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Critical Semiotics

Critical Semiotics

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Published by dosithee
This course introduces semiotics by examining contemporary critiques of it. The lectures build on
an overview of basic concepts of semiotics by discussing several prominent critics of modern
semiotics. An analysis of James Thurber's short story, "The Catbird Seat," is used as a conclusion
to demonstrate potential applications of the techniques and principles associated with semiotic
This course introduces semiotics by examining contemporary critiques of it. The lectures build on
an overview of basic concepts of semiotics by discussing several prominent critics of modern
semiotics. An analysis of James Thurber's short story, "The Catbird Seat," is used as a conclusion
to demonstrate potential applications of the techniques and principles associated with semiotic

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Critical Semiotics

Instructor: Scott Simpkins Course Description This course introduces semiotics by examining contemporary critiques of it. The lectures build on an overview of basic concepts of semiotics by discussing several prominent critics of modern semiotics. An analysis of James Thurber's short story, "The Catbird Seat," is used as a conclusion to demonstrate potential applications of the techniques and principles associated with semiotic analysis. Readings will include texts by John Deely, Umberto Eco, John Stewart, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Robert Hodge and Gunther Kress, Roland Barthes and others. Course Outline 1) The lingua franca of semioticians. Readings: Selections from Frontiers in Semiotics, ed.s John Deely, Brooke Williams, and Felicia Kruse (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986); Umberto Eco, A Theory of Semiotics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979); John Deely, Basics of Semiotics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990). 2) Two extensive critiques of semiotics. Readings: John Stewart, Language as Articulate Contact: Toward A Post-Semiotic Philosophy of Communication (Albany: State University Press of New York, 1995); Robert Hodge and Gunther Kress, Social Semiotics (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988). 3) The implications of codes. Readings: Roland Barthes, S/Z: An Essay, Trans. Richard Miller (New York: Hill and Wang, 1974). 4) The "problem" of controlling the decoder. Readings: Umberto Eco, The Role of the Reader: Explorations in the Semiotics of Texts (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979). 5) The limits of "system" and the authority of the encoder. Readings: Umberto Eco, The Limits of Interpretation (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990); Michel Foucault, "What is an Author?"; Roland Barthes, "Textual Analysis: Poe's 'Valdemar'" and "From Work to Text." 1

6) Finite infinite semiosis Readings: Scott Simpkins, "Reeling in the Signs: Unlimited Semiosis and the Agenda of Literary Semiotics," Versus: Quaderni di studi semiotici 55/56, 2 (Gennaio-Agosto 1990), 153-173; Eco, The Open Work, trans. Anna Cancogni (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989). 7) Semiotics based on radical polysemy, structuration, and play. Readings: Roland Barthes, "The Death of the Author"; Jean-Francois Lyotard, Libidinal Economy, trans. Iain Hamilton Grant (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1993); Jacques Derrida, "'I have forgotten my umbrella.'" 8) Semiotic analysis of James Thurber's short story, "The Catbird Seat," that draws upon and illustrates the points discussed in the first seven lectures. Reading: "The Catbird Seat."


Lecture One: The Lingua Franca of Semioticians
Key for References to Assigned Readings: F - Deely, John, Brooke Williams, and Felicia Kruse, eds. Frontiers in Semiotics. (1986). Bloomington: Indiana University Press E- Eco, Umberto. (1979) A Theory of Semiotics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press D - Deely, John. (1990). Basics of Semiotics Bloomington: Indiana University Press The Discussion of Semiotics "Semiotics" could be said to exist only as a topic of discussion. Although it is commonly referred to as though it were a concretely established discipline (or even a "science"), the legerdemain behind this practice cannot be exaggerated. A more responsive handling of this situation is found in the case of Robert Hodge and Gunther Kress's depiction of a "traditional semiotics." They oppose this term to another form of semiotics that they designate - a social semiotics - based on the presumption that positing a "mainstream" discipline allows them to talk about "variant" manifestations as a result. Yet they acknowledge that, in fact, "the 'tradition' of traditional semiotics is not monolithic or even an agreed body of theories and concepts" (13). Through this tentativity, Hodge and Kress openly acknowledge the sleight of hand that is usually employed surreptitiously by discussions that presume "semiotics" to exist as a conceptually homogeneous enterprise. Consequently, as well, Hodge and Kress offer a discussion of semiotics that is unusually sensitive in this fashion by questioning the assumed existence of what is frequently accorded the status of an entire discipline. (Their approach is somewhat parallel, in this respect, to placing a concept sous rature, or "under erasure," as Martin Heidegger and Jacques Derrida have [with admittedly different purposes], by literally "crossingout" these terms when they feel obliged to use them, thereby suggesting that the expression of that concept is inadequate, yet necessary. This gesture will be figuratively extended here by proposing a "semiotics" that exists only potentially as a process of dialogue, as opposed to a maturely conceived and consensually established field.) The Dominant Paradigm A more common approach to semiotics involves presenting it, on the one hand, as a multidirectional and often ideologically invested rehearsal of discussions about the nature of signs and signification that have gone on for centuries, while, on the other hand, also maintaining that it is ultimately a well-grounded discipline informed by an elaborate and precise conceptual agreement embraced by semioticians in general. This is demonstrated by Daniel Chandler's World Wide Web text, "Semiotics for Beginners," which declares that "these notes do not stray far from a current consensus as to key terms" used in semiotics. John Deely's study, Basics of Semiotics, reveals this maneuver it its title itself. And, while the blurb on the back cover suggests that Deely realizes "Semioticians still lack a unified theory of the purposes of semiotics as a discipline as well as a comprehensive rationale for the linking of semiosis at the levels of culture, society, and nature," at the same time it goes on to assert that "This short, cogent, philosophically oriented book outlines and analyzes the basic concepts of semiotics in a coherent, overall 3

framework" (emphasis added). For Deely, and other similarly inclined writers on semiotics, the only way this domain can be rendered cogently, coherently, and with brevity, is to rely upon illusory assumptions of consensus about essentially unresolvable disagreements regarding sign models and their concomitant theoretical presuppositons. Obviously, a great deal of descriptive subtlety is lost in the process of presenting "semiotics" as a conveniently organized enterprise in a manner that glosses over the immense complexity required to account for the conflicting views regarding every facet of it. Accordingly, when Umberto Eco somewhat casually refers to A Theory of Semiotics as "an attempt to introduce into the semiotic framework a theory of referents" (viii, emphasis added), he has slipped into his assertion an essential assumption about the existence of such a framework without sufficiently qualifying the extremely problematic implications of this assertion. Likewise, the editors' comments in the preface to Frontiers in Semiotics incline toward totalization as they remark: "The readings [included in the anthology] globally taken provide . . . a corrective and an enhancement of popular conceptions of semiotic today" (xvii). Yet, in the end, these essays clearly make just one more contribution to a series of "popular conceptions" because there appears to be no way to situate an authoritative "correction," and possibly not even an "enhancement" of semiotic theory, although the potential value they hold for contributing to the ongoing "discussion" of semiotics always remains a possibility. The Benefits of Tentativity Hodge and Kress again usefully demonstrate one benefit of semiotic discussion in that nonexistent or immaterial entities can be posited and explored much in the same way that existent or material ones can. "Unicorns" would be a good example. We could talk about their manifestations throughout history, the structural, relational, and symbolic properties they are said to possess, and even the ways in which they have acquired a type of materiality as the topic of a shared conversation. The same is true for "semiotics" itself. Nevertheless, a study of this "discussion" (as this first lecture undertakes) can help to reveal - or perhaps at least offer a provisional construction of - the contours of what, in certain very local circles, modern "semiotics" could be said to entail. Rather than following the lead of the early Wittgenstein and resigning ourselves to passing over in silence those issues associated with semiotics that resist comfortable agreement, it could be quite fruitful to explore the points of contention related to this discipline as a means of engendering further conversations about it. The Indiana Group Without implying that one could accurately grasp the nature of a given conversation about semiotics, and certainly without privileging this explanation as revealing the "basics" of semiotics, one can offer observations about a conversation in order to introduce and interrogate what some writers view as "central" components of semiotics. The conversation explored here has taken place among an arguably related group of writers who have focused primarily on semiotic studies undertaken by, and derived from, the work of the American philosopher, Charles Sanders Peirce, and to a far lesser extent, that of the Swiss linguist, Ferdinand de Saussure. For the sake of convenience, I will refer to these writers as the "Indiana Group," based largely on the considerable influence of the Research Center for Language and Semiotic Studies at Indiana 4

Eco positions the sign component as external to the signifying entity. Within the IG discussion. In other words. one that entails not the exchange or interaction of consciousness characteristic of phenomenology. is meant by a "sign" and in what ways do signs relate to supposedly similar signs to constitute a system? Moreover. they will be used only to facilitate conversation about one discussion of semiotics as an example of the numerous others that have taken place. problems arise even with what seem to be fairly simplistic concepts.) EcoŐs model posits a sign-decoder relationship. as a result. to a certain extent. is this systemic relation immanent. or imposed to neatly arrange something in a manner that in no way reflects the actual nature of sign relations? And." In other words. semiotics is viewed as the study of signs and the ways in which sign systems convey (and are used to convey) meaning.that a "sign" is something that means (or "stands for") something to someone. What. this definition denies the possible significance of sign-vehicle agency the impact of an encoder of a sign. what is meant by "meaning"? Is it related to." etc. entails an importation or extrapolation of meaning derived from semiotic components supposedly originating from the decoder. they share enough conceptual similarities to constitute something of a consensus among the discussions of the IG semioticians."semiotic.views of semiotics. and perhaps even idiosyncratic. Consider the way that Eco defines semiotics as a discipline "concerned with everything that can be taken as a sign. Advances in Semiotics (general editor. more precisely. call "natural signs" (F 69). Charles Morris suggests that "something is a sign only because it is interpreted as a sign of something by some interpreter" [quoted in E 16]. such questions effectively undermine an attempt to posit a sense of agreement or essential definition for semiotics. than anybody else can). though. in other words." "A sign." he argues. Again. for instance. or are currently under way. for the signifying entity to possess semioticity separate from its possible association with an encoder. This would be an example of what Eco et al. heterogeneous . or grounded firmly by. provided that they emit the signal [or message] following a system of rules by the human addressee" (E 8).University in the United States and the University of Indiana Press series." or "intention. for instance . but instead. Immediately. that has disseminated numerous . Many of the concepts discussed by the IG will be derived from the texts referred to at the beginning of this lecture and should be seen only as very specific. they no more present a unified conception of semiotics than anybody else does (or.and allows. This would be a form of extra-phenomenological communication. Elsewhere. ." "semiology.as reiterated by Eco . Sebeok). "is everything which can be taken as significantly substituting for something else" (E 7). of course. (Similarly. could we determine what that "actual nature" is in order to test the validity of this presumed system? Furthermore." or cultural "convention"? Obviously." "semeiotic." or "structure.and. it agrees with PeirceŐs general contention .see F 255-263. (For an extensive discussion of one view of the implications associated with the various terms aligned with this enterprise . "context. Recognizing that a cloud signifies the potential approach of rain would be a sign in this fashion. this "emission" or "transmission" of meaning implies that the 5 . perspectives on what could be called "semiotics. Thomas A.) The Sign According to the IG: The Case of Eco While numerous competing models of the sign have been offered. and this is where the major limitations of presumably "semiotic" discussions arise. Eco asserts that "it is not necessary that the source or the transmitter be human.

Conversely. the notion of 'referent' has most unfortunate results within the framework of a theory of codes. insofar as none of these facets can exercise genuine control over an decoder's attempts to project meaning onto something. for instance. especially considering that this would be a meaning constructed by the decoder as opposed to the encoder. The Imposition of Meaning Within this isolated example from Eco." in which the narrator . the addressee (or decoder) could be simply rendering a sign intelligible in virtal isolation from consideration of elements such as the system. even if you created your own language system. connotations.e. As Saussure argues. Although Eco qualifies this by observing that signs differ "according to whether they originate from a sender or a natural source" (E 177).'" ."'I would prefer not to. however. something that would constitute its "nature"). this imposition cannot be avoided since it typically is considered the basic mechanism behind semiosis according to its rendering by the IG (as indicated by this specific illustration from Eco). you would immediately lose all power to control the use of that language once it were put into circulation and utilized by others. it is mediated by an androcentric agency that is in no way directly linked with what might inhere within the signifying object (i. and only authorized by. and to underestimate its malignant influence leads to a referential fallacy" (E 58). 6 . Bartleby's puzzling response to requests to explain his behavior . It also can be seen in Herman Melville's short story. the encoder (as opposed to an external encoding agent). In fact. While this might seem like an occurrence of what Martin Krampen refers to as "suffering the imposition of meaning" (F 90).decoder performs a sending agency. Other forms of "imposition" of meaning of this nature can be found in KrampenŐs description of the semiotics of plant design (F 90) or Eco's depiction of the "message" of a staircase (E 260).someone who has allegedly had extensive contact with the inscrutable Bartleby . "Bartleby the Scrivener. we all know how frustrating it is to. one in which you specify very concretely the denotations. his previously cited statement necessitates that the natural source (something that one takes away from) somehow emits a meaning not unlike "intention" . it seems certain that an encoder is ultimately incapable of enforcing any significant control over what the decoder does with a given sign-vehicle. or convention. that serves as a basis for grounding meaning that is further specified through semiotic convention. Eco makes a compelling argument when he claims that.leads the narrator to desperately secure a narrative intelligibility for it. have someone claim to know what we "really meant" by saying something or "miscontruing" our intention related to an utterance. the decoder has no means of grounding the act of decoding within this model because. or even intention. Think about the static. following Eco's restriction that the message has to be constructed according to "a system of rules [known] by the human addressee. society. mechanical ways that semiosis would work if the decoder were only capable of understanding a sign based on an accurate. Thus.a problematic issue indeed." this "system" could doubtlessly vary tremendously from one addressee to the next. Moreover. and thus Bartleby also suffers the imposition of meaning upon his decidedly quirky social interaction. intended meaning somehow originating from. "although of considerable importance within its proper domain.attempts to illuminate this mysterious figure for us through several anecdotes and a closing revelation that Bartleby's strange disquietude may have been caused by the philosophical ramifications of his temporary employment in a dead letter office. At the same time.. of each unit and subsequent combinations thereof. the claim of privileged knowledge of "context" or "intention" or "meaning" is truly difficult to support. etc.

social awareness of the "note" genre as well as knowledge about the social event of "note passing.Obviously. Chandler. for instance. or the ways in which stationery figures significantly in Edgar Allan Poe's short story." The actual situation in the discussion of semiotics is much more complex than that. Think. Terminological Problems Eco's model dramatizes the potential vulnerability of "semiotics" in general and also helps to explain its status as a lingua franca among the discussion of a group one could construct for the sake of an illustration (like the IG). or the Saussurean pattern of thought and action" (F 262). The comprehension of my message by the decoder would not be a matter of taking my note (and the accompanying signifying process and components) as a sign regardless of my originating motive. But. who also is Editor-in-Chief of Semiotica. rather. Sebeok. common term to designate this practice contributes to the illusion that everybody is talking about the same thing." An easy way out of this bind is to adopt a syncretic position that seems to be grounded by judiciously selected and lucidly defined "key" concepts. Surely "insignificant" details in the creation of a sign are more accurately described as having lesser or inoperative significance. however. a factor which Eco's definition neglects. it nonetheless is a necessary element for the transmission of my message. the use of a single. In this respect. his terminology within the same piece of discourse will not oscillate ad libitum. The kind of paper I use in my note example above would illustrate this point. for his initial selection will have signaled to his sophisticated readership whether he has chosen to align himself with the Locke-Peirce-Morris tradition. "the theory of signs. advises readers of "Semiotics for Beginners" that explicit term definition is not necessary if they stick to the agreedupon "key terms" of semiotics and adds that "if you use other semiotic terms you need to make clear whose definition of them you are using. is full of holes. Eco stresses "significance" in a way that unnecessarily limits the range of his definition by making a distinction without concretely elaborating on its relevance. each of these "traditions" is ceaselessly contested among both its adherents and its detractors. for instance. "The Purloined Letter. the deferral of meaning inherent in a process of 7 . Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies. I might send a note to someone with a clear intention to inform her of a specific condition. as opposed to no significance whatsoever. that in the example mentioned earlier. however.may indulge his personal taste when attaching a label to the theory of signs. And my originating motive could clearly be among the "meanings" she produces. ultimately. to use Sebeok's phrase. etc. other types of semiotic exchanges do have an encoding agency originating from the signifying entity itself. appears to reflect this view in his survey of the various terms used to label what is referred to here as semiotics when he notes: "While every contributor to Semiotica .) that would enable my decoder to intelligibly produce meaning from my act of note transmission.to stick with a parochial illustration . and it is undeniable that the "oscillation" Sebeok depicts does indeed continue without likely cessation into a cohesive body that could be honestly called. Note." as a bibliographical code that the crafty Dupin is not only able to "crack. too. because all of the terms or concepts found within it are always vulnerable to semiosic slippage. While it might appear unimportant. moreover. of the possible relevance of the kinds of paper used for resumes or billets-doux. the Mead variation. While everybody approaches semiotics from a singular perspective on different models and different interpretations of them." the history of interpersonal relations between us. it would be a matter of drawing upon a wide array of semiotic practices (linguistic competency. Eco's emphasis on "significance" can be viewed as an attempt to propose an airtight definition of semiotics that." but to effectively manipulate as well.

when reading these texts. which inevitably led to an equally inadequate condition. he referred to them in other ways as well so that.would hardly provide a substantial basis for a solid depiction of the constituent elements and concerns of "semiotics. and rheme. are undeniably inadequate. Yet his works are often criticized for their needless. at least in the popular conception. argument) that produced 10 sign classes. legisign. The American Journal of Semiotics even published an essay by Victorino Tejera that asked: "Has Eco Understood Peirce?") Model Shortcomings The process of selecting and eliminating seemingly constituent parts of the overall process of semiosis also leads to conveniently explicable models that. Peirce. to the contrary. but then failed to fully explain them. "one can never be sure whether some new facet of semiotic is being discriminated or whether an old aspect is simply being given a new label" (139). within this model. To suggest that simply designating whose terms you're using will clear up this problem is to deny that there is a conceptual problem underlying "semiotics" at all. in the case of both Peirce and Saussure. at the same time.Peirce and Saussure. for example . then. Peirce later expanded these divisions into 10 trichotomies that produced 66 sign classes. Or. as Thomas Goudge notes. frequently reworked his models. the notion of semiotic authority is certainly questionable. That is because Saussure essentially said too little about what constitutes "semiotics" and Peirce said too much at times. His three triadic divisions of signs illustrate this point well: Peirce posited these divisions of signs within his semiotic scaffolding through fairly vague definitions and rendered them all the more confusing through reconsideration. An emphatic example of this is Umberto Eco who. icon. Within this dilemma. But. so that Sebeok's contention regarding "sophistication" of understanding among semioticians is more a case of agreeing to use inadequate and incomplete models of the sign than an instance of real understanding because such an understanding cannot ultimately find complete authorization. are limited precisely to the degree that this excision and shaping take place. it is also the result of the fallacy behind the presumption of authority associated with the use of "primary" sources which. is held to possess a truly sophisticated grasp of semiotics. consider Eco's 8 . for instance." In part. (In one case. index. One could argue that the gist of Saussure's commentary on semiotics can be found in this one statement: "I call the combination of a concept [or signified] and a sound-image [or signifier] a sign" (Course 67). but alluringly systemic order. sinsign. erroneous or heavy-handed reductions. symbol. something else is always used to signify the thing itself.signification based on difference and relation as opposed to the transparent conveyance of meaning-without-mediation. was very sensitive to potential criticism regarding his penchant for triadic models which arrange arguably fluid and chaotic elements into a possibly inaccurate. dicisign/dicent. adding new terms and new forms of earlier conceptualization that resulted in a bewildering panorama of sign commentary without necessarily illuminating precisely his notion of semiosis. Authority and Primary Sources Even drawing upon the terms derived from what could be called the "primary sources" of modern semiotics . Peirce. Furthermore. this is the result of the deferral characteristic of semiosis (mentioned above) in which the thing itself cannot be used to signify something (while still maintaining its essential quality as the thing itself) because. although in radically opposed ways. Although he commonly used these three divisions (qualisign.

icon. Sebeok makes agency a necessary component of semiosis. he nonetheless privileges the phenomenological view at the expense of the extra-phenomenological. Joseph Ransdell. though. and therefore do not stand as distinctly different categories as much as interdependent gradations. Charles Morris says it's "any sign which is similar in some respects to what it denotes" (quoted in E 192). Peirce defines it (not very helpfully) as "a sign which refers to the Object that it denotes merely by virtue of characters of its own. identifies the mechanism of the icon as that of conceptual "likeness" (F 248). At one point.) To take one example: the icon. be it quality. tends to reify this presumed autonomy. or a string of signs. is an Icon of anything. This 9 . as I have characterized it here. they nevertheless are frequently used as though they were separate entities. index and symbol serves as a convenient illustration of easy and imprecise appropriation in the discussion of semiotics. Thus. etc.) that there is some meaningful relation between it and the thing it stands for. often at the expense of a much more dynamic view of semiosis. in so far as it is like that thing and used as a sign of it" (2. just the same. This "surrogate stimuli" (E 194) is seen in a sign based on onomatopoeia that essentially signifies something by imitating. or destination. (This also happens with Saussure's concept of the signifier and the signified. But.) What these efforts to "clarify" the icon lead to. While Eco allows for the possibility of negative agency. many semioticians in what I am proposing as the IG discussion have resorted to imposing tight perimeters around such terms and thereby sacrifice the larger conceptual potential that they evidently had for someone like Peirce.247). To Sebeok. This would draw upon the index. The IG discussion. and which it possesses. transmitted from a sign-producer. In order for a decoder to be figured as as "a signreceiver. or law. to a sign-receiver. . Peirce's triad of signs based on their relation to the thing they represent . Sebeok appears to offer a nuanced description of what has been called "semiosis" (or what John Deely depicts as "the action of signs" [D 11]) when he asserts: "A message is a sign." the sign has to be actively originated. Additionally. Even though Peirce has noted that they can intertwine in potentially subtle and complex ways. Anything whatever. in this fashion. (Eco even presents an extensive "critique of iconism" in E 191-217. . the icon is really only part of a web of interrelated sign-relations as opposed to an autonomous entity that can be discussed accurately as existing in isolation. is the aforementioned conceptual myopia that fails to retain the multiplicitous relation that Peirce apparently had in mind. or on the same system of relations (one could say that they possess the same perceptual sense but not the same perceptual physical support)" (E 193). which view it as a process of intellection. these relations are culturally determined so that the symbol component of this function would need to be considered at the same time. or destination" (F 36). he asserts. Eco adds that "iconic signs do not possess the 'same' physical properties as do their objects but they rely on the 'same' perceptual 'structure'. After all. the "sign" is something concrete that is "transmitted" to someone. or source. existent individual. whether any such Object actually exists or not .elimination of many other components of semiosis in order to posit a conceptual correlation between merely the "expression plane" and the "content plane" (E 48) or to portray semiosis as "a correspondence as realized during a transmission process" (E 54). you have to know (through experience. while Sebeok considers the potentially dual nature of the initiating source of a sign-process (unlike Eco's description above). In the course of their attempts to make vague definitions like this one more precise. such as a popular one by Peirce. consider the icon in this way: in order to render an icon intelligible. as opposed to other conceptions. and thus reproducing. it.

