Volume 19, 2019
On Conflict and Violence
The Ineluctable Sign in Sartre’s Account of Franconay’s Imitation
The most interesting example of all the physical images that Sartre examines in L’Imaginaire concerns a female performer’s (Franconay’s) imitation of a male performer (Chevalier). The example is a unique instance in which Sartre deals explicitly with the possibility of ambiguity and hybridity in consciousness. Sartre’s introduction of the sign into the consciousness of imitation ties the perception of Franconay with the imaged Chevalier, but it also leads to the dissemination of the sign across the entire consciousness, a consequence that runs against Sartre’s analytic tendencies. I argue that, despite Sartre’s endeavor to keep the sign separate from perception and the image, the sign is a diffuse property of the entire consciousness of imitation, penetrating and contaminating its every instant. Sartre’s account of Franconay’s imitation contains the germs of the destruction of his clear-cut analytic distinctions, revealing the irreducible hybridity of the sign with both perception and the image.