Paul Bauman on Peirce


Excerpts from a Fragment on Semiotics/Hysteria/SF

By Paul Bauman

Subj: Sheaves and Shadows

Date: Fri, Jun 16, 1995 16:35 PDT


To: earl jackson, Jr.


I was unable to complete the project today but I’m sending
you what I’ve got so far. I think my
to resignify Peirce’s model through hysteria, and then engage
this new model in a dialog with SF are a little overly ambitious. But (
is stubborn and still hesitates to narrow the scope, since that would mean
operating through an implicit model which he wouldn’t get to play with.
Please send me your address tonight or tomorrow morning so I can send you
the complete assignment next week (no email at home unfortunately).

Thank you,


„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 asboth a real-ization and transformation of its constitutive ’sheaves?’
Howmight one theorize such an embodied subject as the site of semiotic
production as well as representation?

In order to shift the ground uponwhich these questions
have formerly been addressed, Teresa de Lauretis’sessay „Semiotics and
Experience“ performs a Peircian reformulation of thesubject which contests
the habitual delineations between the“biophysiological and the social operations
of signification,“ (deLauretis, 175) and opens alternative venues for theorizing
the subject ofsemiosis. But her concomitant analysis of ‚experience‘ as
the ongoingprocessual construction of the semiotic and historical subject
admittedlyleaves the „terrain of subjectivity as conscious *and* unconscious“
(deLauretis, 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 theunconscious in its field
of operations. Hysteria can thence berecontextualized as a signifying practice
which is both the result and thecondition of subjective „habit-changes“,
structurations of semioticpractice themselves stabilized (but not determined)
ascompromise-formations between primary and secondary processes. In particular,
the process of „symbolization“ found in „hystericalmodification“ (Freud,
*Hysteria*, 176) can be reread as a possible modelfor a hysterical *textual*
practice: the hysteric’s somatic literalizationof metaphorical verbal expressions
operates through a complex of semioticcondensations and displacements,
while anaclitically hinging upon a“somatic compliance“ comparable to Peirce’s

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

By spanning the analogical relations betweenhysteria and
semiotics through SF’s generic conventions of signification,one can map
a semiotic practice which necessitates a revision ofFoucault’s assertions
concerning the ‚founders of discursivity‘ in „What Is AnAuthor?:“ as exemplified
by Philip K. Dick’s „Frozen Journey,“ SF’srelation to such ‚founders‘ can
be analysed in terms of*Nachtraeglichkeit* and anaclisis rather than the
unidirectional movementof transformative influence implied in Foucault’s
theorization of thediscursive ‚return to the origin.‘ Indeed SF’s hysterical
resignificationof Freud can be compared to its own anaclitic relationship
with’scientific‘ (empirical) discourse, which is in turn demonstrable as
anoperative dynamic in Freud’s own use of physical/biological models asmetaphors
for (and topologies of) the subject. Such structural affinitiesbetween
SF and Freud bring our semiotic resignification of hysteria fullcircle,
revealing it to be an analogy which itself follows the movement ofanaclisis,
at once „grounded“ in, yet simultaneously dissociating andconstituting
itself beyond, the models which it critically integrates intoits comparative

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, *Vol. II*, 132)

But if the interpretant functions as the subjective „mental
effect“(Peirce, *Vol. I*, 303) of a sign, what guarantees its representationalstability
or pertinence in relation to the object? In other words, how isthe ‚ground’
of the signifying process maintained? Peirce ascribes thisstability to
a triadic complex of interactive interpretants or“significate effects“
which he classifies as such:

    • 1. the emotionalinterpretant, which is the subjective
      „feeling produced by [a sign]“;

    • 2. the energetic interpretant, which involves the
      „effort“ or „exertion uponthe Inner World“ as mediated by the emotional
      interpretant and necessitated by the subject’s contact with the Real;

    • 3. thelogical interpretant, which is the „deliberately
      formed, self-analyzinghabit–self-analyzing because first formed by the
      aid of analysis of theexercises that nourished it [i.e. the emotional and

  • (de Lauretis, 173-4).

To the second installment

To Hysteria
Module One

To Paranoia
Module One

To Unstill
Life/Cultural Studies