Peirce. trans. Of course. The American Journal of Semiotics 6. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co. Course de Linguistique Générale. parallels with the interruption of the Tower of Babel construction come to mind regarding this situation.indiana. The Thought of C. "Semiotics for Beginners" web site: http://www. lack both a sender and a message-goal (correlatives of Sebeok's "sign-producer. Ferdinand. some agent. or destination"). emphasis added). This is one of the more fruitful aspects of the lingua franca of semiotics as is demonstrated by the extent to which discussions identified with "semiotics" spend so much time finetuning the conversations of other "semioticians. indeed. admittedly. (1950).view of the sign presupposes a sign-creator (or encoder) of some kind. But. Paul Perron argues that a sign is "first of all a construct" (quoted in D 2) and Eco similarly opines that communication consists of "the passage of a symbol. (1994). and anybody who has even only just begun to decode the outside world (not to mention the inside one) is already well aware of the "semiotic competence" (E 241) that day-to-day living requires: the significance and usefulness of gestures. Daniel. "Division of Signs. MA: Harvard University Press de Saussure. "Has Eco Understood Peirce?". you typically have to refine and extrapolate from their conceptual components to accommodate exceptional instances and conceptual flaws overlooked by their originators." Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce. wherein you have to negotiate between what you associate with "semiotics" and what everybody else involved in the discussion associates (and often quite differently) with it.Music. Vols. so again a sign relay between encoder and decoder is assumed for a semiosis based on what Deely calls "subjective interaction" (D 23) that results in message transmission. Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye in collaboration with Albert Riedlinger [1916]. must be doing this constructing and passing (E 8. for instance. according to its contours as depicted by the IG. ed. S. or source" in this case and the "sign-receiver. one could argue for the existence of a "natural" phenomenon as a sort of "signproducer. Ed. or intonation. Henry Louis." This would be consistent with DeelyŐs contention that "semiosis is above all an assimilative process" (D 102). (1931-1935). Additional References Chandler. Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss (Cambridge. Thomas. Victorino. or destination" serving to designate whoever might encounter the cloud and make a connection that produces an intelligible sign indicating potential rain. or source" and "sign-receiver. Tejera.The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism (New York: Oxford University Press Goudge. New York: Dover Publications Peirce. Wade Baskin as Course in General Linguistics.2/3 (1989). A virtually limitless array of components associated with this process can figure into the analysis of semiosis as well. (1988). Along these lines. or previous interaction between the encoder and the decoder. 10 . I-VI.edu/~ltomlin/semiotic. The cloud-rain connection as a "sign" of possible rain would. (1959). Working With the Lingua Franca In order to make most models of the sign fully workable. 251-264." so it is assumed that somebody.html#top Gates. or feedback by the encoder. The same is true for dealing with texts purporting to outline semiotic theory and practice. Charles Sanders.

) among studies associated with it. unlike cows. Stewart identifies his undertaking as one that isolates certain "features" that can be crafted into a rendition of some semiotic studies. signifier. Language as Ideology No "Basic" Concepts in Semiotics If semiotics is considered as a wide-ranging and heterogeneous discussion. this condition undeniably remains . agents and objects of meaning. then perhaps it follows that it cannot possess basic concepts. "texts and contexts. Nonetheless. interpretant." Rather than begging the question about the homogeneity of semiotics. 1988). as Peirce demonstrates so aptly). Robert Hodge and Gunther Kress. Despite the tacit refusal of most semiotic studies to acknowledge this condition (as seen in titles like Basics of Semiotics by John Deely [see Lecture One]). yield least when most contented. Language as Articulate Contact: Toward A Post-Semiotic Philosophy of Communication (Albany: State University Press of New York. Social Semiotics (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Overview: No "Basic" Concepts in Semiotics Stop Signs: Stewart "Articulate Contact" Signs in the Real World Forget Pluralism A Post-Semiotic Demonstration The Social System: Hodge and Kress Ideology and Semiosis A Social-Semiotic Demonstration The Expense of Ideology An Accretive Semiotics "Disciplines.Lecture Two .offer good examples of responsive and nuanced projects designed to move beyond the imprecise but handy assumptions that often undermine semiotic studies.and remains irresolvably so. syntagm. context." For them. this book extends some features of the postmodern critique of representationalism to develop a post-semiotic account of the nature of language as dialogic.Two Extensive Critiques of Semiotics. etc. a ground on which basic concepts could be drawn. this approach does not correspondingly imply that recurrence constitutes anything like a consensus. 1995). it can be rewarding to analyze the various attempts by semioticians to discuss what clearly are recurrent "semiotic" assumptions and terminologies (denotation." Hodge and Kress. Stewart's back-cover blurb reveals this with the contention that "From the perspective of communication theory. Of course. Hodge and Kress's cover also characterizes "semiotics as an evolving theory.Language As Articulate Contact and Social Semiotics . Assigned Readings: John Stewart. The two studies addressed here . Even a cursory perusal of any two or more studies in this area will reveal this to be the case (as do studies by the same author. 11 .

To the contrary. These "problems" result from a handful of what Stewart refers to as "theoretical commitments" that. these approaches to semiotics also are vulnerable to critiques similar to the ones they offer themselves. though." The Semiotic Review of Books 7. . this examination will point to areas that are ripe for explorations to come. identifying the presumptions behind these two studies will hardly negate whatever value they offer to future semiotic discussions. Consequently. coherence. and their complex interrelationships together constitute the irreducible object of semiotic analysis.) Stop Signs: Stewart John Stewart condemns semiotics for relying upon the symbol model for its basic paradigm." The American Journal of Semiotics 7. "semiotic accounts of the nature of language are crippled. 145-151. 1996.and Hodge and Kress . This practice. word and thought" (6-7). and as a result. he argues. "Distinguish[ing] . announces its consequent obsolescence. (Stewart's use of "the symbol model" refers to an eclectic assortment of paradigms sharing a common feature configured as a sign. It posits a two-world combination that resists our tangible conception of only one existent world. and an ontological impasse results. serious problems of plausibility. (For those interested in more extensive critical descriptions of these books. . The other commitments Stewart aligns with semiotics extend from this initial assertion. "by . Such a distinction does not "coherently" account for a comprehendable interface between two realms that cannot co-exist simultaneously. 1-2. he insists. .1." However. please consult my reviews of Stewart . 8-10 . Stewart attacks the practice of partitioning. Stewart argues. Nor can it be used to adequately explain a pragmatic sense of language usage that we all draw upon every day in "conversation" consisting of "two-person dialogue in real time" (xiii). Again. this position holds." he asserts. symbol and symbolized."The Semiotics of Post-Semiotics."Reading the Social Text. hamper a productive and accountable analysis of the nature of linguistic communication. between two worlds alters the historical sense of the term world as the single coherent sphere that humans inhabit" (105). . Representationalism similarly extends the independent-unit fallacy. We don't live in the world of conceptual signs. identifying small (or the smallest) units of a given aspect of language as a means of breaking it down to what are assumed its essential elements. the one we inhabit consciously. has spurred a false assumption of primary or foundational segments in language. The particular shortcoming of this commitment arises." This results from the belief in "a fundamental distinction between two realms or worlds. the world of the sign and the signifier. 1990. Since these worlds donŐt intersect. The commitment that most significantly hinders semiotic analysis for Stewart is the two-world "problem. for Stewart. and applicability" (xii). we can't conceive of such a sphere.social structures and forces.) Stewart reflects this sentiment when he identifies the main shortcoming of semiotic studies of language as the assumption that language is "fundamentally a system of signs or symbols" (3). It also has an accompanying skewed view of a synergistic process that is insufficiently represented if its disparate constituent elements are not considered as a whole. this position must rely upon the assumption of an unnecessary plane that impedes the intelligibility of a semiotic account of language. name and named. January. and asserts that the only possible hope hinges on a "post-" manifestation of semiotics. in the case of represented concepts (like negations) that would exist only in the world of representation without 12 .

First. discourse. These positions. to propose that this form of analysis has to exist beyond (or after) semiotics clearly ignores the possibility of "thickening" the discussion of semiotics (something that has taken place.). but a system with a pedestrian use-function. (In part. Yet. His final commitment attacks the instrumental view of language as a semiotic system. he maintains. In other words. at the same time. as a decidedly human practice characterized by common-sense competence gained through interpersonal communication. since the 1960s).an accompanying real-world correlative. it becomes increasingly apparent that he can sustain his critique of semiotic's commitments only by a very selective "thinning" of the accounts he draws upon. Its foundation is "coherent. Stewart's proposed communicative model is essentially the opposite of the commitments he outlines. this is due to its apparent linkage with structuralism . when he avers that "semiotics is difficult to disentangle from structuralism. Stewart stresses analyzing "living language" (104) to restrict his analyses to the realm of a practical. a possible contribution to semiotics may be found by producing a different "yield" by retaining Stewart's leeriness of under-scrutinized conceptualizations that so often litter semiotic analyses. "Articulate Contact" A great deal of Stewart's discussion is undeniably attractive. Instrumentalism. Stewart reveals the investments underlying his endeavor in the ways he praises it. he says. for instance. this is virtually a given in any analysis that stakes out a territorial claim and then works it vigorously to generate sufficient yield. Again. however. lifeless system. the apology.a contention Daniel Chandler makes. Stewart's modus operandi for creating his "credible alternative" (ix) to semiotics: an analysis of a post-semiotic "articulate contact" that consists of the decidedly human practice of interpersonal communication. are clearly compelling. etc. In fact. Stewart stresses the interpersonal nature of such exchanges. . because one entity of a given ontological status cannot coherently be said to 'represent' another entity of the same ontological status" (103).") Stewart emphasizes demonstrability in the analysis of communication and posits that it is impossible to link the real world and the conceptual one. at least in limited . decidedly rigid scaffolding. as opposed to proposing a language system separate from its demonstrable use. Language is rendered even further distant from its social facet if it is conceived as not only a system." It results in a rendition of language usage that constitutes "a plausible whole. this situation "ultimately keeps a wedge driven between the two worlds ." And. it's grounded on viewpoints that enjoy "a significant contemporary consensus among philosophers and communication theorists" (x). "hypostatizes what is lived as event and imports the subject-object distinction into language scholarship" (29). he says. "There is only one human world and it is linguistic" (30). But. Indeed. along with his preference for studying "actual" language use over a sterile. Yet. once more. in the process of touting his own perspective. While these value-rich descriptions sound reasonable (and even desirable). he constructs an alternative to semiotics that would seem to answer many of the charges levelled against it in recent years. . It's "credible" (ix).and limiting . there is little of substance underlying them. And the further he goes the thinner his history becomes. 13 . which effectively negates the conceptual aspect of the sign model that appears frequently in semiotic discussions.ways. the give-and-take of dialogue that typically is unscripted and even chaotic in structure. as Stewart proceeds to narrate a tradition of symbol-model articulations of semiotics throughout history. His approach also is centered on generic social tasks of some kind (the job interview. It should be considered instead. This is a major weakness of Stewart's project: a conceptual sand base on which he tries to construct a vast. and dialogic.

" he argues. or even entirely neglects.Stewart also stresses analysis focusing exclusively on "events of speech communicating" (30) for explanatory models of the nature of language. He views language use as a form of community instead of a lifeless system." It is a decidedly human (and humanistic) enterprise. it points toward the intimate connection between human speech communicating and human being" (130). By studying "language as it is lived" (19)." Stewart declares (125). and by no means something that is primarily instrumental by design. dialogical processes" (188). Accordingly. Stewart attempts to bring communication analysis to the realm of the actual. This view can be experienced directly as opposed to the conceptual world that he considers as immaterial in the two-world view. . conceived of as social. By grounding post-semiotics in real-time human interaction. he suggests. "this post-semiotic account permits no such disconnection." he asserts. Furthermore. . leads to the sterile segmentation mentioned above. "Little purpose is served by focusing one's explicative energy exclusively on reducing language to its atoms. But. Stewart goes so far as to inject an ethical aspect of his account of a post-semiotic orientation." he contends." he contends. He proposes analyzing texts derived from instances of human communication. "Semiotic accounts of the nature of language permit discourse to be disconnected from its ethical and ontological consequences. "The study of reported speech can provide insights into the basic processes of understanding and communication. as opposed to "languaging" which addresses "understanding in events of speech communicating" (123). "Efforts to analyze syntactic or semantic aspects of . "language as living event can best be understood. his means of information gathering centers on the study of transcribed interactive speech. perspective. Studying language from a systemic standpoint. This misrepresents the interactive gestalt of language use as a social practice. Only by framing language as an entity constituted by human interaction can an anlysis reflect its existence as a fluid. not "actual" social practice. the human side of semiosis. "language is constitutive. determined laws. Stewart's alternative to semiotics is based on the assumption that "understanding is a mode of being manifested in concrete events of conversing and that ultimately these events are what the term language labels" (112). heterogeneous human undertaking. suggesting that the analysis of language as a system discounts." an "acknowledgement or affirmation" that this world's existence takes place "separate from the viewer" (117). or single-world. on the other hand. This approach yields a tangible "facticity. he endeavors to conceptualize language with an interactive basis. Such a world consists of a reality affirmed through interactive language use by actual beings separate from a conceptual plane or from the constraints of a "system" that exists only conceptually as 14 . To Stewart. texts that would presumably consist of "naturally-occurring interchanges" (17)." Signs in the Real World Reflecting a partial alignment with post-structuralism. In effect. "but builds or develops it" (31). Stewart bases his entire schema of postsemiotics on this hypothesis." Language "does not represent world. "by recognizing that its first business is contact. conceiving language as a system leaves its components microscopically (and "unnaturally")taxonimied in accordance with artificially mechanical. Stewart opines that instead of mediating between two worlds. the 'system' of language need to be broadened to acknowledge both the indivisible interrelationships between the verbal and the nonverbal and the inherently relational nature of events of articulate contact. "The anchor for understanding languaging should be the contact event as its participants live it.

a lot can be said for Stewart's position here. he says.even though they appear to function as part of the microstructure of the text's signifying system on different linguistic planes. However." Stewart says. This experience may indeed seem more relevant because it's familiar to us while a sub-atomic anatomization of language usage from a systemic standpoint may come across as alien. This occurs to such an extent that humans seldom consider speaking as using language from the instrumental perspective Stewart decries." "No grammatical analysis of a poem." Stewart declares. One of the best illustrations of an arguably parallel instance can be found in Michael RiffaterreŐs attack on Claude Lévi-Strauss and Roman Jakobson's structural analysis of a poem. Thus a microscopic study of linguistic features of a poem's system can detect effects that are essentially beyond human detection. In "Describing Poetic Structures: Two Approaches to Baudelaire's 'Les Chats'" (1966). "can give us more than the grammar of the poem" (36). should always remain in the realm of the tangible. language use appears based on a predominantly unconscious internalization of these rules and paradigms." He adds that "there may be no way for structural linguistics to distinguish between these unmarked structures and those that are literarily active. "Humans participate in the constituting of the coherent spheres we inhabit. again. "conversely. One of the obvious benefits of Stewart's assertion here is that he shifts semiotics (or a postsemiotics) toward a felt enterprise. "Speech communicating is a principal not a surrogational dynamic. Moreover. as opposed to the intangibly conceptual. or detect segmentation when speaking in a string of unpremeditated units. In this sense. he suggests. tentative. as opposed to the real-time blur of languaging that usually occurs during human semiotic interaction. such features are. palpably experience abstract things (like negations). one that is rule-bound (to whatever extent of formal regimentation of these rules). 15 . things. These things essentially cannot exist for us in a "real" way. this can be taken much too far beyond the realm of human detectability. It analyzes language usage in slow-time.implicitly conceptual in nature. Riffaterre allows for the "reasonable assumption" that "there is a causal relationship between the presence of [specifically poetic] features in the text and our empirical feeling that we have before us a poem" (26). Humans cannot prove the existence of these states. not there . and changing) ways of understanding rather than reproductive of cognitive states.well. from his perspective." And. Actually. it is undeniable that any such social interaction ultimately takes place as a form of system. But. "inaccessible to the normal reader" and argues that even the identification of elements that are accessible "do[es] not explain what establishes contact between poetry and reader. Stewart takes this approach when he tries to account for the human use of language which may exist and function separately from what an emphasis on language as a system is capable of revealing. Stewart's proposal also endeavors to focus on language study as an undertaking that. Many complaints have been raised regarding the neglect of human subjectivity that seems to result from systemic analyses. this interaction is . Similarly. should be considered as "constitutive or productive of (necessarily partial. in his view." he suggests. Denying these aspects of language usage will not make semiotics go away. "Humans cannot live in the subject-object relationship with language that the tool analogy requires. there may well be strictly poetic structures that cannot be recognized as such by an analysis not geared to the specificity of poetic language" (28)." he concludes. Riffaterre eschews linguistic elements that are. Riffaterre also admits the possibility that a "poem may contain certain structures that play no part in its function and effect [on the reader] as a literary work of art. "by engaging both proactively and responsibly in the play of language events" (119). or other units of language" (125).to draw upon models of the sign like those generated from disparate commentary by Peirce and Saussure . in a significant way. Language.

