School of Communication and the Arts
Doctor of Philosophy
semiotics, cinema, Christian, mythos, McLuhan, Peirce
Communication | Film and Media Studies
Smith, Eric Wescott, "The Signs of Cinema: Exploring the Effects of Signifying God in Shadowlands, Bad Times at the El Royale, and The Tree of Life" (2024). Doctoral Dissertations and Projects. 5204.
The purpose of this qualitative study was to describe the cinematic semiosis of God, to understand how God is signified through the film medium, and to explore possible effects of this signification on the American Christian mythos. This qualitative study was conducted as an artifactual analysis study. The selected artifacts were three films and two works of literature. The film artifacts were Shadowlands, Bad Times at the El Royale, and The Tree of Life. The literature artifacts were A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis and The Book of Job. The practice of close reading was given to each artifact for data collection. Each artifact likewise underwent two stages of analysis: semiotic, based on the logics of C. S. Peirce, and the tetradic laws of media, based on the media ecology of Marshall McLuhan. The analysis found that semiotics is a viable research philosophy for cinematic signification and that McLuhan’s tetrad works in tandem with semiotics to explore the effects of signifying God through the medium. Also, the findings suggest that the potency of a sign is found in the semiosis, or semiotic process, of a sign and not in the classification of the sign. The implications of this study offer alternative perspectives on the purposes and practice of Christian cinema as well as the usability of media ecology theory in cinema studies.
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