Tracing Semiosis One


 

 

Semiotics
and Psychoanalysis


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

Earl Jackson, Jr.

talkingcure2000@aol.com

Fall
2002

Tracing Semiosis

in Karen Joy Fowler’s Sarah Canary


This is an email message sent to me by Scott Davis, a
graduate student in literature at UCSC, and one of my teaching assistants
in „Semiotics and Psychoanalysis.“ This message is the beginning of a clarification
and formalization of what we’re doing in the class in terms of semiotics
and signification as both an analytic method and as a multifaceted critical
practice. My response follows.


Subj: anguished
cry


Date: Wed, Jan 31, 1996 12:00 PST

From: Scott
C. Davis


To: Earl
Jackson, Jr.


Earl,

The following plea landed on my server recently:

I am still super confused.

How exactly do I trace a line
of semiosis through a text ? Help!

I have to confess to some uncertainty myself. Could
you perhaps gloss this phrase: „trace a line of semiosis“?

 The interpretant I have at present could be represented
by the following: Semiotics, of course, a system of meaning-making, how
does a specific narrative allow the reader (any reader, particular readers)
to ‚make sense‘ of the text? What ‚other knowledges‘ (baggages) does the
reader ’need to know‘ or is expected to know, or is prompted to know through
the specific forms of the narrative?
How does the ground work/allow work here? But also the specific forms through
which subjectivity (subject of speech, speaking subject, spoken subject)
is ‚granted,‘ what possibilities await the spoken subject (you, dear reader)
here? In a text like Sarah Canary, each of the principal ‚characters‘ (Chin,
BJ, Adelaide, Harold) ‚make sense‘ of their world through specific and
idiosyncatic ways, ways to which we have access through the form of free
indirect discourse.

A character such as Adelaide, for example, ‚makes
sense
‚ of the world through seeing it largely as a structure of motivated
misogyny, a misogyny ‚racialised‘ through specific forms and practices.
This practice, of course, is only sensible through the discourse of anthropology,
here conditioned as a series of answers to the question „How do they (the
Chinese, the Scandinavians) treat ‚their‘ women?“ Another gloss on Levi-Strauss,
and another critique; how are living people reduceable to kin-emes, or
perhaps misogyne-emes? The discourse of cultural anthropology, as it’s
critiqued through a series of works (Rosaldo, Clifford, Pratt) has as its
blind spot the implicit assumption that only ‚they‘ have culture (as a
definable field), ‚we‘ have…psychology?


Adelaide never specifies the particularities of an „American“
racialised
misogyny
, even as she ’speaks‘ it throughout her sections of the novel.

(example, example, example) Recalling de
Lauretis
, the ‚monster‘ here, the ‚riddle‘ is gendered by each of the
principals („Ghost-lover,“ „Sarah Canary,“ „Lydia Palmer,“ „Wild Woman“),
yet each principal ‚fails‘ the question of the Sphinx, finding ‚other answers‘
to ‚her‘ question (yes, even Harold, he superadequates the answer: in the
‚properly‘ Oedipal answer, „man“ is metonymically linked to the „me“ of
Oedipus,
here, „man“ doesn’t even enter the frame; Harold’s answer is „Me, only
me“ which refuses the contiguous link to a sexed- and mortal -subject of
which „me, Harold“ would be a metonym. Of course, this may also be psychosis,
or „bad subjectivity“ -right, the subject doesn’t properly miscognize -me’connait-
the hail of interpellation. He’s kind of like Milton’s Satan in that regard:
I will
be where It was
“ is here
I am It
(without the clichées, right, he’s not really in ‚our
langue‚);
he gets it right, but too much so). The real achievement of the novel,
then, is the way in which, through these ‚wrong
readings
,‘ the spoken subject of the narrative
discourse
doesn’t need to subdue or solve
the ‚riddle.‘
Indeed, as each discourse has alerted us all along, SC
is, and remains, an ‚enigma.‘ (de Lauretis) „Tracing a line of semiosis“
through this text thus involves grappling with the specific modes (of which
there are at least four) through which the narrative allows the reader
to arrive at this space. I’ve only just realised I’ve addressed q#2 as
a gloss on how to address q#1 (without actually doing the work of either,
eg). Hmmm. What are your thoughts?


Scott Davis


 

Thinking
involves not only the flow of thoughts, but their arrest as well.


That
was the river, this is the sea.


GO TO EARL’S RESPONSE BY CLICKING HERE.

 

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
Tracing
Imaginary Exercise
One

Semiotics
and Psychoanalysis


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

Earl Jackson, Jr.

talkingcure2000@aol.com

Fall
2002