"Insofar as world is linguistic, we inhabit or live in our language; we do not simply use it as a tool" (126). Yet, studies such as Sigmund Freud's The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, Kenneth Burke's A Grammar of Motives, or Erving Goffman's The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life amply demonstrate that systematic analysis of "lived" experience can offer a great deal of insight into supposedly unscripted or unconscious social behavior. To deny the instrumentality or systemic facet of this behavior requires a refusal to acknowledge this facet of semiotics, as Stewart demonstrates here. Ultimately, he stresses a "connectionist" view of language analysis that avoids what he sees as the pitfalls of representationalism. Stewart accomplishes this by emphasizing language in its forms of human usage as opposed, again, to a systemic view devoid of agency. Forget Pluralism It might appear logical that a "post-semiotics" could provide a pluralistic improvement over semiotics, a use of its so-called key concepts that seeks to employ them more responsively. Yet Stewart adamantly opposes blending "a coherent nonrepresentational account of linguistic or discursive reference" (238) with a position grounded on symbol models and their concomitant implications. Stewart depicts dire consequences should "semiotic and post-semiotic views collide" (198) because semiotics always taints its post- manifestation. A good illustration of this collision is found in his analysis of the shortcomings of Kenneth Burke's writings on language. Burke's attempt to meld a conception of language as both "dynamic and processual" and yet somehow composed of "identifiable, discrete units" generates a "pervasive tension." Stewart charges that tension of this nature forestalls any possible progress in semiotic analysis. Stewart insists that a pluralistic enterprise geared toward illuminating "the basic nature of language itself" would fail to yield "coherent and useful" results (113). "Language cannot be coherently treated as simultaneously a world-constituting, characteristically human way of being, and as a system that is instrumentally employed by already -constituted humans to represent aspects of their worlds and accomplish other goals" (113). For Stewart, semiotics remains uninterested in concerns such as "the relationship between the individual and the social, the dynamics of narrative collaboration, the discursive development of subject matter, or the conversational achievement of intimacy." Consequently, the two disciplines can never meet. This, of course, is absurd. Numerous semiotic discussions focus on the same concerns that Stewart relegates exclusively to the domain of post-semiotics. It becomes evident while proceeding through Language as Articulate Contact that Stewart has to construct narrow views of the vast array of semiotic studies in order to characterize it in this fashion. For instance, he claims that the two-world disjunction has to be discarded. "No contemporary scholar would seriously contend that one can specify any sort of one-to-one correspondence between specific signifier and specific signified" (21). However, it's unlikely that he could find someone writing on semiotics to support this claim. Even semioticians who argue that the decoder's practice can be controlled or limited would not assert that varifiable correspondences of the kind Stewart identifies are possible. A Post-Semiotic Demonstration A revealing illustration of Stewart's assessment of "articulate contact" appears in his commentary on a transcription of "naturally-occurring interchanges" analyzed by Douglas Maynard (17). This exchange is pedestrian and extremely "unplanned" which, to Stewart, proves the unsystematic nature of language as it is used in real life. "These transcripts capture something much closer to 16

language as it actually occurs than the examples commonly used by philosophers, linguists, and semioticians to support their claims about the nature of language" (19), Stewart maintains. Since these are examples of "language as it is lived," he continues, "these examples are surely more paradigmatic than the hypotheticals typically discussed." Such conversations are "relatively 'spontaneous' and 'natural.'" And, they reveal the inadequacy of a "description of the nature of language offered by those who characterize it as a system of signs or symbols functioning representationally and instrumentally." By emphasizing "articulate contact," Stewart reveals components "that would not be apparent if [one] were to treat this language simply as the systematic use of symbols" (127). Stewart employs Maynard's notion of "perspective-display sequence" to guide this analysis of conversation "operating syntactically, semantically, and pragmatically" (129). Maynard suggests, in Stewart's words, that "conversation partners use this strategy . . . to adapt a personal opinion to their listener's frame of reference." This is employed by "first soliciting the other's opinion and then producing one's own report in a way that takes the other's into account." The conversation considered involves the problem of dangerous bicyclists and two university students' attempts to cope with campus overcrowding. From this standpoint, the opening utterance - So - and the remainder of the first three lines of the discussion entail an initial "perspective-display invitation" (127). This is followed by a reply which then elicits a statement of opinion by the first speaker: 1. John: So what do you think about the bicycles on campus? 2. Judy: I think they're terrible. 3. John: Sure is about a million of 'em. (Note: I have not maintained the transcription conventions employed in Maynard's rendering of this conversation.) In his examination of Maynard's analysis, Stewart asserts that this approach uncovers human practices of communication the symbol model would neglect. Maynard, for example, "finds evidence about the relationship displayed between the individual and the social, the dynamics of narrative collaboration, the discursive development of subject matter ('bicycles'), and the achievement of intimacy" (128). And, he does so "without getting caught up in any effort to analyze 'signifiers' and 'signifieds'." This is crucial to Stewart's condemnation of the symbol model approach. Maynard, he insists, "notices what he does in this discourse because he recognizes that these interlocutors are coconstructing the world they share in the aural-oral contact." Moreover, they "both produce stories that are 'wrapped in' the other's parallel story" to constitute what Stewart calls "collaborative construction." The conversational stresses that mark their exchanges "[reveal] another level of the interlocutors' intimacy, one embedded in the auraloral dimensions of intonation, emphasis, and facial expression" (129). Finally, "each speaker displays a world open to the other's participation, and both positively affirm the other's involvement in their worlds." Although the depiction of Stewart's account of an "articulate contact" is necessarily truncated here, it should suffice to reveal his approach. Once again, he has to engage in considerable truncation of "semiotics" himself in order to make post-semiotics significantly different from, as well as superior to, semiotics. In effect, he employs a form of semiotic analysis (if one could precisely determine what that involves) without using the terminology and concepts frequently associated with semiotics (no "signifiers" or "signifieds," etc.). Through several fuzzy distinctions that set up ontological roadblocks to derail symbol-model based inquiry, he constructs in its place essentially the same approach with different terminological distinctions. 17

Thus, Stewart is simply calling for the type of semiotics that already focuses on the very issues he claims are beyond its scope. And one of the best examples of this is Hodge and Kress's Social Semiotics. In fact, take away the frequently myopic critique of semiotics from Stewart's book and he makes many of the same arguments found in Hodge and Kress's study. The Social System: Hodge and Kress Hodge and Kress's earlier study, Language as Ideology (1979), outlined a "critical linguistics" that stressed "the primacy of the social dimension in understanding language structures and processes." Their stated goal was to yield "a theory of language whose aim was to provide an illuminating account of verbal language as a social phenomenon." They particularly wanted to assist "critical theorists in a range of disciplines . . . who wanted to explore social and political forces and processes as they act through and on texts and forms of discourse" (vii). (Although this sounds like just what Stewart has in mind, significantly, he doesn't refer to either study by Hodge and Kress.) Hodge and Kress recount feeling unnecessarily constrained by focusing on verbal language alone (a similar problem with Stewart's study from a semiotic standpoint). They subsequently broadened their focus to consider "all sign systems" in Social Semiotics. "Meaning resides so strongly and pervasively in other systems of meaning, in a multiplicity of visual, aural, behavioural and other codes, that a concentration on words alone is not enough." As a result, they attempt to produce "a general theory of the social processes through which meaning is constituted and has its effects" (viii). Hodge and Kress, again like Stewart, also endeavor to redirect semiotics by emphasizing social interaction over system (although ultimately what they offer is the system of social interaction). In many respects, Hodge and Kress engage in an undertaking not unlike the notion of "critical semiotics" developed here. They suggest, for example, that their goal is to demonstrate that it is "not only . . . possible but . . . necessary to attempt a reconstitution of semiotics" (2). "Equally important," they continue, a practical semiotics should have some account of the relationship of semiosis and "reality", that is, the material world that provides the objects of semiosis and semiotic activity. Unless semiotics confronts this relationship, it can have no relevance to the world of practical affairs with its confident assumptions about "reality", and it cannot account for the role of semiotic systems in that world. (23) Ideology and Semiosis This emphasis on the "social" is exactly aligned with Stewart's concerns, yet Hodge and Kress go far beyond what they consider a needless limitation of focusing only on verbal language. Instead, they draw upon a diverse selection of "texts" ranging from billboards to comic strips, from paintings to transcriptions of actual speech. Much of the selection criteria Hodge and Kress use for their data is evidently based (not surprisingly) on power struggles. It is this emphasis that both enhances and detracts from the value of their contribution. Their declaration of support for this endeavor is revealing: Decoding classic texts is as crucial an enterprise [to social semiotics] as the elite culture claims after all. However, to do it properly requires systematic study of many kinds of non-classic text, which the same elite excludes from its own definition of culture. (203) This approach is not unlike the classic Marxist study by Ariel Dorman and Armand Mattelart of the signifying system of Walt Disney's comics, How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic. Still, Hodge and Kress's emphasis on one facet of social semiotics leads 18

them to examples that prove the point they want to make while neglecting the much larger social spheres also involved. Traffic lights, for instance, are not explored as means for enforcing desirable vehicular flow and pedestrian safety. They are - evidently in equal amounts "ultimately social and ideological" (37). Because these lights are typically approached from a purely communicational stance, their ideological facet has become obscured, Hodge and Kress contend. Their analysis reflects the argument that "the traditional illustration of traffic lights should be stripped of its implicit ideology of the communication process" (39). "The traffic signals transmit an ideological message as well as particular instructions," they add. "They present a version of society, an image of impersonal rationality operating impartially on behalf of all." The lights thereby signify "power understood as control by one social agent of the behaviour of others." It is ironic that Hodge and Kress grant such hegemonic control in social semiotics. For, one of their agendas is to persuasively demonstrate how an individual sign user, contra Saussure, can indeed significantly alter a communal sign system (by changing the message of a billboard sponsored by a large, powerful tobacco company, for example). But in the instance of the traffic lights, they conclude: "The behaviour of the participants is constrained by logonomic systems which operate through messages about their identity and relationship, signifying status, power and solidarity" (40). (Hodge and Kress define a "logonomic system" as "a set of rules prescribing the conditions for production and reception of meanings" [4].) They extend this observation further by identifying regimental constructs they call "ideological complexes," loci for disseminating ideologically driven means of social control. In keeping with this position, they posit the communal order as grounded by "characteristic structures of domination" that sign users have to contend with in the course of engaging in social semiosis (3). A Social-Semiotic Demonstration One of the best examples, because it's so extensive, of Hodge and Kress's approach is found in their examination of a text whose overall "sign" is changed significantly by a group of decoders. This illustration is especially revealing because it shows how they trace potential subversive power plays at the disposal of the seemingly disempowered receiver of a given sign. This sign use, they contend, is usually conditioned by mutual influences of "reception regimes (rules constraining reception)" and "production regimes (rules constraining production)" (4). Of course, these dynamics would be obviously attractive to Hodge and Kress considering their own ideological concerns. Their text is a Marlboro cigarette advertisement displayed on a billboard in a "public space" (9) in an undisclosed location. The ad, which shows the "Marlboro Man" smoking a cigarette on a horse, reads: "New. Mild. And Marlboro." Hodge and Kress address various elements that constitute the signifying field surrounding and including the billboard such as the symbolic systems employed, its public setting, and the linguistic conventions involved in an advertisement. For instance, regarding the billboard as a generic field, they observe: The original advertisement is a text on a large scale, displayed on a billboard, which is itself mounted on a brick wall in a public space. This indicates one set of logonomic rules immediately: the right to erect a billboard of this size is explicitly controlled by local government laws, and there are agencies which control the appearance of messages in a "public" space such as this.(9) They extend this approach by exploring the "different kinds of institutional legitimation" entailed by the semiotic conventions of this form of advertisement. 19

situating the new text in relation to other agents of discourse and their interests" (12). (While. They do so by considering the ideologically based power struggles that often subtend semiotic exchanges (a position not unlike that held by the Roland Barthes of his Mythologies period). While the original advertisement "positions the pliable. (9) Hodge and Kress proceed in this way to reveal how a powerful private corporation uses advertisements to subtly convey its power within the larger social realm. Vile. The availability of such resources is understood by a reader to be a precondition of the production of such a text and that gives the text a particular status.The advertisement's linguistic text is approached in a similar fashion: The text itself is of a scale and kind which implies the use of significant material resources." they argue. Following this fairly conventional approach to a text of this nature. and places readers in a particular position. which had significantly changed it. An individual could deface this advertisement in exactly the same way in a magazine. they contend that power can be wielded by both the encoder and the decoder in any given instance of semiosis. a thick cloud of smoke rising from the cigarette. The group also changed the ad's slogan from "New. Hodge and Kress maintain. even after this interaction the flow of discourses will still continue. they frame this notion of the social in another way beyond Stewart's presumption of a "natural" order. And Marlboro. a sunset and a dollar sign.) Furthermore. Throughout Social Semiotics to varying degrees. they reconsider the entire text following its alteration by an urban guerilla group. "However. "The BUGAUP additions constitute a specifically dialogic text. Mild. BUGAUP painted a grave headstone on the western landscape. They also added a label on the cigarette package ("CANCER Sticks") and dialogue in which the smoker's horse remarks "POO THIS MACHO STINKS" and the smoker coughs." they suggest." to "New. The Expense of Ideology Clearly. as communicators of subversive meanings presented publicly. as a private act it would cause no ripple. in which one reading of the original text is reclaimed and incorporated into the text itself." they argue. And a bore. exercised or resisted. By "defacing" a billboard the BUGAUP readers/authors are inserting themselves into a forbidden semiotic role. "Society is typically constituted by structures and relations of power. the BUGAUP reading attacks the [logonomic] system in a radical fashion. acquiescent reader in a passive role in the act of communication. in a public space." The BUGAUP alteration of the billboard substantially shifts the power wielded by an institutionalized "ideological complex" to control public dissemination of images about its products. admittedly. 20 . Billboard Using Graffitists Against Unhealthy Promotions. this seamlessness comes at the expense of a heterogeneous consideration of other facets that affect and constitute semiosis. Hodge and Kress's depiction of ongoing transformations following the release of a sign-vehicle also dramatizes their open approach to social semiotics in which they view the exchange of signs as ceaseless and always undergoing change. the solidity of their approach to social semiotics yields a consistent and homogeneous view of semiosis within a given cultural site. (11) The motives underlying Hodge and Kress's readings of social semiotics are amply demonstrated by this example.

programmatic readings of social semiotic relations. linking producers and receivers and signifiers and signified into a significant relationship" (262). polysemy in various proportions. they contend.it is characterized by conflict as well as cohesion. they suggest adding other plane models that will help to diversify such an undertaking. on the other hand. They do this in response to the illusory reification of an extremely diffuse and divergent discussion often concretized under the rubric "semiotics" (as also discussed in Lecture One). Hodge and Kress adhere closely to this scruple. Not "integral" in an essentialistic sense. from dominant ideological forms to local acts of meaning will show traces of contradiction. It is connected to a world to which it refers in some way. their contribution to the discussion of semiotics can be said to rest on their emphasis on power relations that may well exist as an integral component of social semiosis. can become "more comprehensible for being offered as provisional. which supposedly exists outside itself. They view Social Semiotics as a "stage" in a developing project. he would no doubt identify as a flaw their emphasis on the two-world model and their distinction between the semiosic and mimetic planes. since their model offers a one-world/two-plane conceptual grid. Or maybe not.allows Hodge and Kress to propose narrow. it nonetheless enables them to develop substantial readings in an arguably limited way. Hodge and Kress offer a model of semiotic discussion that benefits considerably from tentativity. An Accretive Semiotics As I contended in Lecture One. a continuing struggle for clarification" (36). Once 21 . further. Semiotics. and its meaning derives from this representative or mimetic function it performs" (5). so that the structures of meaning at all levels. "the plane in which representation occurs. (viii) While this tight focus on power may be a shortcoming (by imposing a narrow stricture). ambiguity. (Their earlier proposal of a "critical linguistics" remains similarly under construction. a "structure" that an entity is presumably somehow built upon. They add. constitutes "some version(s) of reality as a possible referent. they do so in a profitable way by virtue of their hedge on constructing a semblance of totality. However. The mimetic plane. they repeatedly endeavor to broaden the viability perimeters of an ongoing and developing enterprise. A good demonstration of this approach is their observation that semiotic studies often focus on synchronic models of static signifying systems. a division that perhaps would not seem divisive to him.one shared to a far lesser extent by Stewart in his proposed contours of a post-semiotics . It is the site of "semiotic event(s). As a result.) This restraint ." given that "The message ['the smallest semiotic form that has concrete existence'] is about something. in a fashion that mirrors Julia Kristeva's commentary on "the ethics of linguistics. To a significant extent. without inconsistencies" (36). but rather." that "The most scrupulous reading of signs must always be complemented by a scepticism based on an awareness of the inherent slipperiness of meaning in use" (110). While Stewart would presumably agree with the real-time social emphasis that Hodge and Kress embrace. They conceptualize the semiosic field as the site on which "the social process by which meaning is constructed" takes place (5). But. In other words. A second edition [1993] recently appeared featuring a new chapter on developments in this area following the initial publication of their study. unchanging. To supplement this emphasis. by various means. in other words." It is. the ideological suspicion behind their hermeneutic often comes across as a little too suspicious. "A diachronic account of a tradition frees the reader from the oppressive sense that it is monolithic. a stage in a continuing debate. as in an element that appears consistently regardless of whether it is intrinsically necessary.

and universal for users of the code." they observe. in a foundational chapter titled "The Founding Fathers Revisited. 1969. would be an "oversimplification" [13]). "We want to contest one particular version of history which underpins a specific and limiting conception of what semiotics was and is. as when they argue that Traditional semiotics likes to assume that the relevant meanings are frozen and fixed in the text itself. Berkeley: University of California Press. their form and substance. Trans. How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic. they still offer illuminating models for a progressive semiotic discussion based on the very inclinations that John Stewart claims semiotics cannot fruitfully accommodate. Annette Lavers. (12) This assertion carries a lot of rhetorical suasiveness until its presumption about a totalized "semiotics" is challenged. A Grammar of Motives. they propose a concept such as "mainstream semiotics" not to posit a concrete discipline or science (which.fects that their authors hope for: it is precisely the struggles and their uncertain outcomes that must be studied at the level of social action. At times.more. which (as mentioned earlier) is a convenience that carries with it considerable imprecision. they do give in to the admittedly alluring temptation of convenient generalizations that so often hobble semiotic discussions. to return to a point raised in Lecture One. their origins and destinations. While their readings often mire in ideologically based reductions. New York: Hill and Wang. the complex interrelations of semiotic systems in social practice. Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. and their effects in the production of meaning. Sigmund. Trans. Still. they agree. Trans. References Barthes. Ariel and Armand Mattelart. they do present their conception as much more subjective than others in the semiotics discussion who propose the existence of a "basic" conceptual ensemble. Freud. by substantially framing this review of basic principles as selective and subject-positioned. under the general editorship of James Strachey in 22 . Burke. they do so as a means of constructing a temporary ground for their own discussion. 1975). at the expense of functions and social uses of semiotic systems. though. and should be and do. all of the factors which provide their motivation. Instead. It stresses system and product. (1) Hodge and Kress also allow themselves to fall into the easy assumption of the "basics" of semiotics. "We will refer to this as the dominant tradition without implying either that it is all of a piece or continuous with itself as it reached back to claim its past" (13). For it certainly in no way accurately depicts a consensus (if it could be said that there were one) among the discussants of semiotics. For example. Kenneth. Dorman. to be extracted and decoded by the analyst by reference to a coding system that is impersonal and neutral. The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. Likewise: "Mainstream semiotics" emphasizes structures and codes. Roland. Mythologies. 1972. David Kunzle (New York International General. Social semiotics cannot assume that texts produce exactly the meanings and ef. Ultimately. rather than speakers and writers or other participants in semiotic activity as connected and interacting in a variety of ways in concrete social contexts." they "give a critical reading of some of the founding fathers and founding concepts of modern semiotics from [the social semiotic] point of view" (13)." despite some potential problems. Hodge and Kress provide one of the most flexible and fluid accounts of something akin to a "critical semiotics.

