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This idea is expressed furthermore by the ellipsis as Truth was too naked to be accepted by the required moral norm.
The link between the normative aspect and the social function imposed by the three characters, the military, the judiciary and the clergy, is thus clear: to maintain the moral order. In so far as the topic is the nakedness of Truth, and the fact that in this particular case we should consider nakedness as a virtue, we ought to note the acerb criticism implied here. To complete the review of the linguistic message, we can note that it is constructed in the form of a proposition that expresses a judgement in both cases. One or more people speak here and now, and it is the meaning of the indicative mode to mark the presence of those who judge and to emphasize how what is said must correspond to reality.
I chose to consider the plastic message as a full sign and not only as the signifier of the iconic because it allows for a richer rendition of the different dimensions of the visual communication. I study it last, while being aware that it is arbitrary and that in the reality of the perception it is perhaps the plastic message which comes first in this stage of pre-attention mentioned by cognitivists, this fleeting moment when we decide whether to continue looking or not.
The plastic aspect of a visual artefact can be compared to the poetic function of a text as described by Roman Jakobson, just as the iconic sign can be linked to the referential function [ 29 , 11 : ]. It is composed of different visual variables, one of them being the medium. As an external factor, the medium in which an artefact is published is sometimes not taken into account in a semiotic analysis, but I consider it of importance inasmuch as it determines the grade of visibility.
L'affaire Dreyfus : la vérité en marche
A drawing appearing, for example, on an inside sheet of a newspaper will necessarily have a lower index of iconicity than a cover page [ 21 ]. The publication was known for its sympathies towards the anarchist movement and each issue was devoted to a specific theme and headed by a particular artist or group of artists.
For the first time and in a systematic way, designers were called on, individually or together, to paint small frescoes that were social or political in nature and to draw up an indictment on a specific case [ 9 ]. Its hour of fame would, in fact, come much later, when it was used as cover for a book on the Dreyfus affair [ 23 ].
The journal, which also promoted anarchist ideas, was composed of 16 pages in black and white and contained mainly texts with drawings. The variables I retained are the frame, the perspective and composition, and the colors. Every visual artefact has obviously physical limits, but not all have a drawn frame. In a way, it can be seen as a container necessary lest the picture be too powerful.
Nothing is there to keep the receiver out of the picture, which accentuates the violence of the representation. Moreover, the eye is puzzled by the unfinished character of the image as we do not see the top of the well, as if the artist lacked room to draw it. This of course is to trigger the imagination of the viewer, who will construct what is not seen.
Moreover, as Martine Joly has shown, the absence of a frame presides over a culturally very marked conception of the picture, which implies, beyond the aesthetic choices, a genuine ethic of the icon. Indeed, by masking the character of representation that is to say of construction of the icon, it is given not as a visual statement, an interpretation, but as the world itself [ 13 ]. It is almost as if the limit of the printed words corresponds to the physical limit of the paper.
It gives an impression of crowdedness as if the large number of words testifies to the commitment of the author to say everything and hide nothing. The text continues even on to the second page of the journal. The figures take on a monumental aspect. Just as the presence or absence of an element iconic aspect of the message , the place is a choice that must be taken into consideration as much as possible.
Once more, from a methodological point of view, we can apply to the visual language a fundamental law of the verbal language, that of syntagmatic axiality order of the words. The plastic composition of the drawing we first see a soldier, then a judge and finally a priest would make sense: the Dreyfus Affair was at first a military affair, then legal, then religious, the Catholic Church having been repeatedly accused of anti-Semitism.
These elements point clearly to the way the artist constructs the chain of responsibility and is confirmed by the sword in the foreground.
The figure is represented slightly to the left as if to make space on the right for the imaginary character that dragged her out. Their reciprocal hierarchy is indicated by the height and thickness of the letters. The visual appeal of the thickness and massiveness of the mark actually causes a first scan of the page. Of course, the words have an immediately understandable meaning, but this meaning is colored, tinged, oriented, even before being perceived, by the plastic aspect of the typography its orientation, its shape, its color, its texture , in the same way that the plastic choices contribute to the meaning of the visual image.
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At the end of the nineteenth century, the event is undeniably in the street, in the middle of the shouts and reactions of the crowd [ 22 ]. There is a contradiction between the length of the article a lengthy account of the events that, when printed, reaches the dimension of a sixteen-page brochure and the brevity of its title, which sounds like a whiplash.
Almost like a clip, an advertisement, a whole speech enclosed in two words, with the threat of the points of suspension and the exclamation mark that follows: figures of interruption and suspense, aposiopesis, to use the language of rhetoric [ 27 ]. This aspect is graphically visible. I accuse Major Du Paty de Clam as the diabolic workman of the miscarriage of justice […]. I accuse General De Pellieux and commander Ravary of performing a rogue investigation […]. I accuse the three handwriting experts, sirs Belhomme, Varinard and Couard, of submitting untrue and fraudulent reports […].
I accuse the offices of the war of carrying out an abominable press campaign […]. Finally, I accuse the first council of war of violating the law by condemning a defendant with unrevealed evidence, and I accuse the second council of war of covering up this illegality. Equally meaningful is the color technique used by an artist.
The third basic color he uses is red.
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He mixed them to obtain two sub-tints, a sweet pink and a soft grey, which are also presented in a uniform way and without any asperity, thus reducing the depth. The Dreyfus Affair caused a major upheaval in French public life, with innumerable consequences that influenced many aspects of society.
The separation of powers was confirmed, the military lost some of its authority, and its hierarchy underwent a real purge. The separation of church and state was declared by law in , and laicity became a fundamental principle sustained to this day. And last, but not least, the media asserted itself as a very strong counterpower. Some satirical drawings, such as political cartoons are, after all, known to have had a relevant psychological, emotional, and political impact in history. Information through image is rendered complex by the possible polysemy it generates. To construct the overall meaning of a visual artefact, the receiver needs to activate different tools and take into consideration various types of signs.
These signs have been the object of my modest research.
The iconic allows the construction of the chain linking the signifier to the signified, to the referent, thus identifying the denoted message that in turn will give access to the connoted communication. The linguistic message, as well relay as anchorage, appears like a tool helping with this process. However, it is clear that this operation of association is not always successful, and it is the task of the analyst to identify the solicitations at work. This requires a consideration of the context and the purpose of the visual sign. It reminds us that the three objects of my analysis have both a conative function as tools of information and even propaganda as well as an expressive or emotional function as aesthetic creations.
These three dimensions—iconic, linguistic and plastic—allowed us to explore the most well-founded and the most common interpretations without, however, accounting for either the totality or the variety of individual interpretations, which depend on the sociocultural knowledge of the spectator and foremost on his or her horizon of expectation. Skip to main content Skip to sections.
Advertisement Hide. Download PDF. Open Access. First Online: 13 March Open image in new window. The force of the title, the epistolary form and the direct accusation certainly explain the tremendous repercussions of the feature. My translation. Barthes, R. Rhetorique of the Image. Accessed 2 Nov Bertin, J. Google Scholar. Bihl, L. Accessed 5 Nov Birnbaum, P. Paris: Gallimard. Bourrelier, P. Paris: Fayard pages — on le Cri de Paris. Dixmier, M.
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