Mid-quarter Semiotics and Psychoanalysis


and Psychoanalysis

Winter 2001
Jackson Jr


Take-Home Midquarter

Choose one of the questions below.
Write a 5-7-page essay, following MLA guidelines, including endnotes
and bibliography. Please use the
reading guides
to hone your critical abilities. These guides can also
be of very concrete assistance in building an argument. Please also use
the copious Internet resources
internal to our site as well as the sources categorized and annotated for
you there, and your own skills in browser and mounting
. But the Internet should be seen as a pointer to hardcopy
sources and a first step in a multi-phasic research protocol. Meaning you
should search for bibliographies, articles, and books from these searches
and work in the library as well. Remember to cite all sources. Anything
that you get from another source must be documented ó not just direct quotes,
but paraphrases, inspirations, methodologies, steps to an argument, etc.
Please see me if any of this is unclear.

In consultation with the section instructor,
students may customize one of the questions below or even design a question
from scratch. And consultation means at least one serious conversation
with the instructor, followed up by email updates. And a conversation means
listening and responding in addition to telling and asking.

There are many questions. The questions
are designed to address a wide range of personal interests, abilities,
backgrounds, predilections, critical orientations, methodologies, theoretical
allegiances, tastes, and preoccupations. No one is expected to be able
to answer every one of these questions with equal comfort. Above all, the
question chosen should sustain oneís interest and engage oneís imagination
and energies. None of the questions should be attempted the night before
the midquarter is due. Write outlines, drafts, and leave time for copyediting,
for giving a copy to a friend or friends NOT in the course for feedback.
Pay special attention to anything the friend cannot understand or any argument
the friend cannot follow. Be able to summarize in clearly delineated steps
the purpose of your essay and the argument that fulfills that purpose.
Be sure the title of your essay reflects its focus and its scope. Allow
yourself to feel the excitement of the speculative adventure that the question
should incite and the paper should reflect and vindicate.



The Questions.

1. This
question consists of several steps that should be followed exactly:

    1. From Plutarchís dialogue, „On the ëEí
      at Delphi,“ enumerate and summarize:
    • the meanings of the letter „E“
    • the meanings of the concept „five“
    1. From texts of literary criticism you select
      and identify, enumerate and summarize:
    • The meanings of the figure „5“
      in William Carlos Williamsí poem, „The Great Figure.“
    1. From treatises within art history and
      criticism that you select and identify, enumerate and summarize:
    • the meanings of the figure „5“
      in Charles Demuthís painting, I saw the No. 5 in gold.

Notice and take very
seriously the noun designating the category of each of the objects of interpretation:

    • letter
    • concept
    • figure

Notice also that this question
does not ask for an original interpretation of the figure „5“ in either
the poem or the painting. In answering the question, the writer can of
course advance a personal interpretation through the critique of the interpretations
under discussion. The question is designed to construct and maintain a
parallel between the interpretations of the „E“ among the participants
in that dialogue with the literary-critical interpretations of the „5“
in Williamsí poem and the art-historical/art-critical interpretations of
the „5“ in Demuthís painting. This parallel structure is the ground of
the final phase of this question.

    1. Compare and contrast the types of „meanings“
      derived from the first two interpretative encounters with the types of
      „meanings“ derived from the second two interpretative encounters.

2. What kind
of semiotic relations obtain between the Demuth painting and the Williamsí
poem? Is the painting an interpretant of the poem? If so, how? If the painting
is an interpretant of the poem, what is the immediate object of the painting
as interpretant? What is the dynamic object?

Is the interpretant relation reversible
in this case ó can one read the poem as an interpretant of the painting?
If you think so, construct such a reading. If you donít think so, construct
a reading of the poem that explicates the poem as an interpretant for some
other sign event in the world. Specify the sign for which the poem serves
as interpretant.