Douglas. New York: Columbia University Press. 1959. "The Ethics of Linguistics. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. assisted by Alix Strachey and Alan Tyson. Roman and Claude Lévi-Strauss. "Perspective-Display Sequences in Conversation. Leon S. Language as Ideology. 1953-74. Ed. 1993. Roudiez. 2nd ed. and Leon S. Ed. Kristeva. London: Hogarth Press. Goffman. Michael. Trans." L'Homme 2 (1962): 5-21. Roudiez. 1980: 23-35. "Describing Poetic Structures: Two Approaches to Baudelaire's 'Les Chats'.s. 1980: 26-40. Julia. 23 . 24 vol. Alice Jardine." Western Journal of Speech Communication 53 (1989): 91-113. "Les Chats de Charles Baudelaire. Jakobson. Jane Tompkins. New York: Doubleday. The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life." Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art. Hodge and Kress." Reader-Response Criticism: From Formalism to Post-Structuralism. London: Routledge. Riffaterre.collaboration with Anna Freud. Thomas Gora. Erving. Maynard.

homogeneous discipline with a universally accepted conceptual nomenclature. particularly when it is camouflaged as the root of common terms like "encoder" and "decoder". especially those inclined toward structuralist methodologies. For the purposes of a critical semiotics. For semioticians.. again. Semiotics and Interpretation The Great Code Despite its considerable shortcomings. William Blake). the illusion that semiotics exists as an established. It is particularly attractive because it not only outlines an extensive theoretical position. and maybe even intrinsic. And. To create. In addition to possessing "a beginning and an end. After all." however. Overview: The Great Code S/Z: "Another Semiotics" The Discussion of S/Z A "Natural" Alibi Countenancing the Code The Larceny of the Code "One Last Freedom" ". a concept borrowed from information theory. Richard Miller (New York: Hill and Wang. Perhaps the most revealing portrayal of potentially underlying implications of the "code. furthermore.Lecture Three: The Implications of Codes Assigned Readings: Roland Barthes. Frye argues that the Bible "has traditionally been read as a unity" and claims that it reveals "some traces of a total structure" (xiii). but it demonstrates an application of it as well." Frye's descriptions of the Bible in this sense all hinge on an intelligible system that operates as a whole." Robert Scholes. what is a code? It is sociologically revealing to survey the ways in which code theorists so frequently rely upon remarkably similar concepts in their discussions about the "code" yet give very little scrutiny to the attendant implications.. Trans. This intelligibility. more accurately." The Great Code that Frye identifies is. Barthes' text additionally illuminates the ways in which those interested in assessing the signs of an entity can naturalize their endeavor.. S/Z: An Essay. 1974). he says.all codes are finally coercive. in other words. begs the question of such a phenomenon. constructing or delegating) codes relevant. it illustrates strategies for identifying (or perhaps. presumably. The notion of the "code" itself. to a given social system. can be decoded 24 . "a unified structure of narrative and imagery. comes from Northrop Frye's commentary on the Bible as "the Great Code" (a notion he adopts from the British poet. S/Z has been extremely influential in many discussions in the human sciences. it reveals how a specific decoder might go about employing them when attempting to assess and comprehend the significant components of that system." it has "a body of concrete images" that "clearly indicate[s] some kind of unifying principle..

to the encoder and decoder of the message)" ("Linguistics." 102] and "code units" ["Translation. Frye's use of "code" is largely consonant with its depiction usually offered by the code theorists discussed here. metaphorically.24) or regulative "social principles" (3. Roland Champagne. or set of unambiguous rules. Umberto Eco defines "code" as "a system of rules that would involve a fixed number of elements and that would exclude some combinations while allowing others" (Open Work. 56). or perhaps more fittingly. It can even be taken so far as to embody an agency of governance. it is useful to consider several code-related genres and actions identified by Elam ("code rules" [62].30). defining the code as "an agreed transformation. Keir Elam also views codes as "rules determining the encoding or decoding of texts" (52). considers a code as "a network of ideas. Manfred Frank similarly employs a figuration based on regimentation: "One masters the [sign] system in question through being able to pass beyond its expressions to their significations while conforming to the rules. Or rather. or acts as. a fulcrum for a seesaw as signs are passed back and forth between encoder and decoder ("Linguistics. In both renderings." 430]). common to the addresser and addressee (or in other words. Codes and Control. The common nature of the artistic language is unconditionally assumed. Basil Bernstein. as the ground on which communication is erected.because it is encoded. rather. in other words. an "underlying regulative principle" of an entity (1. it operates according to a system of determined or organized codes. For Robert Hodge and Gunther Kress. presumably either away from the encoder or toward the decoder." 66): CONTEXT ADDRESSER MESSAGE CONTACT CODE This is reinforced by Jakobson's definition of "code" as information "fully. the code is considered beyond substantive control of either the encoder and decoder. "code-observing. it is something governed by one or more "terms" (111) that enable it to "carry" (109) significance. codes are visually portrayed as functioning like the fulcrum of a lever." 66). to recognize these expressions as signs" (158). in Class. Additionally. and only the message is new" (24). views codes from the standpoint of power and the ways in which they function as "dominant principles of interpretation" (3. Jurij Lotman echoes this view by asserting that "the receiver and sender use a common code. expressed understanding. whereby messages are converted from one representation to another" (465). or at least partially. code-making and code-breaking" [55]) and Roman Jakobson ("code signs" ["Aspects. Neither one can structurally alter the code itself. Robert Scholes says that "there are rules governing text production and interpretation" (Semiotics. 1) and "the semiotic [literary] critic" "looks for the generic or discursive structures that enable and constrain meaning. the code could be seen. In the case of Jakobson's model (also appropriated from information theory). for instance.8). a code constitutes. they both have to use the code as it was codified prior to their engagement with it. images. In this way. Sebeok's definition reflects a widespread inclination in 25 ADDRESSEE . Thomas Sebeok extends this common ground to a neat." From this perspective. and stylistic devices that have an internal cohesive principle" (35).

(Barthes is frequently criticized for according too much power to the sign user in his assignment and idiosyncratic use of codes in S/Z. atomistic entity into a classifiable. is transformed from an amorphous. the sign user is seldom accorded an empowered status among at least these code theorists. In linguistic communication the code allows speaker and addressee to form and recognize syntactically correct sequences of phonemes and to assign a semantic content to them. The sign. While discussing the two "modes of arrangement" in a linguistic sign (combination and selection). Jakobson declares that "the addressee perceives that the given utterance (message) is a combination of constituent parts (sentences. in the case of viable phoneme combinations." three options exist. phonemes) selected from the repository of all possible constituent parts" ("Aspects." Or. The obvious flaw with these renditions. whereupon the text is recoded (which occasionally involves even the destruction of the structure created by the sender). The "mystery" of semiosis. The point to the above comparisons is that the code is always seen as a "key" to semiosis. on the part of the decoder." 99). that "when faced with individual words. and potentially creative or constitutive. unreadable." in which case the receiver has to "work out a code for deciphering that message" and "constructs a model" to do so (25). "sets limitations on the possible combinations" of signifying units by establishing what is "permissible" or "circumscribed" within its practice (98). he says. "The receiver [can impose] his own artistic language on the text. In effect." A third phenomenon occurs when "an artistic text has a different meaning for sender and receiver.semiotic studies to presume that semiosis can be regulated to such an extent that it becomes little more than. Jakobson maintains that this guidance is so firmly internalized by experienced. then. 26 . decodable "message". Following Bernstein's extensive work on the code. Elam reiterates this position by asserting: Formation and understanding (or encoding and decoding) of messages is made possible by the code. and the contexts in which these occur" (99). we expect them to be coded units" (98). he continues. is that they all necessitate the existence of an essential. competent users of language. "the receiver [can attempt] to perceive the text according to familiar canons. (35) As these numerous examples attest. though. semiosis is "regulated and controlled by higher-order classification and framing principles through which the social semiotic codes differentially distribute the material and semiotic resources of the social formation and the access of social agents to these" (165). but through trial and error is convinced of the necessity of creating a new code. words. in other words.the ensemble of rules-known to both transmitter and destination-which assigns certain content (or meaning) to a certain signal.. supervisory agency as it. or at least comprehendible.. Similarly. forced into stasis. one as yet unknown to him. This is reflected in conceptualizations like that offered by Marshall Blonsky: the code is "the force that correlates an expression with a content" (442). to use Jean-François Lyotard's expression. their realization. In the case when "the listener tries to decipher the text using a code different from the one that the creator uses. the equivalent of a "business trip" (45). the signifier doesn't acquire a meaningful context until it is frozen into a relation with another concept through coding. The common-ground position can also. lead to the belief that the code can operate as "a principle structuring agent" of an entity (Semiotics. 100).) Lotman is unusual in this respect in his portrayal of the actual use of codes as empowering. as Scholes contends. Jakobson goes so far as to claim that "the efficiency of a speech event demands the use of a common code by its participants" (97). is somehow solved. signified before an entity can participate in semiosis. Paul Thibault contends: "social semiotic codes function to classify and frame the relations between meanings. he argues that the code possesses a type of parental. In effect.

Halliday. then no single "message" can necessarily correspond exclusively to the signified of a given sign. (67) Still. for instance.g. portrays codes as something akin to syntagmatic choices. also noting Bernstein's work. While drawing upon Peirce's commentary on abduction. Or. An alternative view toward these code theories can be situated in the standpoint of governanceas-options decoding strategies. presumes that it was encoded. "Codes are not varieties of language.). functions as a liaison between an encoder and a decoder. a sign user presented with an initially incomprehensible sign system may sense "the feeling of 27 .. according to these models. like a chess player. M. To decode something. And vice versa. Halliday argues that codes act as determinants of register. in this sense. would never be free to create new move options beyond those prescribed in its rules (the queen can't move in an L-shaped manner like the knight can. this process is regulated by the codes. Halliday suggests that the individual sign user is not prevented from creating unique codes (a view proposed in Saussure's commentary on language as the product of consensus.) Eco proposes "overcoding" as a "circumstantial selection" in which. 133). like signs in general. After all. etc." Halliday asserts." 98). who hears a soliloquy? Who is its decoder? The encoder! In the first example. Another consideration regarding the mutability of the code is related to Eco's contention that codes. or symbolic orders of meaning generated by the social system" (111). the number of available pieces to select from. "A semiotic theory must not deny that there are concrete acts of interpretation which produce senses that the code could not foresee. "natural" signs). the opposite takes place: the decoder becomes a retroactive encoder of a sign. as Lotman argues. "'uncoded' means 'not (yet) fully incorporated into the system'" (180). "on the basis of a pre-established rule. within these models. he contends. tenor and mode. operating on the selection of meanings within situation types: when the systemics of language-the ordered sets of options that constitute the linguistic system-are activated by the situational determinants of text (the field. are "principles of semiotic organization governing the choice of meanings by the speaker and their interpretation by the hearer" (67). they are types of social semiotic. Accordingly. are vulnerable to changes imposed on them by sign users. Eco outlines two "different hypothetical movements" related to this phenomenon. It's just that new codes cannot be recognized as such by other sign users until they assume the status of something like the common ground mentioned above. as dialects and registers are. certain clouds=likelihood of rain). the encoder is not actually needed in order for semiosis to take place as long as something has a decipherable order or relation (e. so to speak. the piece-moving choices. A common-ground viewpoint obviously meets a serious challenge with this contention. "The codes are. 133). For. This would even apply to encoder-less signs (e.The code. a move decision would be limited by the allowable "moves" as dictated by the state of the game at the moment. 'above' the linguistic system. Moreover.. If this is so.g. Jakobson maintains. "one concrete text can submit on various levels to different codes" (25). producing a signified of one's own making." Eco suggests. Instead. A. a new rule was proposed which governed a rarer application of the previous rule" (Theory. and so on. that "in the combination of distinctive features" into signifying units. following Ruqaiya Hasan. The sign user. or whatever conceptual framework we are using). too). "otherwise the principle of the flexibility and creativity of language would not hold" (Theory. Codes. (Not unlike Thibault's commentary on "particular coding orientations" [182]. the models cited above evidently presume a monosemous "message". K. But. "the freedom of the individual speaker is zero: the code has already established all the possibilities which may be utilized in the given language" ("Aspects.

that the seeds for the latter were in fact sown in the former. The interior. while visiting Italy. (For a much more detailed account see Eco's chapter on "Theory of Codes" in Theory. he felt had had engaged in different forms of semiotics. "which it has already postulated-if not explored-under the name of situation.." 73). however. a vaguely theorized analysis substantially lacking in a unified. Ernest-Jean Sarrasine. intensely subjective reading of one person's reading of a novella is offered in the course of the text. "Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narratives" (1966) and S/Z (1970). referring to "the associated nonlinguistic factors" (127). a tentative hypothetical 'gesture' subsuming one or more large-scale portions of text under a given heading. but that fails to satisfy his desire for her. In this case. moreover. in the case of a sentence. What he does there is similar to his commentary on his analysis in the 1971 essay. La Zambinella. This is what Barthes develops in S/Z. Barthes remarked that he believed a significant shift had taken place in his semiotic approach between his influential essay. Fredric Jameson elaborates on this argument: "S/Z is. At the same time. Barthes' method entails a section-by-section analysis of all of "Sarrasine" with the entire novella included in an appendix. Instead." "What is given here. Furthermore. Eco suggests that possible confusion between the two operations can result because they are "frequently intertwined in most common cases of sign production and interpretation." he notes. little more than a lively. "is not a 'result' nor even a 'method' (which would be too ambitious and would imply a 'scientific' view of the text that I do not hold). 28 . he is warned to withdraw his interest in La Zambinella and informed that she is under the protection of Cardinal Cicognara who. it may be useful to quickly review its design. but merely a 'way of proceeding'" (127). focused thesis. "In a word. A close examination reveals. 48-150. Barthes recounts his chronological reading of "Sarrasine. The two operations contrast in that "overcoding proceeds from existing codes to more analytic subcodes while undercoding proceeds from non-existent codes to potential codes" (136).his farewell to the attempt 'scientifically' to disengage from the infinite variety of human stories and tales some ultimate abstract narrative structure from which they are all generated" (45)." This form of "rough coding" Eco identifies as "undercoding". indeterminate and fluid text in the process.. In his "Structural Analysis" essay." one is in the position that Eco labels "extra-coding" (136). In both cases." he observed ("On S/Z. S/Z is indeed a "farewell" along these lines. "The Struggle with the Angel." Barthes remarks." a novella by Honoré Balzac." "Linguistics knows this kind of frontier. he cites Halliday's concept of "situation" as. with the first instance oriented more toward a "scientific" methodology. Balzac's text. The text itself is derived from Barthes' discussions in a seminar at the École pratique des Hautes Études in 19681969." When "it seems difficult to establish whether one is over or undercoding. he had announced that he was pursuing the development of "another semiotics. "doesn't trifle" with competitors.organization that permits one to speak of a significant whole" (135)." As an example of this province. producing an increasingly polyvalent. I radically abandoned so-called critical discourse to enter a discourse of reading.) S/Z: "Another Semiotics" In an interview. Barthes simply extends this viewpoint in S/Z. one could engage in "a sort of imprecise coding. who becomes infatuated with a gorgeous singer. a writing-reading. is a frame narrative set in mid-eighteenth-century Italy. embedded frame of the narrative focuses on a French sculptor. Even though S/Z is well known. Between Barthes' haphazardly applied codes and the threadbare theoretical support for them. As his desire increases. published in 1830. he attempts to "copy" her in his next statue.

At this point the interior narrative begins. since it will bear on the signifier. a castrato and he kidnaps "her" to confirm whether this information is correct. Given the rich re-framings that take place in "Sarrasine" (the embedded narratives. equalizing them under the scrutiny of an in-different science. [and] forcing them to 29 . Shortly after S/Z appeared. and they retreat to a side room where they come upon the portrait of La Zambinella. He discovers the truth and is infuriated to learn that he has been the butt of a joke orchestrated by Zambinella's friends for their amusement. These quirky. and the Cardinal commissions a marble copy of Sarrasine's statue. a patient and gradual analysis. Zambinella is rescued. and without theoretical implications. he admits. "This cutting up. the source of the Lanty family fortune. The lexias. 'Because that's the year my mother was born. of Zambinella portrayed as an Adonis. a field in which many of the truly insightful theoretical texts are exempla of lifelessness. in fact. and it turns out that the old man they had seen had. impossibly ambiguous explanations do little to flesh out the theoretical support of S/Z." "units of reading" (S/Z. or "lexias". etc. it's this same outrageousness in Barthes' approach that may well be one of the most useful contributions he makes to semiotics. Barthes claims. if the signifier does not pose a problem in itself" (Grain. The only controlling logic to his "artificial" division of the lexias is that "each lexia should have at most three or four meanings to be enumerated" (S/Z. whereas the proposed analysis bears solely on the signified. The "scientific approach" would have entailed "plac[ing] all texts in a demonstrative oscillation. is what marks the development of "another semiotics" for Barthes. purely empirical.) it is easy to see why Barthes selected it as his text for a semiotic analysis of this nature. 13). based on the statute. The Lanty family subsequently commissioned a painting. often bordering on conceptual mayhem." 69). Barthes divided the novella into 561 sections. consist of "blocks of signification." This abstract. Engaging in what he calls "a 'step-by-step' approach to the text" ("Interview. lyrical gibberish highlights Barthes' rhetorical sleight of hand that underlies his entire approach toward crafting a narrative of his personal reading strategies for his own ends. the Marquise de Rochefide. Sarrasine is stunned to learn that La Zambinella is. sometimes a little more. in fact. This. been La Zambinella. 13-4). "corresponds approximately to a sentence. is horrified by the old man. But. Barthes' depiction of the criteria he uses for this selection usually entails almost unbelievable arbitrariness."135). Barthes' method for writing about the text is similarly revealing. in order to further structural analysis of the narrative" ("On S/Z." he says. however. Ultimately. Barthes reflected that "I had wanted for a long time to devote myself to a microanalysis. the division "will be a manner of convenience. The division into units can remain arbitrary.' he replied with a smile" (182).At a party." A related instance of Barthes' arbitrariness is connected with the arrangement of S/Z around 93 divagations. perhaps the element of S/Z which has received the most commentary is Barthes' staggeringly chaotic application of five "codes" for his analysis of the novella. the cultural code clashes. The narrator's companion. The unnamed narrator of this second narrative is amusing himself at a party held by the Comte and Comtesse de Lanty when his companion spots a strange elderly man who has attracted everyone's gaze. the Marquise asks the narrator about its background. Intrigued by the beauty of the Adonis. While this dissection itself gained a lot of attention. or a little less. This portrait functions as a link for the exterior frame narrative which takes place in a salon in the Hôtel Lanty. it will imply no methodological responsibility. will be arbitrary in the extreme. LouisJean Calvet reports: "'Why ninety-three?' a friend once asked [Barthes]. the subject of castration. 13). the gender confusion. Before he can retailiate he is killed by the Cardinal's agents. arguably. admittedly. "Each reading unit. 71). He describes the selection as taking place "in the manner of a minor earthquake" (S/Z.

(It is frequently asserted. even forceful.g. Proairetic code: "the code of actions and behavior" (18). Barthes attempts to produce what he calls a "writerly" text. one which exists only as the result of an active. but S/Z is. or even. as Barthes himself acknowledges. making it cohere. Semic code: "the unit of the signifier" which creates or suggests "connotation" (17). even before we talk about it. Of course. and the variety of chance events which can either formulate the question or delay its answer. In the course of S/Z he demonstrates that the readerly and the writerly are actually different decoding operations and one can-as he does. Barthes produces a "coherence" that represents the semiotic nightmare feared by those who denounce the anarchy of a ceaseless polysemy. to an evaluation.. the nouveau roman] is seriously flawed. depending on the approach employed. primarily just one reader's attempt to narrate an account of a slapdash reading. (Barthes also calls this the "cultural code. too." This "coherence" derives from the five codes Barthes designates. Semiotics. and Scholes. but on the contrary to appreciate what plural constitutes it" (S/Z. the Copy from which we will then make them derive" (S/Z. as well-see "On S/Z. however. For.") It should be apparent why one of the most common responses to these five codes is to paraphrase them in a way that is more concrete and precise. It has become a familiar exercise in S/Z commentary to attempt one's own explanation of the five codes in order to strip the veil that Barthes cast over them (see Silverman. subjecting it from the outset to a basic typology. 5). not to its individuality. but to its function. Detweiler. The alternative approach involves "restor[ing] each text." 74-75.) But the attempt to "clarify" the codes is really nothing more than a retreat into the readerly mode. 99-104 for examples).rejoin. in the end. I will simply cite his initial explanations of them in my brief overview: Hermeneutic code: "all those units whose function it is to articulate in various ways a question. its response. One example of Barthes' designation of each code will suffice to illustrate this final point: 30 . 250-283. "references to a science or a body of knowledge" (20). constitute an enigma and lead to its solution" (17). He contrasts this with a reading operation he refers to as the "readerly. exhausts its monosemous sign field. reading. (Barthes subsequently did this himself. Reference code: "the knowledge or wisdom to which the text continually refers" (18). complacent engagement with the text that only slavishly consumes." an acquiescent. that Barthes' further attempt to pair the readerly with the "classical" text [e. the aforementioned semioticians who decry this view are hardly to be expected to share Barthes' "appreciation" outlined here. "Sarrasine"] and the writerly with the "modern" text [e.) Scholes reflects the sentiments of many readers when he observes that "both the satisfaction and the exasperation one feels in reading S/Z are related to Barthes' use of the concept of code" (Structuralism. A "better" grasp of the codes can be established by examining Barthes' applications and further discussions of them.. endeavors "not to give [the text] a (more or less justified.g. In an effort to maintain the positive side of Barthes' thinly described codes. 3). by the infinite paradigm of difference. 149). in fact-produce either a readerly or a writerly reading of any text. The writerly reading. Symbolic code: "lays the groundwork" for a "symbolic structure" (17). more or less free) meaning. inductively. on the other hand. 143.

