Final Examination Semiotics and Psychoanalysis

LIT 101

Semiotics and Psychoanalysis

Winter 2002

Jackson, Jr.

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Final Examination Questions



Choose any one of the following questions. Write an essay
of five to seven pages. Arguments must be clear, and all claims must be
substantiated with citations from the texts in question. All sources must
be fully cited in accordance with the conventions set by the Modern Language
Association. The source citation can be included parenthetically in the
text, reserving endnotes for more substantive comments that supplement
the main argument. There are numerous copies of the MLA Guide in on the 
Reference shelves at McHenry, and streamlined summaries of those guidelines
can be found on the Internet. For a focused reminder/map of these resources,
click THIS.

1. This
is a four-part question.

    1. {a} Summarize
      the fabula of Pamela Luís,
      Pamela, A Novel.
    2. {b} Describe the
      of the novel in some detail.
    3. {c} Do one of
      these two:
    • {cí}
      Do a critical analysis of an extended section of the novel
    • {cíí}
      Formulate a theory of what the novel is doing and how it does that.
    • {d} Compare
      {b} and which ever {c} you did. What can you say about the relation of
      of the novel to theories pertinent to the novel?


2. Think
fabula and sjuzhet in horror films.

Think about fabula
in the poems in Kevin Killianís Argento Series.

Take a horror film that corresponds
to the title of one of the poems. Analyse the film for meaning.

Now isolate incidents in the poem that
are recognizable as plot elements in the film. How do these incidents function
in the poem? How has their meaning changed?

3. Write
a question similar to Question 2, but have it address the excerpts of The
Letters of Mina Harker
[on ERES]
we have read. Then answer the question.

Describe the relation between horror and eros in any of the Dennis
texts we have read. Compare/contrast that configuration with
horror and eros in Bellamyís The Letters of Mina Harker.

5. Jack
the Modernist
is a first-person novel. How
is the subject constructed in that novel? What are the peculiarities of
that subjectivity?

6. Take
up the narrative theory of any of these three:

    • Teresa de Lauretis,
      „Desire in Narrative.“
    • Peter Brook,
      „Narrative Desire“
    • Earl
      Jackson, Jr.
      [theory of narrative from Chapters one and five of Strategies
      of Deviance

Now dialogue with or argue with that theory
through an engaged reading of any one of the following:

7. Summarize
the stages of sexual development delineated by Freud in the Three Essays.
Your summary should be constructed so as to illuminate the implicit associations
between sexual maturation and narrative progression, and the valorization
of a normative male sexual subject in terms of his position within a specific
narrative framework and trajectory.

Contrast this narrative ideal with
forms of sexual subjectivity that interrupt, impede, arrest, or derail
the goal-directed narrative of reproduction-directed sexuality.

With this background firmly in place,
do a narratological study of at least one text that contests the „master
narrative“ of Oedipal patriarchical discourse. In describing the counter-narrative
of the text you have selected, illuminates ways in which the narrative
either parodies the Oedipal norm or conspicuously deviates from that norm.
Consider whether the narrative deviations themselves are modeled on any
of the deviations from normative male sexual development as Freud designated
them in the Three Essays.

Deviant sexual subjects include: male
homosexuals; women of any sexual orientation; sadists; masochists; fetishists;

Among the texts that you might select



    • Karen Joy Fowler,
      „The View From Venus“ [
    • Pamela Lu, Pamela,
      a Novel

8. Hereís
a question that calls on analytical and research skills
First: Investigate what Lacan means when he claims that paranoia is important
in the formation of the ego. Find out where he writes of this in greater
detail than „The Mirror Stage.“ Read and take notes and construct a working
annotated bibliography. When you have formulated your answer to this question,
write in out formally in a well-argued presentation that would stand on
its own. But it also has to serve as a basis for the second half of this

Read Greg
Eganís short story, „Learning to Be Me“ [ERES].
In your reading of the story, explain how the story either illustrates
Lacanís thesis or offers an alternative theory of the paranoid constitution
of the ego.


9. At least
in the background of the essay that this question might incite, keep in
mind the three registers of human emotional life; sex, love, and desire.
the Dennis
texts on ERES:
„My Mark“; „Dear Secret Diary“; „A Herd“; „Square One.“ Read and come
to terms with
Freudís essay, „Mourning and Melancholia.“ Consult
secondary sources
on melancholia too if you like, such as the Slavoj
Zizek essay on ERES, „Melancholia and the Act.“ Now, when thatís
all in place, Delineate a theory on the relation of melancolia to desire
as it is played out in Cooperís texts.

