Semiotics and Psychoanalysis Study Guide Two

LIT 101

Semiotics
and Psychoanalysis


http://www.anotherscene.com/sempsych/

Earl Jackson, Jr.

talkingcure2000@aol.com

Fall 2002

 

Study Guide Two:  Teresa
de Lauretis
, „Semiotics and Experience“  Chapter Six. Alice
Doesn’t. Feminism. Semiotics. Cinema
(Bloomington: Indiana UP 1984)

This is a dense text. In this guide, I will break down
the argument into areas of focus. I hope that this will be helpful, not
only as a way into the text itself, but as one model for the kinds of reading
notes you might take when encountering difficult critical works. By writing
an outline of the text’s argument, it will help you understand either the
argument as a whole or at least clarify which parts of the argument remain
difficult.


The breakdown of the essay’s arguments will be in two
parts. In this part, I will extract the theories that we need in order
to begin the general inquiry of the course itself. This means that I postpone
the discussion of de Lauretis’s application of these theories to a conception
of feminism, and relations of feminist practice, semiotic theory, and subjectivity. 
I do this because I want to make sure we have the critical tools and the
experience in dealing with these kinds of methods and these types of questions
when we read that larger argument more carefully. We will come back to
it prepared. 158-186.



I.  The problem: the relation of experience to subjectivity.

Definition of experience at this point:
„a continuous process by which, for all social beings, subjectivity is
constructed (159)“


Aim: The theoretical elaboration
of experience, in order to further the understanding of how the female
subject is en-gendered. To do this will entail considering relevant theories
of meaning and signification as well as relevant theories of subjectivity.
(160).


 

II. Semiotics – Two Paths

A. Signifying System-focus. – concentrates
on the study of codes and sign-functions within systems. Does not include
subjectivity as an object of semiotic inquiry. Paradigmatic for this type
of semiotics is Umberto
Eco
.

B. Subject-inclusive-focus. Semiotics
which includes questions concerning the subjects within semiotic systems
and formation of subjectivity. Adherents to this focus include Julia
Kristeva
and Christian
Metz
, however this should be qualified – as de Lauretis notes, it is
more accurate to consider the work of these writers primarily involved
with psychoanalytic theory while remaining „affiliated“ with semiotic inquiry.
I would add that Kristeva’s
terminology is so idiosyncratic that special care must be taken when reading
her writings on „semiotic“ (see de Lauretis 169-170).

III. Eco and Pierce.

Charles
Sanders Peirce
is a major influence on Eco’s semiotics. De Lauretis
identifies the Peircean strains in Eco’s thought and then moves to a specific
consideration of Peirce’s work which indicates the possibility of a semiotic
that includes the subject, but one decidedly different from what Kristeva
proposes.


 

A sign, or a representamen, is something which stands
to somebody for something in some respect or capacity. It addresses somebody,
that is, in creates in the mind of that person an equivalent sign, 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 representation. [C.P.
2.228] See our
Introduction
to Charles Sanders Peirce.


 

 

Three Types of Interpretants
Emotional. The feeling produced by a sign. A piece
of music often generates an emotional interpretant. C.P. 5.475
Energetic. Involves effort – either physical or
mental.
Logical. A habit-change. A modification of consciousness.

 


De Lauretis’s modification of Eco’s semiosis.

Eco sees the producer of the sign as the creator of meaning,
and focuses on acts of sign production such as art that result in texts.

De Lauretis points to other social practices which do
not result in texts, but nevertheless are semiotic events that may result
in a logical intepretant, or habit change. These include „consciousness-raising
groups, alternative forms of labor organization, familial or interpersonal
relations“.  Such practices, „by shifting the ‚ground‘ of a given
sign . . . effectively intervene upon the codes, codes of perception as
well as ideological codes.“ These practices produce within the participants
„interpretants“ that result in ‚a modification of consciousness‘ (C.P.
5.485)“ [de Lauretis 178].
The „modification of consciousness“ or „habit-change“
in the individual is „a disposition, a readiness (for action), a set of
expectations. . . . The individual’s habit as a semiotic production is
both the result and the condition of the social production of meaning.“
[de Lauretis 178-179]
Earl’s Note: Let’s
imagine a  concrete example to illustrate the above.