3. Consider
this photograph:

Read the photograph as an icon. As
an icon, what is the dynamic object of the sign? What is the immediate
object of the sign? Now consider Barthesí essay, „The Rhetoric of the Image,“
which also uses this photograph as an example. Summarize Barthesí discussion
of this photograph as ad. Now re-read this photograph as sign through Barthes.
What kind of sign is it now? Why? In this new reading of the photo as sign,
what is its immediate object? What is its dynamic object? What kind of
interpret is it designed to elicit [in other words, what would kind of
interpretant would the ad agency hope this sign would elicit?]. How does
that interpretant differ from the interpretant of the sign that Barthesí
analysis makes possible? What kind of interpretant does Barthes hope to
make possible through semiological analyses such as this one? Give an example,
either actual or merely theoretically plausible.

4. In Sarah
, what is the relation of narrative, i.e. „story telling“ to
semiosis? Give detailed examples. Lay out your thesis first (which also
means that you need to develop a thesis BEFORE writing the final version
of the essay). Advance your argument whose sole agenda is to arrive at
a justification of that thesis. Illustrate you argument with at least two
detailed examples from the novel. The examples should be fully integrated
into your argument, they cannot be plot summaries, laying inertly to one
side of your argument, like an unidentified hitchhiker supine and rearranged
where s/he bounced when thrown from a car whose inside door has no handle
on the passengerís side.

5. Construct
explanatory models for the relation between the interpreting subject and
world the subject confronts for the following three situations:

    • The referential mania of the son of the
      Russian couple in Nabokovís „Signs and Symbols“.
    • B. J.ís engagement with the world in Sarah
      . You may wish to distinguish his relation to objects from his
      relation to stories.
    • Chinís relation to various experiences
      in Sarah Canary.

6. Using specific
narratological sources, define, describe, and illustrate „free indirect
discourse,“ distinguishing it clearly from „direct discourse“ and „indirect
discourse,“ as well as from techniques such as interior monologue and stream-of-consciousness.
Clarify the difference between a 3rd-person narrator who uses
free indirect discourse from a fully omniscient narrator. Give examples
from at least two different texts that illustrate your points. This is
the prelude to the question.

When successfully deployed, free indirect
discourse seems to represent an identifiable subjectivity, or consciousness.
Focusing on a narrative text we have read, do a semiotic reading of the
process that results in such a representation of a consciousness. Is the
consciousness thus evoked an interpretant of the narrative discourse as
sign? What is the immediate object of a text-sign that evokes such a consciousness?
Notice that this question is calling for a Peircean reading of free indirect
discourse. What might Benevenisteís theory of the relation of subjectivity
and language contribute to this discussion?

7. Take
two essays from Names We Call Home. Do a Peircean-semiotic reading
of each of them separately. Then compare/contrast the two readings. Note:
To engage a method or a theory does NOT mean to force a text to conform
whatever conceptual parameters or categorical limitations that method or
theory might impose. First of all, a specific theoretical reading of a
text does not imply that such a reading needs to explain the text exhaustively.
Secondly, the exciting thing about the theory-text encounter is precisely
the challenges the text might present to the theory that could even contribute
to that theoryís on-going development. Thirdly, how something does not
fit, or what the method cannot accommodate, or what the theory cannot account
for, are discoveries as potentially valuable as what the theory succeeds
in explaining. On the other hand, please understand this disclaimer is
meant as a general caution: by placing it here I am not implying that the
texts in question will necessarily present such challenges. In other words:
read everything carefully: the texts you will examine, the theories we
are studying, and the text you are writing that will bring them together.


    1. Create a color-coded flow chart, with
      a fully elaborated key that schematically represents a structuralist anatomy
      of Sarah Canary.
    2. Elaborate this chart with a carefully
      articulated analysis, using the key terms from Roland Barthesí „Introduction
      to the Structural Analysis of Narrative“:
    • functions
    • nuclei
    • indices
    • catalyzers
    • informants
    • content
    • discourse
    1. Now assess what this model does for our
      understanding of the text. What are its limitations? How would a semiotic
      reading supplement such a schema? Try it through a brief, isolated example
      (but detailed enough to make your point.)

    and Psychoanalysis

    Jackson Jr