10. A variation
on Question 9
. Do the same ground-work as in Question 9, but instead
of focusing exclusively on Cooperís texts, compare and constrast
the melancholia in Cooperís text to the melancholia that drives
the narrative and the interpersonal communications in Love Letter
(Iwai Shunji, 1998) [VHS copy of Love
on reserve for our course in the Library.]

11. This
question is a meditation on a certain tradition of conjunctions between
the semiotic and the psychoanalytic conceptions of meaning. Please tailor
the question to your essay but be sure that the adapted question is clearly
articulated and fully answered within the terms you introduce in it.

Consider any two or three of the
following, first analyzing each separately then in dialogue with each other

    1. The quasi-philological
      descriptions of dream-work in both Freud and Lacan: [the analogies with
      the rebus, the hieroglyph,

    3. The conception
      of the „letter“ and its relation to signification in Lacanís „Agency
      of the Letter

    5. Critical analyses
      of cultural texts that proceed from, or model themselves on, the multi-leveled
      signifying capacity of heiroglyphic
      . I am referring to the criterion by which a given character
      is „read“
      in a specific instance. It can be read:
      According to the object it visually represents {which is to read it as
      a pictograph}
      According to the concept its visual elements conventionally represent {which
      is to read it as            
      an   ideogram}
    • According to
      the sound that the visual elements circuitously indicate {which is to read
      it as a rebus}.

Feel free to utilize the many resources
on writing systems catalogued on our site at

Texts you might use to advance your
argument or clarify your thesis include:

    • Karen Joy Fowler,
      [especially the sections that concern Chinese
      and the „semaphores“ that B. J. reads.]
    • Raoul Walsh,
      of Bagdad
    • Kenneth Anger,
      Kar Kommandos
    • Kevin Killian,
    • Dodie Bellamy,
      Letters of Mina Harker
      [Excerpts on
    • Michel Foucault,
      is Not a Pipe
    • William S. Burroughs,
      „The Book of Breething„. [On

12. This question
is a meditation on a possible conjunction between semiotics and psychoanalyses
in their most radical potentialities. It also requires background research,
which I will assist.

read more broadly in Peirceís
texts (and any available secondary sources you find) to develop an explanation
of what Peirce meant when he said that „[The human being] is a sign.“ Lay
out your argument in clear steps, and substantiate every claim with textual
citations from Peirce and Peirceans.

Extract from the texts of Freud or Freud
and Lacan, theoretical positions that could constitute a psychoanalytic
version of Peirceís conception of a human being as a sign. Keep
the entire process of semiosis in mind, and read carefully pertinent sections
of The Interpretation of Dreams. You may wish to supplement that
with the first sections of The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, such
as „On the Forgetting of Foreign Names“; „On Parapraxes“; etc.

Contextualize these theoretical
expositions of the sign-nature of the human being by illustrating that
semiopsychical process at work in any of the following texts:

    • Karen Joy Fowler,
    • Pamela Lu, Pamela,
    • Robert Glück,
      the Modernist
    • Kevin Killian,
      „Who is Kevin Killian?“ [On
    • Any one or two
      autobiographies from Becky W. Thompson and Sangeeta Tyagi, eds. Names
      We Call Home

Donít forget
the texts we read so long ago, in the beginning of the course. Extremely
useful now would be Teresa de Lauretis, „Semiotics
and Experience

And remember
the components of Peircean semiosis, and the stakes involved in the habit

13. In
the Three Essays, we are presented with a structuration of the sexual
subject. [By structuration, I mean the operations that produce the structures
of the subjectís sexuality, operations that proceed in a specific
succession of distinct stages, that succession itself determining to a
great degree the „final“ structures of the adultís sexuality.]

In The Interpretation of Dreams,
we find a method of decoding and monitoring the signifying processes of
the unconscious as they can be deduced from an analysis of those processes
of distortion and compromise that occur between the unconscious and the

In „Mourning and Melancholia“ we find
two possible modes through which the subject can reconcile her or his desire
for object X with the acknowledgement of that objectís loss.

This is not a question. Notice the

14. One
aspect of the sign-character of the subject is the ways in which cultural
practices and institutions affect the subjectís self-recognition
qua subject.

In Mythologies,
Barthes describes the „myths“ by which „history“ is transformed into „nature,“
and the subject is enculturated into a specific mythic template of the
world. Barthes also posits semiology as a critical practice that can not
only account for those processes of enculturation but can demystify them
and disarticulate the subject from the effects of the myths that other
fix the subject within its „truth“.

Louis Althusser formulated his theory
of the
Ideological State Apparatus
to account for the sociopolitical determination
of the subject.

