Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Cabrera, J.C.M.
This is not a pipe Iconicity in Magritte’s language paintings
(2022) Iconicity in Language and Literature, 18, pp. 193-211.

DOI: 10.1075/ill.18.10cab

A significant part of René Magritte’s pictorial work is devoted to the challenging relationships between images and written words. In this paper, I will look into two series of Magritte’s language paintings addressing these relationships: The Treachery of Images (also known as This is not a pipe) and The Interpretation of Dreams. In both series, painted images of written words and phrases are juxtaposed to painted images of objects in order to show that words and images should not be taken as the real objects they depict or refer to. I will show that, in addition to this obvious interpretation, there are much more interesting and challenging issues concerning the iconicity of the relationships between written words and the images depicting the objects denoted by them in Magritte’s paintings. To illustrate this point, I will elaborate on the calligram approach to the Treachery of Images proposed by Michel Foucault and Douglas Hofstadter by exploring the subliminal iconic relationships between the image of the pipe and the shape of the letters in the painted sentence (ceci n’est pas une pipe ‘this is not a pipe’). In addition, I will show that this analysis can be extended to the paintings entitled The Interpretation of Dreams. These analyses might shed a new light on these enigmatic works of art. © 2022 John Benjamins Publishing Company.

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