things cannot be otherwise. since through realist representation the ruling class can proffer its values as irreversible facts of nature. New York 1977.-as if they were natural-facts of human nature-and eternal. readers do not fail to recognize that narratives are cultural-what else would they be? Their supposed failure to recognize narrative as a convention. in hfyrhologies. natural form of human existence. to mention two seminal essays. New York 1972. But then the use of parallel editing does not Seem to be conyentional. as I do. it is unclear how mistaking it to be a practice. is recognized as cultural. in turn. which.” Barthes’s use of ‘natural’ is not always univocal. For want of a better term. I will call these practices. may not be a failure and. And surely the spectator knows parallel editing is a practice of movie exposition.sagepub. etc. natural. instead of being seen as an historical development within Western Culture of a specific period. However. as natural-is not a failure at all. even if narratives were a convention. Heath.e. S. All realist representation has this naturalizing function which is to promote the impression that historically evolved. roles and relations are eternal verities. The failure of the spectator to see parallel editing as a convention-thereby seeing it as not cultural and. Using hammers and parallel editing are practices in this sense as. this formulation of the naturalization 17 Roland Barthes. 2010 .. But if we say such things are practices. And if the semiotician wants to prove that it is. I believe. of course. like the Faniily of Man. while not being the same as. The naturaliza- tion effect. so conceived. is presented by the practices of realist representation as an eternal. the nuclear family. it is a practice. can have vast ideological significance. Albums. They cannot be adopted by fiat but are arrived at by means-ends reasoning and experimentation in order to find the most effective method of solving a problem under the constraints of how the world is and of how humans are built. therefore. Conspirncy Theories of Represenintion 409 might forget about the first scene. and ‘The Rhetoric of the Image’. Barthes. values. would have significant ideological repercussions. Barthes thinks that the denotative function of photography imbues the cultural viewpoint inscribed in the image-what he calls its connotation-with the aura of being a fact. Roland Barthes. then the burden is on him to produce an equally successful format for portraying simul- taneity cinematically. we short circuit many post-structuralist arguments concerning naturalization. Followers of Barthes extend this style of analysis to all forms of realist representation and to what they might call the codes of verisimilitude employed by said forms. For example. therefore. because parallel editing is not a convention. The source ofthe idea that representation has a naturalizing effect is. similarly. Barthes’s account of the naturalization effect resembles. trans. i. Lavers. ‘The Rhetoric of the Image’. Downloaded from pos. The post-structuralist identifies the cultural with the conventional. But there are arange ofcultural forms and activities which are not simplyconventions. are the uses of narrative and perspective in the pursuit of certain ends. cultural values. However. he does emphatically return to one characterization of the naturalization effect that we have not yet reviewed. use the techniques of photographic verisimilitude in a way that convinces us that our present conception of family life is transcultural. To naturalize is to present what is cultural and historical--certain structures of human relations.

The characters as well as the personal and social relations depicted in Renoir’s Grattd Illiisioti and Rrrles of rhe Game are not eternal types nor are they meant to be. What might be meant by saying that this image appears natural to us is that its bizarre juxtaposition of elements does not jolt us. in the face of Aristotle. That women are depen- dent. commonplace. for example. Perhaps the most informal use of ‘natural’ among post-structuralists relies on the idea that realist representations make their content appear familiar to us. nor on their fantastic implications. supposedly. The evidence for this is that there are realist representations in each medium and artform that d o not suggest they are depicting eternal verities while at the same time they do not differ vis B vis their techniques of verisimilitude from works within the same medium that do naturalize their themes. See pulp novels like The Srand and Lucifer’s Hammer for examples of this.sagepub. has been used to portray how people. 2010 . Thus. We accept them as natural just because they are so familiar. to take a famous example of Barthes. live naturally. The thinking behind this device is crudely experimental. A similar device for abstracting human nature is the atomic war which destroys society leaving us to. They seem ordinary. in and of itself. that they want to be raped and dominated is a theme of Lina Wertmuller’s Swept Away. Often we are jolted by what we see in realist representations and we are appalled by their implications. strategies. and tropes to explain the way in which the effect is achieved in agiven work. We do not dwell upon their utter peculiarity and grotes- querie. The latter film. You might think we should be astounded by such an image. But this suggestion does not seem quite right. as you might think we should be left open-mouthed and gaping by most of the advertisements we see on TV and billboards. Downloaded from pos. it is not the case that all representation automatically naturalizes. at least. they make it seem natural in the sense of ‘not out of the ordinary’. Nor does it take an acquaintance with post-structuralism for the scales to drop from one’s eyes on such an occasion. I remember my Irish grandmother’s violent reaction to John Ford’s The Quiet Mati. Realist representation does not guar- antee that its presuppositions will be swallowed as perfectly and acceptably commonplace. a trope which since Robinson Criisoe. attempts to portray the ‘modern hero’. she knew what it was saying about her people and she disapproved vociferously.410 Noel Cnrroll effect also shares many of the problems of the Brechtian account. it assumes. does not suggest this variety of naturalization. How can this happen? The post- structuralist answers: because representation naturalizes. we point to rhetorical devices. We accept realist representations because they ‘familiarize’ whatever they touch. really are. We do not bother to decipher their ideological messages and presuppositions. I was numb with shock and scandalized when I saw the ‘family film’ Red Dawn. though it may be the case that some representations do naturalize their content. They are too familiar. Nor is Musil‘s Man Withoiit Qiralities ahistorical. Suppose. which is the claim post-structuralists presume to be axiomatic. Verisimilitude. restricted in a lonely laboratory.com by Sergio Tonkonoff on October 15. But we are not. well. We do not point to the nature of representation as such. we look at a photo of a black colonial soldier saluting a French flag. We are inured to whatever the representation presents because we are so accustomed and comfortable with representations. But note that when we explain these naturalizing effects. Certainly we can all think of cases where cultural prejudices have been naturalized in the sense of being presented as eternal laws of human behaviour. that human nature as it really is will only be revealed once people are removed from the network of social relations. The sense that this is an eternal truth is secured by the deserted island device. We assimilate them like so much environmental noise.