In Fall 2001 I taught a course on
Detective Fiction. The students came into the course with a set of ideas
about what detective fiction is, what literature is, and what meaning is.
What we did in the class changed many of those ideas – sometimes drastically
– for many of those students. Some of the theoretical we dealt with are
intimately related to semiotics – for example the nature of clues, the
various modes of investigation, etc. Those students whose ideas were radically
altered by the course are subjects of a semiosis that resulted in habit
changes [brought about by the logical interpretants that emerged from the
cumulative effect of the energetic interpretants the course demanded of
them.] 

Among the habit changes in these
students I would include
:

[1] An understanding of genre
that can distinguishes „paraliterature“ from „literature“ according to
the particular ways in which the former differs from the latter, rather
than merely attributing a greater cultural value to „literature.“

[2] New ways of thinking
about what it takes to make something „meaningful.“ 

[3] A  tendency to see
the relation of the meaning of a sign to its context.

[4] An understanding of the
difference between the „significance“ of a sign and its „referent.“


These are potentially habit changes.
For example, [1] might manifest itself in the attitude the student
will now take toward works outside of „Literature.“ Instead of considering
a science fiction novel or a detective story simply „junk,“ or „light entertainment,“
the student will approach the text on its own terms, and also take it seriously
and read it with the kind of critical attention she or he might have formerly
only paid to works of „literature.“ Therefore this habit change, while
not manifest as a sign, changes the way the student will engage with other
signs, and the interpretants that are produced in these new engagements
are made possible because of this habit change. Therefore the result
from the semiosis of the Detective Fiction course  [habit change]
becomes a cause of the interpretants that the student will generate
thereafter. 
Earl ’s Suggestion: There
are many students in this course who were in the Detective Fictions course.
I might ask them to notice how the course changed their minds about thngs
and how that change affects their approach  to the material in this
class.


Ideally we should compare the semiosic
effort and affective experience of one or more the Detective Fiction grads
to that effort and affective experience of one or more persons in this
course who have never had a theory course prior to this. 


I don’t know how to do that from
my side without it seeming threatening or patronizing. But if during the
course people wish to document these efforts and experiences in these terms,
please email me about it. We’d all be very grateful.
Eco’s model of semiosis is centered on a relation between
a producer or signs and a consumer of signs.


De Lauretis questions that model in order „to shift the
ground and its focus, to say that the interpreter, the ‚user‘ of the sign(s),
is also the producer of the meaning (interpretant) because the interpreter
is the place in which, the body in whom, the significate effect of the
sign takes hold“ [de Lauretis 179].

 


De
Lauretis’s modification of Eco’s semiosis.

Eco sees the producer of the sign as the creator of meaning,
and focuses on acts of sign production such as art that result in texts.



De Lauretis points to other social practices which do
not result in texts, but nevertheless are semiotic events that may result
in a logical intepretant, or habit change. These include „consciousness-raising
groups, alternative forms of labor organization, familial or interpersonal
relations“. Such practices, „by shifting the ‚ground‘ of a given sign .
. . effectively intervene upon the codes, codes of perception as well as
ideological codes.“ These practices produce within the participants „interpretants“
that result in ‚a modification of consciousness‘ (C.P. 5.485)“ [de Lauretis
178].
The „modification of consciousness“ or „habit-change“
in the individual is „a disposition, a readiness (for action), a set of
expectations. . . . The individual’s habit as a semiotic production is
both the result and the condition of the social production of meaning.“
[de Lauretis 178-179]

Earl’s Note: Let’s
imagine a concrete example to illustrate the above.

In Fall 2001 I taught a course on
Detective
Fiction
. The students came into the course with a set of ideas about
what detective
fiction is
, what literature is, and what
meaning is
. What we did in the class changed many of those ideas –
sometimes
drastically
– for many of those students. Some of the theoretical we
dealt with are intimately related
to semiotics
– for example the nature of clues, the various modes
of investigation
, etc. Those students whose ideas were
radically altered
by the course are subjects of a semiosis that resulted
in habit
changes
[brought about by the logical interpretants that emerged from
the cumulative
effect
of the energetic
interpretants
the course demanded of them.]

Among the habit changes in these
students I would include
:

[1] An understanding of genre
that can distinguishes „paraliterature“ from „literature“ according to
the particular ways in which the former differs from the latter, rather
than merely attributing a greater cultural value to „literature.“

[2] New ways of thinking
about what
it takes 
to make something „meaningful.“ 

[3] A  tendency to see
the relation of the meaning of a sign to its context.

