the sentence said „I“ . . .


Sheaves and Shadows

[A Fragment of an Analysis by Paul S. Bauman
as told to Earl Jackson, Jr.]


„Language casts sheaves of reality upon the social body.“
-Monique
Wittig, „One Is Not Born A Woman„

„Science fiction is a way of casting a language shadow over coherent
areas of imaginative space that would otherwise be largely
inaccessible.“
–Samuel R. Delany, „Shadows“

If language illuminates the ’social body‘ as a material ‚reality,‘
what semiotic shadows and reflections does this body, in turn, cast as
both a real-ization and transformation of its constitutive ’sheaves?‘ How
might one theorize such an embodied subject as the site of semiotic
production as well as representation? In order to shift the ground upon
which these questions have formerly been addressed, Teresa de Lauretis’s
essay „Semiotics and Experience“ performs a Peircian reformulation of the
subject which contests the habitual delineations between the
„biophysiological and the social operations of signification,“ (de
Lauretis, 175) and opens alternative venues for theorizing the subject of
semiosis.

But her concomitant analysis of ‚experience‘ as the ongoing
processual construction of the semiotic and historical subject admittedly
leaves the „terrain of subjectivity as conscious *and* unconscious“ (de
Lauretis, 182) unexplored. This is where a supplementary rereading of
hysteria, in light of de Lauretis’s own rereading of Charles Sanders
Peirce, provides a model of semiotic production which „restores the body“
(de Lauretis, 182) to the subject yet simultaneously includes the
unconscious in its field of operations. Hysteria can thence be
recontextualized as a signifying practice which is both the result and the
condition of subjective „habit-changes“, structurations of semiotic
practice themselves stabilized (but not determined) as
compromise-formations between primary and secondary processes. In
particular, the process of „symbolization“ found in „hysterical
modification“ (Freud, Studies on Hysteria , 176) can be reread as a possible model
for a hysterical textual practice: the hysteric’s somatic literalization
of metaphorical verbal expressions operates through a complex of semiotic
condensations and displacements, while anaclitically hinging upon a
„somatic compliance“ comparable to Peirce’s „habit.“

The textual analog
of this process can be found in science fiction’s „literalized metaphors“
and the in coextensive interpretive „habit“ or overdetermined mode of
reading which Samuel R. Delany formulates as the ‚reading protocol‘ of the
genre. Theodore Sturgeon’s „Derm Fool“ provides an example of such
hysterical semiotic functionings in SF and also enables an analysis of the
simultaneous em-bodiment and de-centralization of the subject which
such a ‚protocol‘ affords.

By spanning the analogical relations between
hysteria and semiotics through SF’s generic conventions of signification,
one can map a semiotic practice which necessitates a revision of
Foucault’s assertions concerning ‚founders of discursivity‘ in „What Is An
Author?:“ as exemplified by Philip K. Dick’s „Frozen Journey,“ SF’s
relation to such ‚founders‘ can be analysed in terms of
Nachträglichkeit and anaclisis rather than the unidirectional movement
of transformative influence implied in Foucault’s theorization of the
discursive ‚return to the origin.‘

Indeed SF’s hysterical resignification
of Freud can be compared to its own anaclitic relationship with
’scientific‘ (empirical) discourse, which is in turn demonstrable as an
operative dynamic in Freud’s own use of physical/biological models as
metaphors for (and topologies of) the subject. Such structural affinities
between SF and Freud bring our semiotic resignification of hysteria full
circle, revealing it to be an analogy which itself follows the movement of
anaclisis, at once „grounded“ in, yet simultaneously dissociating and
constituting itself beyond, the models which it critically integrates into
its comparative fold.

Of particular valence for a semiotic resignification of
hysteria is Peirce’s analysis of the „logical interpretant“ and its role
in the semiotic production of subjective „habit changes.“ His general
definition of the „interpretant“ is given in conjuction with that of the
sign:

A sign, or representamen, is something which stands to somebody for
something in some respect or capacity. It addresses somebody, that is,
it creates in the mind of that person an equivalent, or perhaps a more
developed sign. That sign which it creates I call the interpretant
of the first sign. The sign stands for something, its object . It
stands for that object, not in all respects, but in reference to a
sort of idea, which I have sometimes called the ground of the
representation. (Peirce, Collected Papers 2:132).