The first three. far more akin to melodic structures than to the harmonies of the previous 'reversible' types" (30).Forgotten for a painting!" This evokes the symbolic code. The narrator feels spurned: "I had the pain of seeing her rapt in the contemplation of this figure." he maintains. The other two. "Concealed beneath a scheme of code classifications. as Jameson claims. outside the constraint of time (the semic. or to die!' Such was the decree Sarrasine passed upon himself"-and "decodes" this as the following action: "'To decide'"-"to propose an alternative" (117). the Prince asks him.." In this way. that is. Proairetic code: Barthes quotes "Sarrasine"-"'To be loved by her [Zambinella]. shorthand supplementary messages drawn from some more basic pool of shared cultural attitudes that permit us to decipher them" (26). "we once 31 ." But the first three codes. the union of the young woman and the castrato is euphorized: we know that the symbolic configuration is not subject to a diegetic development: what has exploded catastrophically can return peacefully united)" (78). Symbolic code: Barthes quotes the lines recounting the engrossment of the narrator's companion in the painting of Adonis when she learns the model for it was a relative of Mme de Lanty. Barthes asserts: "History of music in the Papal States" (184). especially in the repeated attempts to "clarify" Barthes' use of the five codes and their subsequent implications. and symbolic codes). that of femininity. "it should be observed." Barthes declares. "the other two impose their terms according to an irreversible order (the hermeneutic and proairetic codes)" (S/Z. The Discussion of S/Z Like the threads that link the code-theory commentary examined here. this second employment of codes too often fails to make a substantial contribution to semiotic studies. he describes this value ultimately in relation to his sense of the semiotician's political obligation. only three establish permutable. done "any more than to designate the basic problem to be accounted for. are "forms in time. Barthes may not have. reversible connections. To Jameson.Hermeneutic code: "The title raises a question: What is Sarrasine? A noun? A name? A thing? A man? A woman?" (17). he suggests. Jameson argues that Barthes' differentiation between two classes of these codes "is not without its symptomatic value" (26). predictably. however. In what is probably the most insightful analysis of S/Z written in English. "'Where are you from?'". "Of the five codes. since that language automatically takes the final 'e' as a specifically feminine linguistic property. and thus. "are essentially batches of what [Barthes] elsewhere calls indexes. passing now into musical figures. Semic code: The title "has an additional connotation. Reference code: Sarrasine discovers the truth about Zambinella after referring to him as a "she" while talking with the Roman Prince Chigi.. cultural. which will be obvious to any French-speaking person. the critical examinations of S/Z yield considerable illumination. are little more than attempts to systematically reinforce political quietism. that to name a thing does not always suffice to explain it. Jameson contends. Jameson charges. "'Has there ever been a woman on the Roman stage? And don't you know about the creatures who sing female roles in the Papal States?'" This evokes the reference code. namely. Barthes concludes: "Marriage of the castrato (here. 30). Jameson complains that in the case of the latter two codes. particularly in the case of a proper name whose masculine form (Sarrazin) exists in French onomastics" (17). And. that of the diachrony or sequentiality of narrative discourse.

which comes across as a bit overwrought at times. or whether the concept of various codes here merely forestalls the problem and prevents it from being adequately explored. there is no such thing as a pure context. to be sure. he concludes." Frank observes. as Frank observes. Frequently. Barthes' use of the five codes is viewed as an only superficially liberating strategy for literary semiotics. between the untotalizably collective and the alienated experience of the individual" (29-30). Of course. Scholes accords the code a powerful role in presumably controlling signs. it cannot be denied that. and organized by language" (Structuralism. instead of assembling it" (13). "It avoids structuring the text excessively.again touch on that fundamental option of contemporary criticism (sociology versus psychoanalysis) which is itself a prime symptom of the fundamental split in modern life between the public and the private. In this respect. the political and the sexual." he adds. Barthes "operates. avoids giving it that additional structure which would come from a dissertation and would close it. 150). to defuse this material and reduce it to data as inert and malleable as possible" (30). is nonetheless more responsive than much of the critical discussion of Barthes' designation and employment of the concept of the code in S/Z.." he evidently means drawing attention to or "separating" the text. whether the procedure of assigning each of these dimensions to a different code really helps clarify this dilemma (in fact. 32 . "it stars the text. Their basically open interaction is not determined by any rule that has been taken out of play" (156). For the discussion of S/Z reveals that most commentators have endeavored to strip it of its lively fluidity as a means of turning it into a useful heuristic.. Yet. 150). shaped. Jameson's contention. Barthes concedes that "the reading of this text occurs within a necessary order.'" "But he multiplies the codes and works no longer with only one.by regarding the text as the intersection of codes often crossing and communicating with each other. as in a taxonomy. "it is clear that Barthes is concerned. (30) Ultimately. in his later. like many other accounts of Barthes' endeavor cited here. Barthes tries "to acknowledge the text as a form of multiple meanings. (By "starring. Although it is extremely generous to call Barthes' analysis of the codes "systematic"." Jameson adds." "But the step-by-step commentary is of necessity a renewal of the entrances to the text. semiotic period. clearly. with the structuralist category of the code. even when its extensive engagement with semiotic play is being acknowleged in the process. Scholes emphasizes the prominence of the code in S/Z when he suggests. the same thing that Jameson claims Barthes was doing. "the basic tenet of Barthes's entire approach to literature may be stated in terms of that diagram" (Structuralism. ironically. "We may wonder. it would seem to presuppose that each dimension of being had found adequate expression in a full code or sign-system of its own). "Every code signifies a systematic investigation with which every sequence of the story can be examined" (157). Jameson concludes. Robert Detweiler is unusual in this respect when he argues that Barthes is engaging in an "anti-reductionist tactic" in S/Z. the system and the 'systematic mark. "in the case of the ideological materials" analyzed in S/Z.) As Frank claims. which the gradual analysis will make precisely its order of writing. "For Barthes." Finally. While he is setting up S/Z. Unlike the discussions of the sign user's power vis-à-vis codes. he does successfully highlight the implications of code analysis that most commentators overlook in their own attempts to do. as opposed to subdividing it in an arguably meaningful fashion. "All contexts come to man already coded. a position which would certainly seem warranted considering Barthes' repeated avoidance of a totalizing project (141). the code does serve as the base for Barthes' analysis. while referring to Jakobson's schematization of the process of semiosis. And." Scholes argues.

unintelligible in the natural object. While he explored several operations for locating different signifier positions in Mythologies. for instance. interested simulacrum. each one functions as an abbreviated version of the entire system (code) of which it is a part" (31). whether reflexive or poetic. the sign user "masters" the system. this contention often prevails in semiotic discussions. in S/Z he expands this approach into a larger. instead of contributing to-as well as being created by-its constitution. A "Natural" Alibi A consensus becomes increasingly apparent within the commentary on S/Z that Barthes does engage in.A whole cultural ensemble arrives with a code" (96). the narrative trappings that accompany encoded ideologies serve only to reinforce this naturalization. system. since the imitated object makes something appear which remained invisible or. culture "will naturalize it" ("Myth. Like the natural sign. Furthermore. As in Mythologies. is to reconstruct an "object" in such a way as to manifest thereby the rules of functioning (the "functions") of this object. and obviously interested. elements within social systems appear to lack codified status. Barthes says. in other words. The reluctance to parade its codes marks bourgeois 33 ." 214-5) As a result of this naturalizing agenda. to "disinaugurate" it: novels in letters. Structure is therefore actually a simulacrum of the object. Within this conception. ("Structuralist Activity. they appear to be invested with meaning only when it is imposed by an external. the kind of explanatory analysis/synthesis that Jameson says it lacks. and." Barthes suggests ("Structural Analysis. remarks that for Barthes. Barthes here attempts to emphasize the processes of connotation creation that are so ubiquitous that they become virtually invisible. Moreover. if one prefers. "Our society evades as carefully as possible the coding of the narrative situation. this invasion is commandered by the "code" and its army of sub-agents: "Each of these signifiers represents a digression outside of the text to an established body of knowledge which it connotes. An ideologically sensitive reader such as Jameson might argue here that this "ensemble" is typically accepted as a "natural" characteristic of a culture. While referring specifically to mimetic texts. Barthes highlights the explanatory agenda that often motivates code analysis: The goal of all structuralist activity. party. for instance.. The code is arguably one of the best points of entry for this examination because Barthes' use of it here marks a progression beyond his earlier studies that had-in the case of Mythologies. largely perhaps because of the concomitant establishment of fixed systems that one can then presumably study in a "scientific" fashion. Champagne.this view elevates elements of the sign system to the position of exercising ultimate control over semiosis. countless are the narrative devices which attempt to naturalize the subsequent narrative by feigning to assign it a natural occasion for its origin. films which start their story before the titles. "the code is akin to the 'langue' in that it is representative of a given community. manuscripts supposedly recovered. Kaja Silverman aligns herself with this rendition when she writes that "S/Z suggests that ideological imperatives express themselves through a multiplicity of codes which 'invade' the text in the form of key signifiers" (31). though non-totalizing. as opposed to the result of an ideological construction. For Scholes. the author who has encountered the narrator. for instance-focused more explicitly on ideological mechanisms of representation. so to speak."129). at least to a certain (albeit limited) extent. "Driven to having either to unveil or to liquidate the concept" behind the myth.. but a directed." 128). contributing to what Barthes calls an "alibi" for its existence.

This task is consistent with Jameson's plea for a committed semiotics that tries to explain the operations of this social mythification by acknowledging and examining its coded networks: Textuality may rapidly be described as a methodological hypothesis whereby the objects of study of the human sciences (but not only of the human ones: witness the genetic "code" of DNA!) are considered to constitute so many texts that we decipher and interpret.is to penetrate the alibi and identify the signs" that constitute it ("Tourism. as distinguished from the older views of those objects as realities or existants or substances that we in one way or another attempt to know. the concepts that supposedly ground it: "As Barthes explains in S/Z. In response to the firmly entrenched status of the myth. emphasis added). is a revelation. the code has to be accepted a priori in order for it to be used effectively." Elizabeth Bruss adds. It's as though the code is a prerequisite condition for comprehensibility.. both sides of this desire are undermined by Jameson's own belief in the code. "In S/Z the codes were hardly more than suggested avenues of association that. yet he upbraids him for failing to shape these investigations into a cohesive. not merely a contention. will go to find one. a code represents a sort of bridge between texts" (239.. deprived of any previous meaning. might help to keep the signifier in play. "semiotics" exists because it establishes presumptions like "codes" as constitutive elements. in part. and that myth is impossible. "The point was not to comprehend the codes-and perhaps make them seem inevitable-but to lay bare the semiotic work behind seemingly natural appearances" (420).. the form could not root its analogy in anything.. for example. coherent web of knowledge. as Culler suggests. Jameson collapses these two distinctions in his ultimate chastisement of the Barthes of S/Z.society and the mass culture which has issued from it: each demands signs which do not seem to be signs.Even the absence of motivation does not embarrass myth. Any substantial questioning of the code effectively dismantles it as an analytical tool. as suggested by Barthes' assertion: "Without the-always anterior-Book and Code. However." (S/Z. make the absurd itself a myth. Barthes illustrates the extent to which a culture. has to beg the question regarding the code's very existence. from her perspective. The intertextuality that Silverman employs to defend this assertion never examines the initial premise of the code: what Barthes offers." 155). In many respects. He applauds Barthes for investigating the presumably coded nature of (in this case) narratives.. by their multiplicity and contention. 73). desperately in need of an ordering principle. that "the task of the semiotician. no desire. But what the form can always give one to read is disorder itself: it can give a signification to the absurd. Countenancing the Code Code theory. without question. there can be no way of intelligibly framing a sign. or designation. it would seem that here. Barthes' contention here may well be. for this absence will itself be sufficiently objectified to 34 . Like the function of a deity in certain theologies (the encoder of the Great Code?). (18) Strangely enough. Without the code. He cites a hypothetical "extreme case": I have here before me a collection of objects so lacking in order than I can find no meaning in it. Silverman. by necessity. proposal. in the assumption that a key to a given text can be used to unlock its signified and fully illuminate its epistemological status. proposes a connective-model function for the code and accepts..

("Myth. The more emphatic manifestation of this uneasiness is demonstrated by Frank's quote in the previous paragraph: he places the "code" in quotes. Scholes." (Seymour Chatman. Philip Thody is one of the few observers to comment on this as a strategy itself. and Jameson. Nevertheless.become legible: and finally. to be a dupe to the "alibi. Some examples: Champagne illustrates this well by asserting that Barthes "discovers five codes" (96). Calinescu effectively draws attention to this by commenting that "Barthes proposes five codes" (211. as though he is unwilling to naturalize the use of a concept in his own discourse. who comments that Barthes "makes great play with the five codes into which he claims that the statements in 'Sarrasine' can be classified" (115). aspects of S/Z. "Five is not a magic number. say. Barthes' designation of specifically five codes also has elicited negative feedback. as does Thody. possibly even crippling. 154). "A number of criticisms can be made of this selection of codes." Scholes declares. or at least sufficiently theorized.") In this respect. 120. 115." he argues (156)." "Sininess. Bruss: "By revealing the codes at work in Balzac's 'Sarrasine'. As Frank argues. Along these lines. Barthes himself may have collaborated with the discussion of semiotics by going along with its "alibi" of the code. his theorizing and subsequent use of the codes. Scholes additionally attacks the reification of the codes that grants them an almost essentialistic or totemic status. And Eve Tavor Bannet: Barthes "demonstrate[s]" that the "lexes are coded in terms of five codes" (59)." Scholes declares that Barthes "recognizes five master codes in the text" (Structuralism." 126) A parallel assessment of the examinations of S/Z currently in circulation can be constructed by simply substituting "code" for "myth" in the passage above. Structuralism. Even the terms that Barthes devises for his five codes appear rooted in the desire to validate their existence. Admittedly. the absence of motivation will become a second-order motivation. "The control to which Barthes submits consists in his observing each lexia by the standard of a set of 'codes'" (156). Bruss. in many respects.). too personal. Barthes' wild employment of the codes effectively eliminates any of the "scientific". 155). Culler: Barthes "identifies the codes on which [the lexias] rely" (Barthes. "There is something too arbitrary. 35 . 84). This also could pertain to extant commentary on code theory which is never "embarrassed" by unquestioningly employing the concept of the "code" to serve its purposes. Surely Barthes picked this group of codes to keep S/Z from being even more diffuse than it turned out to be. or reveals "the codes" (75) in "Sarrasine. the linguist John [Háj] Ross." "bouvard-and-pécuchet-ity. as when he observes that Barthes "gives them [the five codes] impressive neo-classical names in abbreviated form" (115). 25 do the same thing. and too idiosyncratic about this method" (Structuralism. a skeptical strain also runs through much of the S/Z discussion in the form of citational restraint. emphasis added). who identifies negating expressions such as-"He doesn't know squat about soccer!"-as "squatitives. his code applications." "governmentality. 420." etc. Moriarty.. But his one attempt at creating focus ultimately only succeeds in severely limiting. While he employed playful neologisms in the earlier Mythologies ("basquity. Thody charges him with being stingy: "to provide only five codes for an infinitely meaningful text is a shade miserly" (116). 150. and to a far lesser extent. it appears that Barthes attempted to establish a semblance of "scientific" analysis by virtue of the apparent gravity behind his designation of. (Unlike.." (432). and myth will be re-established.) Jameson (35) and Barbara Johnson (6) take this another step by referring to Barthes' "so-called" codes.

" he added. the indetermination of the code.." 131). however. and the general critical reception of. it appears as though any one who draws upon notions of the "code" is destined to be implicated in the bad faith associated with its concomitant false rendition of ordered codification. Some observers. and clearly "interested". with certainty. reveals an imminent system of codification. though." Blondel contends. In an interview he said that he merely "distinguish[ed] five main semantic fields or codes. The Larceny of the Code In his discussion of the distortion of cultural mythography in Mythologies. in the the sense that the code is implicit. ways. Blondel proposes a intriguing entrance into a discussion of this nature by utilizing a potentially illuminating paradigm drawn from the discourse of psychoanalysis that proposes the "latencyplurality-indeterminacy of the code(s)" (77). even if one did determine the provenance of a text." 74). hidden by the plurality or by the unconsciousness.a report that is codified in multiple ways is still capable of being systematically decoded. perhaps." "a language-robbery" ("Myth. a cultural code if there ever was one. similar experiments would have to be done on other texts to find out" ("On S/Z. where the code is hidden by the text" (76). Barthes characterizes "myth as stolen language. derives from the extent to which it can so readily be employed in reductive. framework. without any guarantees purely intrinsic to and acknowledged by the text. a failure to recognize: indeed. despite the various shortcomings that have been raised regarding his implementations of it." As a result. and if possible. it would just be one critical code among many. . in my work. They don't necessarily have to. Blondel asserts that "interpretation violates the text in a certain sense. if I have radically withdrawn Balzac from my commentary-for which reason. besides. Barthes' use of the "code" offers a vast number of potential footholds into-in this instance-literary semiotics. Barthes' spoken ellipses) Undeniably. indeed. depleting semiosis of its energetic and ceaseless flux through the imposition of a rigidifying. Indeed.But Barthes was well aware of the potential for accusations of this nature.]. open to interpretation it is not" (158). such as Eric Blondel. "Interpretation implies the plurality. corrupts it. While using an obviously questionable inside/outside distinction. S/Z itself has created a problem that didn't exist beforehand (or. but it can never be seized in a manner that. of readingit's because I thought it was important to show that one could "get to the bottom" of a text without laying it at someone's doorstep. "perhaps even its latency. Barthes noted as well that he had planned yet another code (or subcode) focusing on the author that he later decided to omit: As for the author. exists in other ways). have offered much more fluid. "I don't know if this selection has any theoretical stability. it is an error to see in my work a "reading of Balzac": it's a reading . would the literary historians and psychologists have been more satisfied with that than my silence? (80. The 'plural text' is 'multiple'. While "he corrects the most glaring deficiencies[. "Barthes in the final analysis does not break with the code model of understanding. cannot be structured retroactively. all the possible references to Balzac's life and works as a unit of the scholarly and university code." "Admittedly. I add in passing. non-reductive renderings of Barthes' project that may provide substantial insight for a critical semiotics to profit from Barthes' S/Z project. imposes itself on the text from the outside. ." Frank contends. This view of the code proposes a trajectory that cannot be traced. Even the polysemous applications of code theory that Barthes argues for may not avoid this problem.. Possibly the greatest hindrance associated with the code. It is possible that the commentary on. and decidedly unnatural. It may exist like dormant desire. to 36 . Codes could be said to function as cohorts in this larceny. I had even begun coding.