then realist representation can have no special effect. This does not apply only to realist representations. But we are as undisturbed by them as we are by the photographic advertisements staged in perspectively organized space. only the pervasiveness of the practice of representation does. one in which portraits were composed in the vocabulary of what was indiscernible from Pollock drip-paintings. I have reviewed what I find to be the most significant theoretical consid- erations underlying the conspiracy view of representation that is coming to dominate academic art theory and criticism today. At the heart of the conspiracy approach is an opposition if not a distrust of realist representation. As well. Perhaps what we are really talking about is complacency. does the familiarity account of naturalization segue neatly with other commitments of post-structuralists. This is cast in political terminology by conspiracy theorists. forthcoming in the journal Dialectics and Hitmanism. I would like to conclude by offering a brief diagnosis of what I believe is the route by which so many people have been led into an ill-advised enterprise. then the answer probably lies not in considerations of the structure of realist representation. Thus.com by Sergio Tonkonoff on October 15. I do not wish to criticize this view of photography now. believes that photography has a special potential for naturalization because it is mechanical. We become familiar supposedly with what becomes conventional. according to the familiarity theory. We now accept realist portraits as natural. For then the structure of the representational system makes no difference. at least in the sense that it is the most frequent form of artistic and mass media communication. appear natural. But. because it is the dominance of a convention. Its special effect is said to be naturalization. Realist representation is purportedly conven- tional. I see little prospect in the conspiracy approach to representation.18 I only wish to point out that such an explanation of the naturalization effect of photography is cancelled out if we explicate naturalization in terms of dominant conventions. And the post-structuralists believe that that could always be otherwise. for example. if we adopted another set of conventions. Yet. We happen to be complacent about that with which we are familiar. IS this to be explained in terms of realist representation? One consideration against this is that many of the advertisements that surround us are not. realist representation is not explained in terms of a special naturalization effect. which causes the naturalization effect. 18 This approach to photography is criticized in my 'Concerning Photographic and Cinematic Representation'. then they would. But if this is a result of being conventional. Consider the techniques of visual verisimilitude. Modernism. There may be arguments of which I am unaware. but to the majority of the details of everyday life. provisionally. I suggested that the conspiracy approach to representation was embraced in this country in the wake of the late sixties. 2010 . by the way. Downloaded from pos. I have argued that the current foundations of the conspiracy view appear dubious. not the structures of a practice. and if these conventions became dominant. Nor. Barthes.sagepub. purportedly as a result of their use of what post-structuralists would call the code of similarity. but in the consideration of the cultural conditioning and social factors that determine our complacency in regard to whatever we are complacent about. Conspiracy Theories of Represeittniiori 41 1 And yet it is true that we are accosted an every side by representations whose strangeness and whose outrageous ideological commitments we accommodate in our stride. realistic representations in so far as they are photornon- tages of virtually Cubist spatiality. in the preceding sense. strictly speaking. What was there in the late sixties that might shed light on the distrust of realist representation? Well. And if we feel the compulsion to find an explanation for this.

the novel. The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Post Modern Cultrtre. but also in theatre.). Of course. It is true that Modernists decried representation for the sake of baring the true nature of their artistic media. The advanced art of post-World War I1 America was stridently competitive with realist representation-in painting obviously. What has been preserved of the Modernist polemic is its deep hostility to representation. The grip of Modernism appears unrelenting.~~ But the denunciations of realist representation remain fundamentally the same. contemporary post-structuralists and Post-Modernists politicize the Modernist line in a left-leaning direction. whereas post- structuralists and Post-Modernists speak of baring the semiological operation of media. Foster (ed. and they frequently attach their theory to the support of the contemporary artistic tendency called Post Modernism. Post-structuralists and Post-Modernists have basically adopted the aesthetic posture of their Modernist predecessors and mentors. But the enduring conflict with representation continues. for some. and called it politics. 2010 . this is the reason they call themselves Post-Moderni~ts.sagepub. Downloaded from pos. 19 The view that true Fbst-hlodernism is political is voiced by Hal Foster in his introduc- tion to H. The post-structuralists of today were often the Modernist accolytes of yesterday.com by Sergio Tonkonoff on October 15. dance. film and so on. poetry. 1983. Wash. dressed it up in semiology. Port Towneshend.