But if the interpretant functions as the subjective „mental effect“
(Peirce, CP 1:303) of a sign, what guarantees its representational
stability or pertinence in relation to the object? In other words, how is
the ‚ground‘ of the signifying process maintained? Peirce ascribes this
stability to a triadic complex of interactive interpretants or
„significate effects“ which he classifies as such:

  • 1. the emotional
    interpretant
    , which is the subjective „feeling produced by [a sign].“
  • 2.
    the energetic interpretant, which involves the „effort“ or „exertion upon
    the Inner World“ as mediated by the emotional interpretant and
    necessitated by the subject’s contact with the Real;
  • 3. the
    logical interpretant
    , which is the „deliberately formed, self-analyzing
    habit–self-analyzing because first formed by the aid of analysis of the
    exercises that nourished it [i.e. the emotional and energetic
    interpretants]“

(de Lauretis, 173-4).

It is in effect the ‚final‘ or
‚ultimate‘ interpretant in that it entails the ‚habit change‘ which
stabilizes the representational ‚ground‘ of the sign. However, the word
‚habit,‘ as used by Peirce, should be taken as a disposition toward
certain actions, expectations, and associations, and not as a passive
„habituation“ (in the biological sense) to immutable meaning-effects.

In this sense, Peirce’s usage of habit as the processually
constructed, temporary ground upon which an interpretant can gain meaning
is comparable to Freud’s description of „somatic compliance“ as the
constitutive yet dynamically formed basis for hysterical symptoms. In
„Fragments of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria“, Freud describes this
process as involving

…the participation of both sides [psychical and physical]. It
cannot occur without the presence of a certain degree of *somatic
compliance* offered by some normal or pathological process in or
connected with the bodily organs. And it cannot occur more
than once–and the capacity for repeating itself [habit?] is one of the
characteristics of a hysterical symptom–unless it has a
psychical significance, a meaning . The hysterical symptom does not
carry this meaning with it, but the meaning is lent to it,
welded on to it, as it were; and in every instance the meaning
can be a different one, according to the nature of the
suppressed thoughts which are struggling for expression. (Freud,
Fragments of An Analysis , 33-4)

In the same way that Peirce’s logical interpretant is formed by a semiotic
synthesis of inner (emotional interpretant) and outer (energetic
interpretant) significate effects, a hysterical symptom is the result of a
stabilized interaction between an inner „psychical significance“ and an
outer „somatic compliance.“ But through this analogy one stumbles across
two elements in Freud’s assertion which complicate Peirce’s semiotic
model. First there is a distinction between meaning and somatic symptom
which isn’t analogically present in Peirce’s formulation of the ‚final‘
logical interpretant, itself defined as the very act of constituting
meaning, „the effect of meaning on which the process of semiosis…comes
to rest“ (de Lauretis, 174).

Freud’s distinction occurs through the his
usage of the concept of Anlehnung , the „welding“ of meaning upon the
symptom. The very process through which this welding takes place brings
us to the second divergence from Peirce’s model.
Whereas the logical interpretant consists in a „conceptual
representation“ (de Lauretis, 174) of the subject’s contact with, and
mediation of, external forces (and resistances), the Anlehnung of
psychical significance upon/from the hysterical body is accomplished
through a more complex interaction between physical reality and psychical
reality
.

Jean Laplanche provides the questions through which such a
complication is implied:

…by what, on the psychical level, is this impact of reality ,
to which Freud occasionally attributes so great a role, mediated?
Need we acknowledge in reality something like an inherent force at the
level of the psyche, and what does that mean if reality is conceived of
above all as physical reality, as the „external world“? How is that
reality transformed into a „psychical“ force capable of acting
and of differentiating our psyche ? (Laplanche, Life and
Death
, 52)

Here Laplanche is critiquing what he calls a „metonymic derivation of the
ego“ (Laplanche Life
and Death
, 51), specifically its implications in a dynamic
conception of the ego-formation, where reality
„is invested with the dignity of a veritable agency“ (Laplanche, Life
and Death
, 52) to which the ego gradually adapts through the development
of the *Realitätspr fung*, a process which can be compared to Peirce’s
theorization of the energetic interpretant, and its role in the formation
of a stabilized semiotic ‚habit.‘ Here the energetic interpretant is the
result of a unidirectional movement of signification away from the
emotional interpretant, a process necessitated by the ’shock‘ of the
outer world upon the inner world.


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