image. Commonly understood as the mental or visual representation of an object or event as depicted in the mind, a painting, photograph, or film. In film-making and film studies 'image' is also synonymous with a single shot in an edited sequence. The term has a further long-standing usage in literary discourse, especially in connection with poetic language, where it refers to the indirect comparison of one object or experience with another (through metaphor, metonymy, analogy), or is used, along with the term 'imagery', to refer to any figure of speech or, collectively, to figurative language. In aesthetics and philosophical debate, image therefore becomes part of the discussion of the problematics of representation (in the concern with how far an image faithfully or falsely represents reality) and is thereby bound up with questions of perception, knowledge and consciousness. In so far as an image is thought to misrepresent an original reality or to represent it superficially, it is linked to ideologyto the degree that this term is thought to describe a false or selective view of the world. With what is called the crisis of representation brought about by poststructuralism and postmodernism, however, it is often questioned whether an image can be thought to simply represent, or misrepresent, a supposedly prior or external, image-free, reality. Reality is seen rather as always subject to, or as the product of, modes of representation. In this view we inescapably inhabit a world of images or representations not a 'real world' and true or false images of it. In a further move, associated with postmodernism and the writings particularly of Jean Baudrillard, we are thought to exist in a world of hyper-reality, in which images are self-generating and entirely detached from any supposed reality. This accords with a common view of contemporary entertainment and politics as being all a matter of 'image', or appearance, rather than of substantial content. In this sense image is associated with the world of publicity, advertising and fashion. This would seem to reinforce the contemporary association of image with superficiality. However, it suggests at the same time how image-making is connected with business and profit-making and the making of identities. In this connection, it may connote an imposed stereotype or an alternative subjective or cultural identity. The latter is a strong and persistent interest within cultural studies. In a sometimes related perspective, deriving from feminist psychoanalytic theory, the 'visual' and thus the 'culture of the image' is associated with the male gaze and thus the workings of the patriarchal unconscious in modern and advanced consumer societies. The study of 'images of women' or 'women's images'sees this field as one in which stereotypes of women can be reinforced, parodied, or actively contested through critical analysis, alternative histories, or creative work in writing and the media committed to the production of positive counter-images.
Mitchell, "Word and Image."