Subject and apparatus: Toward an Althusserian reading of Metz's "Imaginary Signifier"
Althusser's influence on cinema studies is usually discussed in either general terms that focus on his opening up a space for the analysis of cultural institutions (like cinema) with respect to their specific functioning as ideological units, or in terms that emphasize more specific theoretical concepts and issues (like suture). This work is an attempt to estimate the impact of Althusser on the work of a single writer, Christian Metz, and the theoretical work he undertook in the early seventies, specifically The Imaginary Signifier. This paper attempts to show that there is more of a connection between these two theorists than a common impetus in Lacan or a shared set of theoretical concepts and methodologies. It seeks to demonstrate that Metz's work is thoroughly informed by Althusser's theorization of ideology and ideological functioning, and that Metz has set himself the task of explicating cinema as a specific ideological apparatus.