continue this argument, Blondel adds that it is "necessary that [interpretation] have a virtual multiplicity of latent, indeterminate codes, and that it says something about the context, an outside of the text, which can charge and then alter the meaning of the text." This view can easily be turned into a detriment, as it often is by detractors of contemporary literay theory who bemoan analyses based on indeterminacy, play, and polysemy. Bruss, for instance, appears to offer a substantial criticism of Barthes' text by asserting that "it is an easy matter to find passages, from S/Z on, that seem to celebrate the end of certainty, indeed, of meaning itself" (419). "Particularly in S/Z," she comments, "Barthes manipulates the language of the text until it exposes its own hollowness and contradicts its own desire for solid and stable signs." This is a familiar lamentation by now, but it is based on a grossly imprecise account of semiotic plurality in texts like S/Z. In fact, it could be suggested that the real larceny underlying a position of this nature is found in what it celebrates: an impoverished, though complacently "certain", monosemy. Polysemy is viewed, correspondingly, as a lack of determinate/determinable meaning, a plurality of signifiers without evidently corresponding signifieds. This is quite similar to what Jacques Derrida refers to as the "structuralist thematic of broken immediacy" which is "the saddened, negative, nostalgic, guilty, Rousseauistic side of the thinking of play" (292). It is a form of "sure play," he declares, "that which is limited to the substitution of given and existing, present, pieces." This is the form of play characterized by loss, especially the loss of a logical underpinning that could only be called codification, the codable, or codability. The other side of this play is the "Nietzschean affirmation, that is the joyous affirmation of the play of the world and of the innocence of becoming, the affirmation of a world of signs without fault, without truth, and without origin which is offered to an active interpretation" (292). To return to the epigraph of this lecture, it could be said that it's not codes that are coercive as much as it is the ways they are applied, the status they are accorded for controlling either the encoder or the decoder, or semiosis in general. The ways in which, finally, they are used to enforce a sure play, needlessly. "One Last Freedom" When he establishes the decidedly loose parameters of S/Z in the beginning, Barthes outlines a series of "freedoms" to which he will avail himself to produce what he described elsewhere as "another semiotics." His declaration of drawing upon "one last freedom" ("that of reading the text as if it had already been read" [15]) could easily apply to his overall project in S/Z. Despite the frustration that he recorded regarding the reception of this text, Barthes nonetheless expressed satisfaction with its heuristic function as a hermeneutical catalyst. In an interview, he says the letters he received from readers of S/Z, offering further readings and so on, "showed that I had succeeded, even timidly, in creating an infinite commentary, or rather a perpetual commentary" ("Interview," 140). The critical reception of S/Z reflects this also, in that most critics attempt to fine-tune or re-apply his method and theory even in the course of expressing dissatisfaction with them. Unlike his more overtly structuralist analyses, Barthes clearly endeavored to avoid suggesting that elements such as codes functioned in universal, essential ways. In S/Z, he told an interviewer, he was "rejecting the idea of a model that would transcend several texts, not to mention all texts, in order to suggest...that each text was in a way its own model, and ought to be dealt with through its own difference" ("Interview," 134). In effect, those who complain about the flamboyantly "local" nature of Barthes' reading of his reading of Balzac's text might miss the 37

point he was trying to stress the most. If anything, he was attempting to, it appears, escape the replicability of structuralist (or, perhaps, the "scientific") method because of the larceny it enacts upon the uniqueness of each text. "The present problem," Barthes remarked to Stephen Heath in 1971, "consists in disengaging semiology from the repetition to which it has already fallen prey. We must produce something new in semiology, not merely to be original, but because it is necessary to consider the theoretical problem of repetition" ("Interview," 129). Again, the element that seems to garner the supposedly superior, "objective" (or at least empirical) status for "science" was the one least likely to responsibly account for the phenomenon of decoding, specifically in this instance, the literary text. Indeed, it would be more of a case of "murdering to dissect," than replicating the living sense of active, and unfettered semiosis, that offers the greatest potential for a future semiotics (or "another semiotics"). This alternative semiotics would evidently abandon the considerable zeal that fuels desires such as "decoding," an operation that implies the code is roaming free and has to be captured, domesticated if not killed, in order to harness its otherwise unintelligible semiosis. Regarding S/Z, Barthes remarked that "the text is endlessly and entirely crisscrossed by codes, but it is not the fulfillment of a code (for example, the narrative code), it is not the 'speech' of a (narrative) 'language'" ("Interview," 134). This depiction of his apparent grasp of the code focuses intently on ongoing semiosis, hardly the longing for rigidity and certainty that so often characterizes critical commentary on S/Z, in particular, and code theory in general. Still, one of the problems frequently raised about Barthes' project is its patent irreconciliability. However, another way to frame this frustration (and perhaps more convincingly) is to attribute it his readers' inability to accept a pluralistic semiotics. They throw their hands up in frustration over his seemingly incompatible designs when he says things like: "my concern is...to pursue a general and systematic enterprise, polyvalent, multidimensional, the figuration of the symbolic and its discourse in the West" ("Interview," 129). Ultimately, the easiest way to disengage Barthes' incongruous heterogeneity is to employ the strategy (mentioned earlier) that myth uses for its own purposes to create order where none exists. Witness Jameson's characterization of the sociological importance of Barthes' text: we can "situate" S/Z as an instance of "the postmodernist 'theoretical' text" (66). Through this gesture, he contends, "the description of Barthes' own discursive structure ceases to be a matter of weighing various critical alternatives against their object of study (Balzac), but has a specific cultural and historical object of study in its own right." The restorative, clarifying, homogenizing, contextualizing terms that Jameson uses to describe this action all point in the same direction: once delimited (or "sutured") by a generic code, S/Z can then be decoded because its controlling order-"postmodernism"-has purportedly been discovered. Jameson is ostensively prompted to this action by an ethical necessity to forestall the chaotic flux of semiosis that impedes the fulfillment of explanatory desire. He charges Barthes with a "moralizing valorization of critical pluralism" which he views as "at best a refusal to go about the principal critical business of our time, which is to forge a kind of methological synthesis from the multiplicity of critical codes" (59). This unforged order can be forged, though, simply by the convenient gesture of typologically coding S/Z, as Jameson demonstrates. But this is only one of numerous other contentions that have competed without resolution over the "genre" of S/Z: It's a structuralist analysis. It's an example of deconstruction. It's a readerresponse analysis. It's a psychoanalytical study. And so on. (Barthes himself identified its "genre" not as "semiology," but as "textuality," and grouped it with two other studies: Sade, Fourier, Loyola and The Empire of Signs. His "semiological" works, he declared, were Elements of Semiology and The Fashion System [Roland Barthes, 145].) 38

This stultifying certainty is, however, precisely the imprisonment Barthes evidently tried avoid through his various "freedoms" in S/Z. Along these lines, Michael Moriarty says: "These codes, which structure the text, are not, however, themselves structures, that is, they are not closed sets of oppositions" (120). In S/Z, "the code is not a system or langue put into operation in the parole of the text; it is rather a perspective opened up by the text." In keeping with this contention, one could posit that Barthes uses codes as "post-structures," in that they are delegated so crazily that they seem immune to the limitations of structure. By employing a vague generic designation, refusing to "synthesize" his decoding, and using his codes in perversely idiosyncratic ways, Barthes may have engaged strategic indeterminacy as a means of keeping his text as open as possible. This would be consistent with Culler's assertion that Barthes is demonstrating the "citational play of codes" in an intertextual arena of signification in S/Z (Barthes, 85). As Barthes says in S/Z: "if we make no effort to structure each code, or the five codes among themselves, we do so deliberately, in order to assume the multivalence of the text, its partial reversibility" (20). This potential employment of sprezzatura, an order designed to appear disorderly (or Barthes might say, "natural"), is aligned with Bruss' observation on Barthes' use of "deliberately arbitrary order" in his later works (436). This would sort well with Barthes' description of his approach to semiotics as the employment of a "loosening method" ("Inaugural," 476). As he suggests in S/Z, he is "concerned not to manifest a structure, but to produce a structuration" (20). To whatever extent an author's testimony can be brought to bear on an issue in terms of evidence, it would seem that this is exactly what Barthes had in mind. For, despite appearances to the contrary, he claimed that he had spent considerable time organizing S/Z into its final form after working through it in his seminar. "I labored over what used to be called the composition, i.e., the arrangement, the organization of the lexias and their commentaries, the digressions," he said in an interview. "I wrote and rewrote, I took a great deal of trouble over it, with passionate interest...I have a vivid memory of the time I spent struggling to piece the book together" ("Interview," 139). Yet, at the same time, Barthes comes across as developing S/Z in accordance with what he later outlined as "my semiology" ("Inaugural," 471). He described "his" view as a "negative semiology" (475), "apophatic" in that it "denies that it is possible to attribute to the sign traits that are positive, fixed, ahistoric, acorporeal, in short: scientific" (473). "Semiology is not a grid;" he argued, "it does not permit a direct apprehension of the real through the imposition of a general transparency which would render it intelligible" (474). His semiology "seeks instead to elicit the real, in places and by moments, and it says that these efforts to elicit the real are possible without a grid," he suggests. "It is in fact precisely when semiology comes to be a grid that it elicits nothing at all." Clearly, this "grid" can be said to consist of many of the common elements in the discussion of semiotics, and as this lecture has suggested, perhaps it applies in particular to the "code". As with his unsynthetic arrangement, his use of codes may be seen as similarly liberating, an instance of Barthes taking advantage of a seemingly inevitable paradigm-as opposed to being taken advantage of by it. This is reflected in Barthes' comments on his university work in semiotics: "what can be oppressive in our teaching is not, finally, the knowledge or the culture it conveys, but the discursive forms through which we propose them" ("Inaugural," 476). Need it be said that the "code" is precisely such a form? Scholes asserts an evidently acquiescent acceptance of code power over the sign user when he asserts that authors (or encoders) and readers (or decoders) are actually "constructed" by, and even "at the mercy of" "the interpretive codes of their culture" (Semiotics, 14). These agents "are traversed by codes that enable their 39

communicative adventures at the cost of setting limits to the messages they can exchange" (110). Sign users are empowered, however, when they "see them as codes," as opposed to essential entities (14). Similarly, Silverman argues that "S/Z suggests that we can escape from the symbolic field which we presently inhabit by first mastering its codes, and then recombining them to form a new one-by moving from a passive to an active discursive position, from repetition to innovation" (249). Barthes contends that the multivalent nature of the text cannot be represented responsively by an analysis founded on a reductive codification. "For those of us who are trying to establish a plural," he observes, "we cannot stop this plural at the gates of reading: the reading must also be plural, that is, without order of entrance" (S/Z, 15). For Barthes, codes are too often, too carelessly used to reify an artificial status. This results in an accumulation that diminishes, if not exhausts, the energetic flux of semiosis. He remarks that he is using "code" not in the sense of a list, a paradigm that must be reconstituted. The code is a perspective of quotations, a mirage of structures; we know only its departures and returns; the units which have resulted from it (those we inventory) are themselves, always, ventures out of the text, the mark, the sign of a virtual digression toward the remainder of a catalog. (20) One of these structuring agents-possibly the most important one, at that-is the contribution made by the decoder in the course of activating, inventing, and testing (through "undercoding" and "overcoding"?) various code responses in order to enter satisfactorily into a given sign's semiosis. In his commentary on S/Z, Culler argues that codes "dwell" not in the text, nor through some origin associated with the encoder, but within the decoder (Pursuit, 102). "The reader becomes the name of the place where the various codes can be located: a virtual site," he maintains. "Semiotics attempts to make explicit the implicit knowledge which enables signs to have meaning, so it needs the reader not as a person but as a function: the repository of the codes which account for the intelligibility of the text" (38). Finally, "It is not that each convention or moment of a code had a determinate origin which the accidents of history have obscured," Culler argues. "Rather, it is part of the structure of discursive conventions to be cut off from origins" (102). It may be in this respect that Barthes' employment of codes in S/Z is especially useful in terms of contributing to the construction of "another semiotics." The greatest source of complaints about his use of codes would, paradoxcially, serve as the most important contribution he makes for the study of signs in S/Z. He uses codes irresponsibly, unclearly, aberrantly; assigning them in impossible, inpenetrable ways that lead readers to abandon it in despair or "rewrite" S/Z so that it makes sense-at least to them. But, again, this is where semiotics becomes flesh (or what he calls "the real"), where it becomes embodied (but not corporeal) through a simulacrum of the translucency, if not opacity, of semiosis. As Barthes says about grid applications, the moment when the grid fits transparently is the same moment when it no longer reveals anything other than the neatness of the imposed organizing frame. Only when the pedestrian use of the "code" is applied to S/Z does it become undesirably insufficient which, once more, accounts for the frequently dissonant responses to it. By using a conventional paradigm in an extremely unconventional manner, Barthes beats the larceny of the code at its own game in S/Z. Despite Jameson's claim about Barthes departure from an analysis that could offer a structural paradigm for understanding all literary texts (and, by extension, any "text"), Barthes may have done just that in S/Z. And, because it's so anarchic, he also may have demonstrated the only way to do so. Early on in S/Z he remarks that "if we want to remain attentive to the plural of a text 40

in so doing. always interested decoding practices. Lacan (Urbana: University of Illinois Press. the codes it mobilizes extend as far as the eye can reach. Structuralism and the Logic of Dissent: Barthes. none of which can be authoritatively declared to be the main one. Barthes' conception of "a triumphant plural. assigned the reassuring alibi of the "concrete": the single text is valid for all the texts of literature. a process that significantly challenges the smug surety that so often results from presumptions of the "code" and codification.. To the contrary. As Elam asserts. as was done by classical rhetoric and by secondary-school explication" (11-12). is where those who criticize Barthes for abandoning structuralism would point to as a means of demonstrating his segue into post-structuralism. the networks are many and interact. "there cannot be a narrative structure." A Barthes Reader. "In this ideal text. but entrance into a network with a thousand entrances. Barthes. "but without being delegated to a great final ensemble. This helps to explain the "shortcomings" that are cited in S/Z. unimpoverished by any constraint of representation (or imitation)" (S/Z. (5-6) "For the plural text. The "model" (the amodel?) that Barthes does offer could arguably be one that perfectly captures the ineluctable modality of the decoder's always local. the necessity." The Grain of the Voice: Interviews 19621980. Trans. we can gain access to it by several entrances. Roland. But right after this he comments on analyzing a single text that significantly troubles this viewpoint. this text is a galaxy of signifiers. 1989). Ed. or a logic" (6). Foucault. "Everything signifies ceaselessly and several times. not in that it represents them (abstracts and equalizes them).. we must renounce structuring this text in large masses." he concludes. 5) could just as easily apply to S/Z and foster a radical reframing of the "code" and its potential agencies. but in that literature itself is never anything but a single text: the one text is not an (inductive) access to a Model.. Trans. By "manhandling the text. Richard Howard." he adds. Eve Tavor. always irresponsible. "the very concept of the code remains problematic and ambiguous in most of its applications" (52). in general. REFERENCES Bannet. interrupting it" (15) ("malmener le texte.or a code. 1982): 457-478. based as it is on the infinity of language.. of a gradual analysis of a single text. Barthes would have saved himself a lot of grief if he had simply added one more component to that list: ". He remarks that there are "several implications and several advantages" connected with "the idea.. 41 . Collège de France." But semiotics would certainly have been the poorer for it. not a structure of signifieds. it is reversible. and related passages already cited.. he provides code theory with a new paradigm to work with." he declares. and so to speak. --. but their number is never closed. it has no beginning."Interview: A Conversation with Roland Barthes. 1985): 128-149. à lui couper la parole" [22]). he argues: "no construction of the text" (12).the systems of meaning can take over this absolutely plural text. "Inaugural Lecture. in other words. Linda Coverdale (New York: Hill and Wang.(however limited it may be). However. And. without any one of them being able to surpass the rest. It is a model of difference. they are indeterminable." This. a grammar. Derrida. to an ultimate structure. Susan Sontag (New York: Noonday Press." The commentary on a single text is not a contingent activity. Barthes may well produce the closest simulation of actual semiosis that is possible.

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448-466. 43 . Lotman. --. Trans. Gail Lenhoff and Ronald Vroon (Ann Arbor: Michigan Slavic Contributions. 1977). Vol. 95-120. Silverman. Barbara. Social Semiotics as Praxis: Text. NJ: Humanities Press. Jurij. Paul. 1977).Structuralism in Literature (New Haven: Yale University Press. "Pandora's Box: How and Why to Communicate 10. Thomas.000 Years into the Future. 1974). Roland Barthes: A Conservative Estimate (Atlantic Highlands." Language in Literature. Thody. Johnson.--. Fredric. 1: Situations of Theory (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Iain Hamilton Grant (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. and Nabokov's "Ada" (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 1991). Jameson. Libidinal Economy. Kaja. Moriarty. "The Ideology of the Text. 1980): 3-12."Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances." On Signs." The Ideologies of Theory: Essays 1971-1986. 1983). 1991). Michael." The Critical Difference: Essays in the Contemporary Rhetoric of Reading (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Thibault. "The Critical Difference: Barthes/Balzac. Philip. Roland Barthes (Stanford: Stanford University Press. Robert. Semiotics and Interpretation (New Haven: Yale University Press. Lyotard. The Subject of Semiotics (New York: Oxford University Press. Jean-François. 1993). Social Meaning Making. Sebeok. Scholes. Trans. 1982). The Structure of the Artistic Text. 1988):17-76.

although in a fashion that also unfortunately mirrors the shortcomings of code theory. is to call for the contained behavior of the "possible" or "Model Reader."Introduction: The Role of the Reader" (1979) P ."The Semantics of Metaphor" (1971) G . For Eco. but he does so in a way that highlights a common view as well. To focus this examination." Umberto Eco. the encoder. Assigned Reading: Umberto Eco. the "decoder" has garnered considerable attention in the discussion of semiotics. which features essays by Eco and critical essays on his 44 ."Narrative Structures in Fleming" (1965) F . I will explore only one extensive illustration of commentary on the decoder here. like many other semioticians."The Poetics of the Open Work" (1959) S . The Role of the Reader: Explorations in the Semiotics of Texts (Bloomington: Indiana University Press." (An indication of Eco's continued prominence among the IG is the recent appearance of the substantial Reading Eco: An Anthology. A Theory of Semiotics Key for Chapter References in Assigned Reading: R . and to a far lesser extent (at least for Eco). The only way to quell this challenge to the authority of the text. I have selected a prominent example of the Indiana Group (discussed in Lecture One) primarily because Umberto Eco not only considers the decoder at length."Peirce and the Semiotic Foundations of Openness: Signs as Texts and Texts as Signs" (1976) L ."Lector in Fabula: Pragmatic Strategy in a Metanarrative Text" (1977) The Threat of the Decoder Like the "code". 1979).Lecture Four: The "problem" of controlling the decoder."On the Possibility of Generating Aesthetic Messages in an Edenic Language" (1971) M . the decoder seriously threatens a systemic comprehension of semiosis. Overview: The Threat of the Decoder Obeisant Decoders: The Early Chapters Perspective Imposition Decoder Incontinence Encoding the Decoder A Sophisticated Perspective: The Later Chapters Duping the Decoder The Too-Open Work "Servants of Semiosis" "A responsible collaboration is demanded of the addressee."The Myth of Superman" (1962) I ."Rhetoric and Ideology in Sue's Les Mystères de Paris" (1965) N .