Laura Mulveyís ground-breaking
essay, „Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema“[On ERES]
inaugurated critical studies of the ways in which the conventions of spectatorship
inscribed within the mainstream Hollywood film, recreates and insistently
reimposes an ideologically fixed template for sexed-gender identities for
male and female spectators that are imbricated in the functions typically
distributed according to one regime of sexual difference within both the
and the
of the film.

Lacanians developed an model to explain
the relation of the subject to the signifying system in which it is realized.
They called this process „
This notion of „
was in turn taken up by
theorists, mostly those
associated with the British film journal, Screen. The theory of
suture that emerges from this collective accounts for the ways in which
the cinematic apparatus, realized in the spectatorial situation, confirms
the spectator within an ideologically specified subject position through
a series of solicitations to „recognize“ her or his „self“ as that subject
position provided by the ensemble of the technologies of representation,
and the economics and politics of the production, distribution, circulation,
and conventions of reception for the film.

Write a clear summary of any two of
the theories above, and then analyze a text in terms of how it specifically
challenges the processes of the ideological fixing of the subject. Texts
you might use include:



    • Pamela Lu, Pamela,
    • Kevin Killian,
      „Who is Kevin Killian?“ [On
    • Any one
      or two autobiographies from Becky W. Thompson and Sangeeta Tyagi, eds.
      We Call Home
    • Michel Foucault,
      is Not a Pipe





      The films and the schools of cinematic practice that have
      traditionally attracted the most critical attention for deliberate refusals
      to suture the spectator (at least, refusal to suture the spectator into
      the ideological norm of mainstream cinema) include much of the work of
      the French New Wave, in particular the work of Jean-Luc
      (especially in his „committed“ period and his „Maoist“ period).
      But it is important not to conflate Godard and the other filmmakers included
      under the „New Wave“ label. François Truffaut, for example, seems
      quite conservative in this regard; his films solicit spectatorial identifications
      to the same degree and in the same way as mainstream Hollywood cinema,
      at least in my opinion. Other experiments are more ambiguous (and ambivalent),
      such as the musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and its sequel. Some
      find the musical overlay a strategy of alienation. Others see the film
      as either an experiment that was compromised by the genre it meant to subvert,
      or simply as a musical that benefitted from being packaged as „avant-garde.“
      (I’m afraid I fall in this latter category of skeptics).

          The films of Rainer
      Werner Fassbinder
      are also rich territory for
      an exploration of anti-suturing cinema. Some of his films too, like The
      Umbrellas of Cherbourg
      , deploy strategies that produce an ambivalence
      or aporia regarding the text’s agenda and orientation to the genre it assumes.
      Among the films that might generate such „indeterminacy“ I would include
      Does Herr K. Run Amok?
      ; Querelle {an extremely artificially
      stagey adaptation of Jean Genet’s novel}. Other anti-suturing strategies
      produce films of extreme discomfort and indeterminacy in the political
      valence of the demystification they achieve. Under this category I would
      include Whity; Beware a Holy Whore; and Pioneers in Ingolstadt.
      (Nevertheless, I highly recommend Whity and Pioneers in Ingolstadt)
      Of all of Fassbinder’s films, my example of  cinematic refusal to
      allow spectatorial identification is in his English language film Despair,
      starring Dirk Bogart.

      The films of feminist-inspired and feminist-committed
      exhibit their own range of counter-suturing representational
      practices. To name only a few of the most celebrated works in this vain:



    • Jeanne
      Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

    • Je,
      tu, il, elle






      Thriller (1979)


      She Must Be Seeing Things


      Freak Orlando (1981)

      Madame X: Eine Absolute Herrscherin (1978)

      D’Arc von Mongolian

      On my Cinema
      and Subjectivity Web Site
      , see the Pages
      on Suture
      which are divided into three conceptions of the term, each
      depending upon the discipline in which it was formulated or adapted. The
      in the segment includes a working bibliography on Suture in its
      various critical manifestations.

      Read and re-read and discuss the chapter on Suture
      in Kaja Silverman’s The Subject of Semiotics.

      I also recommend Stephen Heath’s overview of the concept
      and its critical deployment in his essay aptly entitled „On Suture,“ included
      in his book, Questions of Cinema.

      For an example of a filmic analysis in terms of the hegemonic
      suturing effect and a counterhegemonic representational strategy that short
      circuits the suturing closure, see, Earl Jackson, Jr., „Desire
      at Cross-[cultural] Purposes: Hiroshima, Mon Amour and Merry
      Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

LIT 101

Semiotics and Psychoanalysis

Winter 2002

Jackson, Jr.