[4] An understanding of the
difference  
between the „significance“ of a sign and its „referent.“


 
These are potentially
Habit
Changes
. For example, [1]
might manifest itself in the attitude the student will now take toward
works outside of „Literature.“ Instead of considering a science
fiction
novel or a detective story simply „junk,“ or „light entertainment,“
the student will approach the text on its own terms, and also take it seriously
and read it with the kind of critical attention she or he might have formerly
only paid to works of „literature.“
Therefore this habit change, while not manifest as a sign, changes the
way the student will engage with other signs, and the interpretants that
are produced in these new engagements are made possible because of this
habit change. Therefore the result from the semiosis of the Detective
Fiction
course  [
Habit
Change
] becomes a cause
of the interpretants that the student will generate thereafter. 
Earl ’s Suggestion: There
are many students in this course who were in the Detective
Fiction
course. I might ask them to notice how the course changed their
minds about thngs and how that change affects their approach  to the
material in this class.


Ideally we should compare the semiosic
effort and affective experience of one or more the Detective
Fiction
grads to that effort and affective experience of one or more
persons in this course who have never had a theory course prior to this. 


I don’t know how to do that from
my side without it seeming threatening or patronizing. But if during the
course people wish to document
these efforts and experiences
in these terms, please email me about
it. We’d all be very grateful.
And indeed, Mr. Donald Anderson
of the Detective Fiction course, generously came forward with a wonderful
description of this very process. Please click THIS
to read it.
Eco’s model of semiosis is centered on a relation between
a producer or signs and a consumer of signs.


De Lauretis questions that model in order „to shift the
ground and its focus, to say that the interpreter, the ‚user‘ of the sign(s),
is also the producer of the meaning (interpretant) because the interpreter
is the place in which, the body in whom, the significate effect of the
sign takes hold“ [de Lauretis 179].


IV. Peirce.

Read Peirce, „What
is a Sign
?“


Eighty-eight definitions
of a sign
.


See  course Joseph F. Esposito’s online course,
Peirce’s
Theory of Semiosis:Toward A Logic of Mutual Affection
.“



Umberto
Eco on Information
.



See Scott Simpkins‘ on-line course on Critical
Semiotics
.


See Gerhard Gelbmann’s essay, „Eco’s
Perspective on Semiotics and Some Problems with It
.“


See Umberto Eco, „From
Internet to Gutenberg
.“



See Joseph Ransdell, „On
the Paradigm of Experience Appropriate to Semiotic


See Lucia Santaella, „Peirce’s
Three Catagories and Lacan’s Three Registers of the Human Condition


See Jay Zeman, „Peirce’s
Theory of Signs
.“


Helmut Pape. „Charles S. Peirce on Objects of Thought
and Representation.“ Nous. Vol.24.No. 3 (June 1990): 375-395



Donald Anderson, „The
Habit Change at UCSC


See Introduction
to Ferdinand de Saussure

See Introduction
to Charles Sanders Peirce

See Syllabus.


 

Guide One-A Guide Two Guide Three Guide Four Guide Five Guide Six
Guide 

One-B
Online
Resources for Semiotics
Online
Resources for Writing Systems
The
Midquarter
The Syllabus Model
Student Work
Donald Anderson
on Habit Change
Final Exam On Fabula
and Sjuzhet 
Imaginary
Exercise Two
.
Imaginary
Exercise One
Imaginary
Exercise Three
.
Guide Seven Guide Eight Guide Nine Guide Ten Guide Eleven Guide Twelve

 


Guide One-A Guide Two Guide Three Guide Four Guide Five Guide Six
Guide 

One-B
Online Resources
for Semiotics
Online Resources
for Writing Systems
The Midquarter The Syllabus Model
Student Work
Donald Anderson
on Habit Change
Final Exam On Fabula
and Sjuzhet 
Imaginary
Exercise Two
.
Imaginary
Exercise One
Imaginary
Exercise Three
.
Guide Seven Guide Eight Guide Nine Guide Ten Guide Eleven Guide Twelve

LIT 101

Semiotics
and Psychoanalysis


http://www.anotherscene.com/sempsych/

Earl Jackson, Jr.

talkingcure2000@aol.com

Fall 2002