. treats the Model Reader with some irony. Anna Longoni reflects the widespread uneasiness in semiotics toward the decoder by praising Eco for showing "wise caution" in his position regarding this presumably troublesome component of sign activity (214)." But Eco collapses this distinction by importing the actual reader into the text as one of its structurally determined components. As a means of curtailing the actual decoder's behavior. Eco opines. Eco establishes the Model Reader as voluntary acceptance of guidance. an addressee is presupposed in the 45 . perhaps this distinction should remain. it is absolutely necessary to receive "the interpretive cooperation of the addressee" (vii). N. (The silent auditor character commonly used in dramatic monologues would be an apt illustration of this positioning of a decoder situated "inside" the text. "Indeed. "Utterance. it is difficult to speak precisely about Eco's reader for. if the reader coproducts the literary work's meaning. and so his Model Reader remains suspended midway between the eminence grise of the Konstanz school and the actual reader whose reading practices are amenable to empirical study. the internal addressee is known on the basis of a precise relation created or hypothesized by the sender. V. it remains indefinite" (413). as opposed to the "internal addressee" of the text whose "relation is internal to the text" (34). Eco.) Michael Riffaterre identifies the two extremes of positioning the decoder that are common in both semiotics and reader-response theory. This latter pole is approximately consistent with Eco's conception. then there is no limit to the coproductions. as Susan Petrilli notes. and in the absence of a real addressee. Maria Corti identifies a potential consequence of this orientation of opinion about the decoder when she avers that "the universe of the addressees of a literary work is the product of ongoing and often uncontrollable relations with the text" (33)." Petrilli situates the Model Reader as Eco's contribution to the thriving market of readers offered by the various readerreception theories. having discovered that he/she/it will not read and interpret as expected. internal to the text. "it fluctuates between being the author's construct. "no criteria of interpretation. But Eco cannot quite decide what to do with this superfluous entity. while the Model Reader "recurs again and again in Eco's writings.fiction and writings about semiotics. the text's device." Corti raises an important distinction neglected by Eco when she distinguishes between the Model Reader as a function of the actual reader. One position emphasizes the ceaseless play of "unlimited semiosis" which would evidently challenge the static function of a Model Reader. no distinction between interpretation and misinterpretation can be postulated. Furthermore.. "One of the potential dangers that the introduction of the reader (and any other pragmatic concept into literary theory) brings. now a Model Author. is constructed between two socially organized persons. Volosinov suggests that the existence of any sign activity necessarily dictates the contribution of the decoder. she remarks." Once the decoder has been sanctioned to freely interact with the sign. is a radical relativization of the literary work's meaning and of the procedures of interpretation. a set of felicity conditions and the personified 'competent' judge of interpretations. differs in its semiological nature from the class of generic readers.. However." Dolezel contends (114). Lubomir Dolezel is similarly representative of those who fear that decoders will run amuck if given a sign entirely under their own jurisdiction. While accounting for the presuppositions aligned with semiosis. In the end..) Corti notes further that "this class of addressees. For much of the secondary commentary on Eco I will cite essays from this collection for the sake of ease as well as to demonstrate this point.. The other orientation considers "the definition of text as a set of constraints imposing uniform reader responses and consistent interpretations that endure despite changes in esthetic or ideological fashions" (184). For semiosis to take place in an orderly and systemically regulated fashion. Yet.

the recent pieces operate as "'open' works. "It might be argued that the analyses made between 1959 and 1971 should be rewritten in a more up-to-date jargon. belies his leeriness of an unfettered decoder. (The Introduction." appeared originally in Opera aperta (in English. It should be clear from this approach that... This schema introduces a fundamental component of Eco's depiction of proper decoder function. In his retrospective Preface to The Role. well-defined manner before presenting it to the listener" (48). This is ironic in that Eco aligns his later commentary within "state of the art" semiotics (Role viii). Eco's selfproclaimed revision of his earlier stance.) Yet Eco views this limitation as merely the result of obsolete "technical terminology" (viii). and then the later ones as another (1976-1979)." The rationale behind my own grouping of Eco's chapters is explained above.person. the decoder cooperates with the encoder and the text (hereafter: encoder/text) rather than presuming to function as an entity equal or . It focuses in part on "recent [ca. the first and the last two chapters were written between 1976-1979. has reached a dreadful level of sophistication. 1959] pieces of instrumental music" in which there is "considerable autonomy left to the individual performer in the way he chooses to play the work" (47). 46 . toward who that addressee might be. In this discussion. in other words." he observes. "having grown up incredibly during the last decade [ca. He goes so far as to bemoan the rapid maturation of "text semiotics" which. I will divide my analysis of The Role into two groups. the later chapters fall prey to the same positioning of the decoder as the earlier ones. Henri Pousseur. The Open Work).even worse superior to them in autonomy." he observes (85). which are brought to their conclusion by the performer at the same time as he experiences them on an aesthetic plane" (48-49). reveals a "macroscopic divergence" from this kind of music in that it "posits an assemblage of sound units which the composer arranged in a closed. (It should be noted that Eco segments his chapters differently than I have. Eco acknowledges that he subsequently "realize[d]" that the chapters written prior to 1976 are "dominated by the problem of the role of the reader in interpreting texts" (vii). and Stockhausen) "reject the definitive." and the final two are in "Open/Closed. concluded message and multiply the formal possibilities of the distribution of their elements. " Concern for the impact of the decoder has long been an issue for Eco. but this assertion by Eco merits closer attention by virtue of the extensive ethosbuilding agenda it enacts for semiotics as a discipline." the second three are in "Closed. The first three are in a section titled "Open." In this respect. it is better that the earlier essays remain as witnesses to a constant exploration into textuality made during twenty years of prehistorical attempts" (vii). "But afterwit is everybody's wit. despite Eco's own assessment. rather than a conceptual shortcoming." Lecture One has already addressed this strategy among the IG discussion of semiotics." "The new musical works" (such as those by Pierre Boulez." Eco sugggests. exploring chronologically first the earlier chapters as one group (1959-1971). so to speak.) Obeisant Decoders: The Early Chapters The first of the early chapters. A composition of this nature is arranged into "conventional symbols which more or less oblige the eventual performer to reproduce the format devised by the composer himself. 1979]. Luciano Berio. "The word is oriented toward an addressee. A "classical composition. "The Poetics of the Open Work. of a normal representative of the social group to which the speaker belongs. For.

stands as "the end product of an author's effort to arrange a sequence of communicative effects in such a way that each individual addressee can refashion the original composition devised by the author" (P 49). almost immediately in the discussion. and prejudices." he continues.Significantly. again. not to "impair" the message's "original essence. In fact. "the way the author of the work had devised various visual devices to oblige the observer's attention to converge on. "That is. through the agency of the encoder and a host of protective buttresses that could be accurately grouped under the rubric of "competence". that here Eco privileges the authority of the encoder to control a "valid" act of semiosis. the form of the work of art gains its aesthetic validity precisely in proportion to the number of different perspectives from which it can be viewed and understood. Eco configures this "openness" in a decidedly peculiar fashion. A form of openness cast in this manner places the decoder in the position of the consumer of what Roland Barthes called the "readerly" text or what Julio Cortàzar. As the source of a message's closure. the sense conditioning which is peculiarily his own.) While Eco constantly restates "openness" as a reduction of encoder/text control. These give it a wealth of different resonances and echoes without impairing its original essence. in Eco's view. "'The Infinite Game''")." he adds. "is bound to enter into an interplay of stimulus and response which depends on his unique capacity for sensitive reception of the piece. in an unfortunate choice of words. 47 . The clear implication is that the encoder can actually wield substantial enforcement over the decoder's interaction with the message. The work. a defined culture. the encoder's presence hovers over the text like a spectral figure in loco parentis." The open work might not impose that much constraint on the decoder. "Literature". Note. authorizes this openness (the "addressee can refashion the original"). personal inclinations. For instance.. the individual addressee is bound to supply his own existential credentials. Eco continues in this vein: In this sense the author presents a finished product with the intention that this particular composition should be appreciated and received in the same form as he devised it. but it would still impose it to a far lesser (but still not entirely free) extent. For example. Thus his comprehension of the original artifact is always modified by his particular and individual perspective. As he reacts to the play of stimuli and his own response to their patterning. a set of tastes. overseeing and invisibly directing the decoder's respectful. within this scenario. The decoder is "bound" once more. Given this arguably meager allowance." (Good examples of related commentary on reader competence can be found in Culler and Fish. he discusses Plato's commentary in the Sophist on painting and the extent to which perspective was used "in order to ensure that [the observer] looked at the figure in the only possible right way" (50-51). The decoder is allowed only the freedom sanctioned by the encoder/text . The encoder.. appreciative practices." Look at the way Eco phrases these descriptions. he begs the question of the possibility of such control to begin with. "The addressee.a decidedly mediated form of freedom indeed. The decoder's behavior is further circumscribed as an "interplay" which is limited to an exclusively "sensitive reception" of the work. called the "female-reader" (see Lecture Three and Simpkins. he claims that the encoder of the open work constructs it in such a way "so as to expose it to the maximum possible 'opening'" (P 50). This oddly parental freedom is reminiscent of child psychology strategies for duping a child into believing he or she has some degree of autonomy or empowerment. the "addressee" is correspondingly "bound" to participate only along these closely prescribed lines of decoding.

the imperative bullying that Eco uses to emphatically support this condition reveals. "Indeed. according to how he feels at one particular moment. he adds." And. works in which the performer's freedom functions as part of the discontinuity which contemporary physics recognizes. Additionally. and complete freedom of reception.. In the social order (evidently the one he perceived taking shape at the end of the 1950s) in which there is "a general breakdown in the concept of causation.. must always follow rules that entail a rigid univocality" (51). "'openness' is far removed from meaning 'indefiniteness' of communication. It produces "discontinuity. and these never allow the reader to move outside the strict control of the author." It is difficult to be charitable toward such a model of semiosis. the outer limits of openness. textual "openness" is simply a wider array of predetermined. " Eco's vocabulary choices here reveal his interests in this position once again. cannot do whatever they want with a text. Eco positions the decoder's interaction with this "open" form of semiosis as always regimented by twin control exercised by the encoder/text. as well.Perspective Imposition Eco cites as another example allegorical readings of the Scriptures during the Middle Ages which presuppose a text "undoubtedly endowed with a measure of 'openness'" (P 51). but as an essential stage in all scientific verification procedures. or openness. Eco reveals the motive behind models of this nature in the discussion of semiotics. predictably. the presumed logic . or infinite semiosis. decidedly there) in the text. at least for him. and these are quite capable of incorporating indeterminacy as a valid stepping-stone in the cognitive process.." Eco asserts. are "art stripped of necessary and foreseeable conclusions. Thus." he qualifies it as a phenomenon that is "virtually unlimited" (63). predeterminable options. This is especially revealing in relation to those models that try to account for an empowered decoder whose interaction within semiosis is not characterized fearfully as an insurrectionary act against the transcendental signified. they can choose only from among the items dictated to them. slavish one he promotes here. In the end. in Eco's words. Like the restrictions of the "code" discussed in Lecture Three. he continues to maintain this grudging adherence to a semiosic logic. an underlying uneasiness with alternative models.. "In this type of operation. This allows the decoder to making a "choice". is to base them on a necessarily domesticated decoder who willingly adheres to prescribed rules. accordingly.or what he calls elsewhere a "specific sense" (P 54) subtending semiosis is otherwise vulnerable. which is limited to the choices offered (by the encoder/text)." Eco contends. And why? Clearly. he argues (58). conservative view that is unabashedly motivated by a desire for semiotic "power" at the expense of the decoder's autonomy." He adds: "What in fact is made available is a range of rigidly preestablished and ordained interpretative solutions. This type of openness. When Eco goes to what is. Open works. Even when he goes so far as to entertain the concept of "infinite semiosis. the decoder is essentially restrained." he declares. considering that it is based on a flimsy. it's "verifiable"! 48 . "The reader of the text knows that every sentence and every trope is 'open' to a multiplicity of meanings which he must hunt for and find. not as an element of disorientation. he suggests. authorized only to "find" something that is there (placed there. "Multivalent logics are now [circa 1959] gaining currency. 'infinite' possibilities of form. can be conceived of systemically. the reader might choose a possible interpretative key which strikes him as exemplary of [a given] spiritual state. Decoders." different forms of logic still exist." Significantly. In his insistence that "the reader." not "disorientation. For. tames "indeterminacy" into a "valid" simulacrum or tool. Eco can never acknowledge alternative views of the decoder that grant any greater power than the acquiescent. the only way that multivocality.

he endeavors to situate the decoder as a largely powerless participant in semiosis. in other words. rest entirely on the encoder's input vis-à-vis the text. then." "reamalgamerge. reveals a great deal about Eco's own investment in hobbling the decoder in this vein. for Eco." Again. and not explicitly to "decoders". in effect. the substitution is apt considering the numerous parallels between the two. By this. will be employed throughout this lecture. these perspectives combine to yield 49 . for Eco." (Note: while Eco in this illustration is referring to performers of musical compositions. and it is represented in the literary text by fragments that can be endlessly reassembled" (215)." he adds. Eco uses this analysis to steadily reinforce his belief that the openness of a textual exchange (a synecdoche for "semiosis") can. Reality itself is fragmented. one based on an assumed "conception of the universe as a hierarchy of fixed.). Throughout The Role. is offered "an oriented insertion into something which always remains the world intended by the author. as such." "passencore. what was true about semiosis in the Middle Ages was still true in the 1930s. because for them there no longer exists a unique interpretation of the world.To be entirely fair. etc. his depiction of James Joyce's immensely polysemous novel." "lavastories. as is seen in his observations on semiosis in the present time. Eco is attempting in the discussion of allegory (cited above) to historicize a specific view of semiosis. Eco establishes a detailed description of a semiotic infinitude that seemingly rises above significant impact by the decoder and. Yet. This orientation is reflected in Eco's concluding comments in the "Open Work" chapter as he stresses (using the example of music by the composers mentioned earlier) that "the possibilities which the work's openness makes available always work within a given field of relations" (62). and logically framed. it is precisely because he wants the work to be read in a certain sense" (54-55). These attributes are cherished values in Eco's schema of a controlled open semiosis that is shared by many others in the discussion of semiotics. Even though "we may well deny that there is a single prescribed point of view. That he wants the decoder. The decoder is portrayed throughout as merely a nonparticipatory spectator in the Superman saga. It addresses the ostensibly "closed" weltanschauung of the Superman comic and the extent to which its openness is actually a form of necessary redundancy. is therefore eminently systematic. Eco evidently means that Joyce wants his work read in a certain way." Of course. By structuring this discussion accordingly. For. Finnegans Wake. Eco does the same thing when he argues that because Joyce crafts portmanteau words out of numerous languages and puns ("slipping beauty." The decoder." etc. to make choices only among those of the author's own designation as evidenced by textual directives. This substitution of "decoder" for "addressee". openness is directed by "an organizing rule which governs these relations" for the decoder.) "The Myth of Superman" (1962) seems like an odd selection to include in The Role of the Reader (which may account for its location in the "Closed" section of the book). rather than one tailored particularly toward select historical moments. controlled. "reader". Despite his historicizing claims. Textual decoding is thus never "an amorphous invitation to indiscriminate participation. his text must be read in the following way: "According to the semantic voice which we make in the case of one unit [of the novel] so goes the way we interpret all the other units in the text." Eco contends (54). For instance." "anagrim. the pervasiveness of Eco's depiction of the decoder in "a number of cursory historical glimpses" (52) throughout this chapter is suggestive. "this does not mean complete chaos in [a work's] internal relations. in fact. "If Joyce does introduce some keys into the text. preordained orders" (P 57). "this does not mean that the book lacks specific sense. Longoni reflects a parallel historicizing assertion by arguing that works of modern writers such as Kafka and Joyce "impose on the reader a plurality of interpretations. This aspect of his commentary suggests that his description is much more accurately considered a universal model.

legitimizes the "myth" of encoder-enforcement of control over the decoder that he introduces in the beginning. because quietly.a coherent. then. intelligible operational model of sign activity that is undeniably attractive. this specific decoder wants ceaseless "iteration" through "a series of events repeated according to a set scheme" (117). implies a progressive signification. it appears. "The narrator picks up the strand of the event again and again. The encoder thereby becomes the sole contributing source of the event of semiosis which the decoder. Superman is both "aesthetically and commercially deprived of the possibility of narrative development. its ostensibly incongruous appearance in The Role effectively. however. Eco tries to naturalize a desire for this type of containment by contending that the Superman narratives satisfy a common "hunger for redundance" (M 120) among decoders who do not want a new. surmountable by the hero" (111). His semiotic universe. Rather. "The stories develop in a kind of oneiric climate . (Tellingly suggested. with a genre such a detective fiction in which the whole point of the story is to solve an enigma and thereby create a completion. semiotics would have a considerably stable ground on which to establish itself as an empirical discipline. an ideal model for this discussion." The consumable text. on the contrary. But. "By definition the character whom nothing can impede. The Superman writers can further manipulate this universe by assuming total control of fabricating its narration. ignoring where the preceding event left off. This supersedes any attempt by the decoder to begin to master.which states merely: "See Chapter 1 of this book.the last footnote . as if he had forgotten to say something and wanted to add details to what had already been said" (114). perhaps. as Eco notes. of course. as would occur in a text in which linear extrapolation by the decoder is possible. He can go on continuously. 50 . story or development. accordingly.of which the reader is not aware at all . Eco calls upon the Superman narrative. But the uncooperative decoder always looms as a challenge to this desire for semiosic containment. If signs actually worked this way. Positioned by this strategy. by the final line of the chapter . Eco argues. "there is nothing left to do except to put Superman to the test of several obstacles which are intriguing because they are unforseen but which are. without ever being forced to proceed toward an otherwise unavoidable conclusion. is non-entropic. and powerfully co-create. instead of a consistently encoder-based production of more and more signs." he "finds himself in the worrisome narrative situation of being a hero without an adversary and therefore without the possibility of any development" (M 110).") Superman is. solving new problems as they arise. This would contrast. or if decoders agreed en masse to interact with them like this. to frame this textual scenario as yet another instance of successful encoder/text imposition over the decoder. as opposed to eventually assuming at least partial mastery over a narrative constrained by a consumptive logic. This stasis is accentuated by the comic medium which is greatly limited by individual strip size and length.where what has happened before and what has happened after appear extremely hazy. Superman can thus remain perpetually "inconsumable" as a result. In this respect. This produces a text that cannot be exhausted because it endlessly covers the same narrative ground by positing each time "a virtual beginning. and thus eventually concluded. is continually dependent upon for the production of new signs. the decoder has no choice other than to go along with the story. the series." As a consequence." Eco observes. This is a technically ingenious explanation of the Superman narrative on Eco's part.

Eco's analysis of the ideological aspect of a text (one by Sue in this instance) harks back to the discussion of "overcoding" from Lecture Three. a specific semiotics attains a scientific status. extremely shaky from an epistemological standpoint. In "Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language. To produce a decoding based on a verifiable evidentiary concluson." "well-constructed." "normal circumstances. in order to become a legitimate interpretation. must be built upon clear proofs given to the reader" (213). serves "to correct as far as possible the distortion produced by the angle of perspective and to take the greatest possible advantage of such distortion as cannot be corrected. Riddled by questionable assertions like "objectivity. the text is viewed solely as a systemic construct." This process. she suggests. will generate or interpret messages produced according to that system's rules. "a hypothesis. in so far as they are supposedly to successfully predict how a user of a given sign system. additionally." and "clear proofs.Decoder Incontinence The two chapters from the mid-1960s . "The mark of legitimacy" can be established through context." "legitimate. and the system of narratology.to the extent to which this is possible for human sciences." the notion of textual control has to be accepted (I 126). Overcoding. in this sense. at the very least." Eco presents a similar rendition of this contention by asserting that When it is well-constructed. the commerical situation under which the novel was written and published. this process will ground itself upon an analysis of what are then viewed as confirmable "objective constraints on the interpretation of a text" (214). Longoni expresses this sentiment when she asks: "How far can the interpretation of the reader. A three-part approach to Sue's Les Mystères de Paris is used to enforce this demotion of the decoder as Eco considers only: the ideological stance of the author." Ultimately. legitimately go? What is the legitimacy of interpretation?" (211). though. both proposals by Eco and Longoni are vulnerable due to numerous assumptions that are. Longoni adds. It's only affective concern is that the encoder's "intention" is conveyed most successfully. frequently also are prescriptive and to some extent they can be predictive. to engage in an analysis which reveals how a text is "ideologically overcoded. (3) Obviously. For this undertaking to presume the empirical claim of objectivity. or close to it . Eco implies. Eco imagines Sue asking himself: "What sort of problems must I solve in order to 51 . Undeniably.continue to flesh out the consistent stance that Eco assumes regarding the activity of the decoder."Rhetoric and Ideology in Sue's Les Mystères de Paris" and "Narrative Structures in Fleming" ." these naively essentialistic claims do little to establish a compelling argument about encoder/text autonomy." "scientific status. "The context must give the reader a guideline that will set the boundaries within which to move in the oscillation of interpretation (which becomes wider the more complex the interpreted text is). who interacts with the text. under normal circumstances. The impact of the decoder is nowhere to be seen here. she concludes. The extra-precise establishment of a code functions directly as a means to substantially diminish the impact of the decoder on semiosis. the analyst has to accept that what is being "reveal[ed]" are "structures that exist within the work. at least in a statistical sense. essentially presupposes an even greater extent of decoding enforcement by positing a high-level form of "conventional" code work." "close to. These grammars are descriptive." A drive of this nature is evidently fueled by a desire for authentification (or possession of the capacity to be authenticatible). Consequently.

the decoder options eventually constrict and "the algebra [of their selection] has to follow a prearranged pattern" (155). despite ever-increasing implausibility. Essentially. further resolution. an addressee. Eco proposes assessing the limitations imposed on the decoder by "evaluating for each structural element the probable incidence upon the reader's sensitivity. "A dialectic is established between market demands. From this angle. etc. The decoder. mass-culture drives. when Sue first published the novel in serial form he engaged in strategies for prolonging narrative "life" by way of continuous extension." he argues. Eco views this as a market constraint prompting an encoder to continuously present new message variations." he declares. that is. Eco imagines a model of semiosis that the encoder always controls via the message. therefore." Furthermore.." Even though Eco posits 14 "dichotomies [that] constitute invariant features around which minor couples rotate as free variants" (such as Bond-M. he returns again to the argument that these pairings substantially limit the decoder's interpretive operation (147). so as to present climaxes of disclosure." Sue is able to maintain a reader's interest in the story without giving in to the threat of its eventual conclusion. Assertions along these lines also reinforce Eco's contention about the decoder's desire for repetition of rewarding semiosic experiences under the direction of the encoder/text. must strike the reader at each step. Eco's uneasiness in the face of a decoder who rejects this oversight faculty by the encoder/text is also reflected in the title of this collection. and the plot's structure is so important that at a certain point even fundamental laws of plot construction. are trangressed" (133). which might have been thought inviolate for any commercial novel. and so on. He concludes that "the novel..write a narrative which I intend will appeal to a large public and arouse both the concern of the masses and the curiosity of the well-to-do?" (I 130).. is fixed as a sequence of 'moves' 52 . Subsequently. Acceptance of this assumption evidently is designed to reinforce the belief that signs operate according to eminently describable/prescribable pathways. renewed tension. Eco contends that Fleming's novels are "built on a series of oppositions which allow a limited number of permutations and interactions" (N 147). given the rules of combination of oppositional couples. he assesses the perimeters of the Bond novels as constituting a "narrative machine" (146).as if to imply that the encoder/text position is comfortably ensconced throughout institutionalization (and maybe it is!) and it's the decoder who needs chastisement in light of habitually unruly. Eco posits the control of the resulting decoder's interpretant in the hands of the encoder. because the public claims that it cannot bear to say good-bye to its characters. as when he proposes: "The element of reality. maybe Eco's proposal is a way to resolve such a conflict. The Role of the Reader . Through "tension. surprises" (132). The early chapter on Fleming's James Bond novels similarly depicts its semiotic field as closed and determinate according to "a general plan" (159) in relation to the decoder. "New episodes are invented one after another. gripping his attention and torturing his sensibilities. and the element of fantasy.). is merely a respondent. Yet it in no way serves to explicate the much broader phenomenon of general semiosis as a whole. as a result. Here. To borrow a concept from Corti: if the problematic interaction between the work and the addressee can be seen as "a scuffle between reader and text" (38). This planning extends throughout Eco's discussion. "Toward the end of the book.. The encoder assumes the function of an automaton (as will be seen in Eco's desire expressed later for just such an entity) who mechanically responds to a programmed series of semiosic prompts. the novels as a whole operate as "a machine that functions basically on a set of precise units governed by rigorous combinational rules. resolution. "aberrant" decoding behavior. Bond-Villain. The plot must be so arranged. Eco avers (I 132). As with the Superman myth. This is a surprisingly plausible account from a political angle critical of consumeristic.

Yet. something that yields "definitive verification" through "concrete circumstances of reception..e. (172) The strange appearance of this assertion merits consideration. As with the Superman narratives Eco locates in this containment of the decoder's options the source of enjoyment to be derived from reading the Bond novels. Between these two passages. he suggests. allowable/unallowable . the decoder cannot deviate beyond sanctioned options and. Eco offers a related explanation in The Limits of Interpretation by contending that too much "infinitude" is undesirable: An open text is always a text. This rendition.and perhaps the outcome . it's no surprise that it won't be the decoder.. is a social establishment. there is. Eco's apparent rationale for this concluding remark can be proposed as simply another means for placing the decoder in a lesser power position in semiosis. Texts frequently say more than their authors intended to say. he states that the individual decoder cannot enact this powerful control over a "final" (i. "from the moment in which the community is pulled to agree with a given interpretation. but less than what many incontinent readers would like them to say.inspired by the code and constituted according to a perfectly prearranged [invariable] scheme" (156). it is difficult to guess what Fleming is or will be for his readers." With this selective emphasis. these orders are delimited by the "fundamental moves" (157) of the field that constitutes the system of the Bond novels. Eco declares) and then assert that this response is the result of an active undertaking is indeed peculiar. while these schemes can be organized in substantially different orders. it becomes easy to pinpoint key dichotomies that Eco employs to frame his position. but it is possible to say which ones are wrong. Right/wrong. To spend an entire chapter discussing the ways in which the field of the Bond novels positions a reader's acquiescence (the necessary operation of a popular culture text. Eco ends this chapter with an observation wholly inconsistent with his discussion up to that point. for the decoder once more is given short shrift in this scenario. at least an intersubjective meaning which acquires a privilege over any other possible interpretation spelled out without the agreement of the community" (40). however. In keeping with Saussure's insistence on the communal establishment of linguistic norms. Eco also remarks that. (148) "Incontinence" is precisely the fear Eco wants to instill." he maintains. for empowering the individual decoder is tantamount to embarrassing loss of communal order. rather.all of these implied 53 .and draws pleasure. and a text can elicit infinite readings without allowing any possible reading. It is impossible to say what is the best interpretation of a text. This is a very minimal pleasure. When an act of communication provokes a response in public opinion. the definitive verification will take place not within the ambit of the book but in that of the society that reads it. Again. agreement/disagreement. possible/impossible. if not an objective. note the way that Eco formulates this position. In a lock-step manner. read) rendition of the text. "simply from following the minimal variations by which the victor realizes his objective" (160). Curiously. indeed. but depends on the concrete circumstances of reception.. He had been concluding with some speculations about Fleming's status as a popular writer when he abruptly shifts direction and proposes a consensual model of decoder response: Since the decoding of a message cannot be established by its author. to extend Eco's metaphor. when the victor is revealed. "The reader finds himself immersed in a game of which he knows the pieces and the rules .

"To be silent in the face of the delivery of a group's determinations is to profess submission. in addition to the two frequently cited "relations of the addressee" (relations "with the sender" and "with the work"). and all individual decodings are unified to fit into one larger. This process of cross-referencing is eventually superseded by a "straight story" or "the word" (or. in a particular instance. again. synthesized whole. but instead on "the level of an objective structural strategy. while the encoder seems to suffer diminished authority in this scenario. after which a narrated event is thereby transformed into "a finished happening" (128). When the accused man was presented with the community interpretation. As Corti observes. in other words. "truth is a final product and in the beginning truth has yet to be fashioned out of raw material relevancies" (129). For the Aborigines." he observes. to produce a consensual version of a story specifically geared toward one individual." In the parallel instance Eco describes. Longoni. or to seem to act on the basis of a different version. for instance. For. people work to achieve the patent social isolation of a subject who is actively made lonely. a third one has to be considered: relations "with the other addressees" (35). Australia studied by Basil Samson." Eco argues (146)." "Getting it straight is manufacture" (129). is not a 'version' at all but the story that has been righted in detail and straightened into complete and final shape" (130). the official verson of reality" [147]). For some commentators on semiotics." This procedure is configured not unlike the verification strategies of Aborigine fringe dwellers in Darwin." Samson reports (132).oppositions lead to the same premise: the decoder is a potential challenge to the presumed stability associated with group harmony. from Hodge and Kress. is that "to deliver a charge of blame. In the Bond novels (Eco uses Casino Royale as an example).as Eco contends . the "final version. In their commentary on Samson. This phenomenom practiced by Aborigines is closely aligned with the communal decoder elevation that Eco attempts to establish through his closing remarks. After this takes place. the decoder again is included only to contribute to a majority opinion of semoisic response. to concede that currently one can do nothing but accept the definition of a situation so weightily forced upon one. expresses alarm over this issue by declaring that "the consequence of placing legitimacy within the consensus of the readers is a weakening of the bond represented by the literal meaning. But. Samson notes. As a result. granting power to the communal "mob" is still too risky. by the coherence of the text.can manipulate the communal reception of the text by anticipating response through a calculus of formulaic patterns. Following an event. and then takes it away just as quickly the next. witness "recruitment" (128) is employed to "check up la all that detail" (or what Hodge and Kress call "general opinion or rumour" [147]) to sort through multiple perspectives and "get all that detail right" (128).. "a story belongs to a whole set of people who as equal witnesses constitute the jurisdiction of a now fully fashioned story to the making of which they have each contributed assent and more" (131). "the accepted truth. Hodge and Kress note that once "a version acquires this status." The upshot of this endeavor. Corti adds that "in this last case it is the group that creates relations with the work. He endeavors. "In the end. the informed encoder . "he 'took' his verbal beating with not a word of protest. exactly the opposite occurs. This can be demonstrated from the illustration cited by Samson once again. to hand the decoder considerable power in one moment. he concludes.. "characters and situations" are positioned not psychologically. He notes that this process of story fabrication was used. and by the will of the author" (214). it's difficult to agree with Eco on the matter of decoder consensus because it does appear that a form of acceptance is granted to multiple reporting of shared responses. it becomes forbidden to tell a different version. 54 . without any attempt to enter a defence.

where most of his substantial observations take place. In fact. But their "aestheticizing" of a basic informational system is always directed by the previously established rules relating both to form and content. To Eco. the Edenic story would be fitting here since Adam and Eve purportedly violated that order and were banished from Paradise.Encoding the Decoder The two 1971 chapters . This is where Eco once again returns to an essentialistic projection of semiosis which situates the decoder always as an outsider who should respect the integrity of an established semiotic order. he allows (96)." Eco proposes "an extremely simple language/code" which. They are initially baffled when they were told that apples (or at least certain apples. However. enforcing a fresh conception of the semantic system and the universe of meanings coordinated by it. since he focuses on code and system manipulation more than aesthetic language per se.) Eco concedes that the decoder has some freedom when interacting with signs. Eco's chapter on Edenic Language is misnamed in some respects." "Inside the formal symmetry of metonymic relationships. At best. and finally. Eco portrays this allowance on the part of the decoder more as a petty . "metaphorical replacements are operated. symbolic. but he constantly gives that freedom a restraint imposed by the dual entities of the encoder and the message/code. were in fact "bad". In these two pages he outlines a position on sign usage (with verbal language as his example) in which "creative" usage of the "ambiguity [of] the message" is viewed "in relation to the acknowledged possibilities of the code" (G 91). both in its form of expression and its form of content. and no longer an initiator of semiosis. X) is disrupted by God's interdiction which conflicts with their prior experience.predictably reveal more of the same from Eco on the prospects of the decoder's potential empowerment. Once something possessing the status of God's prohibition is introduced. the decoder can only be a respondent. but then be capable of generating an alteration of the code. (Obviously. It has no effective impact on the universe 55 . this new conceptual model is a "grave error" on God's part since he essentially "provid[ed] those elements which could throw the whole code out of joint" through "a subversion in the presumed natural order of things" (G 95).and decidedly impotent . Eco posits a system that allows decoder input only in order to constrain it." he claims. which they had found to be "good"." he suggests. there must be ambiguity beyond "content-form. "It is perfectly true that certain habits of perception entitle us to go on referring to the apple" as we had before the prohibition. he contends.idiosyncracy than a substantial challenge to the hegemonic entitlement of the encoder and the message/code. nY. for Eco. In the course of establishing these "rules"." as a "mode of expression. anyway). "These rules will have to rise from inside the code itself. it is in his discussion of metaphor (following Jakobson) rather than the "experiment" he outlines afterward. Adam and Eve then use this alteration in their previous semiotic system to create new forms of code and message. The model of combination Adam and Eve are said to employ (X. Still. Eco's experiment postulates Adam and Eve's rudimentary use of language and the impact of the fruit-prohibition from God. a form of defiance that is merely. the message must also be assessed in light of "the message itself as a physical entity."The Semantics of Metaphor" and "On the Possibility of Generating Aesthetic Messages in an Edenic Language" . "even when we are quite consciously assimilated" to the new meaning God has assigned it. The prohibition thereby "posits a new type of connotative pairing between semantic units which had previously been coupled together differently" (95). would "demonstrate the rules by which aesthetic messages can be generated" (G 91). it is an aberrant empowerment on the part of the decoder. for a message to be rendered "aesthetic"." To effect the aesthetic.

" This simulacrum of a decoder behaving dutifully in accordance with the wishes of the encoder/text is probably the most radical component of The Role. operates primarily as a quasi-etymological apparatus for tracing "the origin of the metaphoric 'vehicle'" (S 71) after discerning its "key" (72). "We should be able to show that each metaphor produced in FW is. 56 ." But. Eco's machine. This is an illusory generation of free intervention by the decoder. The controlling agent behind this activity nevertheless (in Eco's conception) continues to exert a systemic hold on the decoder's behavior. though. As an illustration. What this connective association will produce. predictable. such a conceptualization will allow him to "construct an automaton capable of generating and understanding metaphors. however. is an "explanation of the creativity of language (presupposed by the existence of metaphors). read in different directions. comprehensible because the entire book.) He adds that. As the above illustration and Lecture Three suggest. stable decoder is the result. (Note that Eco can never grant the decoder so much as a modicum of autonomy without yoking a restraining order to it at the same time. This notion is extended in Eco's final entry in the early group of chapters. adaptive codes in response to developing semiotic circumstances that Eco identifies as the presumably enabling agent for the decoder. "If a code allowed us only to generate semiotic judgments. based on metonymic chains based in turn on identifiable semantic structures" (69). But." "factual judgments can be integrated into the code in such a way as to create new possibilities for semiotic judgment. unfortunately. he suggests. Eco declares. then. in referring to predictable cultural entities. For Eco proposes a decoder-system that supersedes the unpredictable activity of the actual decoder through the installation of a model based on actions depicting how the encoder/text want that decoder to behave. this grid application is extremely reductive and furthermore proposes the concomitant diminution of the decoder's ability to interact freely with the signs of an entity. "On the contrary. For instance: "sang plus sans plus glorians plus riant makes 'Sanglorians'. all linguistic systems would serve to enunciate exclusively that which has already been determined by the system's conventions. "each metaphor can be traced back to a subjacent chain of metonymic connections which constitute the framework of the code and upon which is based the constitution of any semantic field... it is this seeming capacity to generate new.created and ruled by the God of the encoder who wields "the rigid generative law of the code" (101). he casts this discussion as though the decoder could actually possess the capacity to exert considerable control over the message during semiosis.") This procedure can be extended to the entire text. "The code. he argues. whether partial or (in theory) global" (68). Significantly. is that a structured decoder can then be integrated into the structured models of the encoder/text. he concludes. (He uses sample portmanteau words from Finnegans Wake as examples that can be explained logically along these lines. he argues. This assumption. And a "scientific" semiotics is under way. because it is limited to a solely combinative operation. An organized. will "bring the problem of creativity back to a description of language which depends upon a model susceptible to translation in binary terms." To illustrate this phenomenon. nonetheless allows us to assign new semiotic marks to them" (S 67) through a "rule-governed creativity" (68). Eco cites the development of new tropes. What this means. For." Ultimately. through "rule-changing creativity. actually furnishes the metonymic chains that justify it." he begins. codes allow us to enunciate events that the code did not anticipate as well as metasemiotic judgments that call into question the legitimacy of the code itself" (S 67). in the last analysis. the "code" can be effectively conceptualized as a means of control imposition.

or even naturally. this acknowledgement functions as a strategy like the one he uses in his Preface. thus seemingly confirming Eco's argument. Eco doesn't explain this addendum (and. they always remain "oriented" by the encoder/text. Or. "is the idea to which the sign gives rise in the mind of the interpreter (even if the real presence of an interpreter is not required)" (F 183)." While. according to linguistic conventions. but it appears that he is trying to situate the decoder as something supererogatory to the process of semiosis itself. leads the decoder (Eco. But 57 . or modifies.339 from his Collected Papers. "The reader of FW." he hazards an outline of the echoes of "association" of "Neanderthal" that. "controlled by the text.consider Eco's elaborate discussion of the semiosic trail that leads from the common word "Neanderthal" to Joyce's construction: "meandertale". Let's look closely at 1. cites 1." he appears to mean a text consisting of an "associative series" [76] dependent on "the text in front of us" [85]." he asserts. Eco's reading of Peirce on this issue is that "the interpretant. a choice which doesn't make sense). again. in which Peirce writes: "A sign stands for something to the idea which it produces. At this juncture Eco makes his pitch for textual restraint. not as the place of all possibilities. led into a game of associations that were previously suggested to him by the cotext". In effect. from a systemic standpoint." at least in selected passages such as 1. his model hardly avoids the pitfalls of a reductively associative claim that "each term is explained by other terms. while the decoder is at liberty to generate individual combinations of these "possibilities". evidently demonstrates how the word could be said to "appear" in the text. formed by the aggregation (or hierarchy) of semantic features" (176).) The implications he derives from this are that "every text. noting that his diagram "has a purely orientative value." The decoder isn't explictly referred to here. tentative claim. it is a vehicle conveying into the mind something from without. however 'open' it is. while discussing Peirce's commentary on the "ground".339. (While he doesn't elaborate on the concept of the "co-text. an organized and analyzable content." "semiotic expression (be it a verbal item or any type of physical utterance) conveys. causal plane. While Eco points out that "Neanderthal" is literally "not found as such in the text. Eco.338 instead of 1." He acknowledges this. he argues. in the sense that it impoverishes the associations in terms of both number and dimension" (76). "Peirce and the Semiotic Foundations of Openness: Signs as Texts and Texts as Signs" outlines only another version of the semiosic curtailment Eco presented earlier. Because "all the lexemes" he associates with "meandertale" "are only those which are to be found in the text of FW. derive from "Neanderthal". Eco models these linkages on the spatial concept of the web as opposed to a rigidly deterministic linear." So.. while it simultaneoulsly reinforces his declarations about encoder/text authority over the decoder." he accords this evidence the status of decoder regimentation (S 76).339. cites one instance in which the involvement of the decoder (or "interpreter") isn't necessary at all to establish semiosis. in fact. Still. Eco somewhat naively conjectures about the "original components" (S 74) of the word and conceives a semiotic web of associations that. is. though. Eco asserts that sign activity is not materially affected by the impact of the decoder. but rather as the field of oriented possibilities. or discernibly. It appears to make only a provisional. is constituted. Eco notes early on that from the standpoint of "compositional analysis. A Sophisticated Perspective: The Later Chapters As is the case with all of the later chapters. in this case) to it through the attempt to "deduce" its "component words.. It is "there" in the sense that the associative system logically.

"A given culture displays. "The analysis of content becomes. Eco proposes the corroboration . "since these properties cannot be isolated but under the form of the other signs (that is. It addresses somebody." I have cited Eco's repetitive claims excessively here to make a point.of its "internal structure" derived from the "testable critical statements" that confirm its signifying status. situates the interpretant as "mental events." Moreover." he contends.and potential freedom . other signs and their reciprocal correlations.by the decoder. "a cultural operation which works only on physically testable cultural products. Like I. not surprisingly.e." Accordingly. this corroboration is derived from a given interpretant's establishment through its relation to other signs. or perhaps a more developed sign" (2. that is. just as we know that a given portrait interprets the content of the word 'Napoleon' because of the label put on the framework by the author. in the course of a few closing paragraphs of this chapter. Richards' survey of numerous actual readers (as recounted in Practical Criticism). "Once the interpretant is equated with any coded intentional property of the content. much more frequently is inclined to explicitly identify the decoder as a functional agent of semiosis. or representamen. The Role is presented as an empirically informed accounting of systematic decoder practice." Eco maintains (197). Notice the extent to which. is something that stands to somebody for something in some respect or capacity.as Eco uses it here .to suggest a form of corroboration that consequently raises hypotheses about the Model Reader to a higher level of proof beyond that of mere conjecture or the recorded experience of one reader (as in Barthes' S/Z) or as many as five (as in Norman Holland's 5 Readers Reading). that is. this substance of the interpretant is established through a paradigm of consensus derived from habituated sign interaction. in a seemingly desperate fashion of 58 ." It is the same conscious entity that the sign is "conveying into the mind" of." "Testability" has the status of a confirmation apparatus in Eco's configuration of semiosis. A legacy of the scientific method. in fact." This institutionalized group confirmation "frees" the intepretant "from any psychological misunderstanding" (198). other representamens). Eco thus attempts to portray interpretants as "the testable and describable correspondents associated by public agreement to another. This approach saves the interpretant from a fate that would otherwise configure it as "an ungraspable platonic abstraction or an undetectable mental event. Ultimately. it can be employed . then.with such cross-confirmation . He tries to accomplish this by focusing specifically on the materiality of the interpretant (i. Somebody has to be present to generate "the idea which [the sign] produces. he repeatedly resorts to confirmability via a community of decoders in order to. the element of the content becomes something physically testable. accepted correlations between representamens (or expressions). in some definitions.228). its "content") as opposed to Peirce's view which. Eco "retain[s] only a precise aspect" of it that. The specific text. Peirce. but clearly Peirce's passage suggests otherwise.consider the decoder's implied presence. Through the example of an interpretation of a literary text. potential assignment of a given interpretant is wrested from the decoder." instead. as in this famous passage: "A sign. it creates in the mind of that person an equivalent sign. Somewhat ironically. and reproduced as a caption in innumerable books on art history. each becoming in turn the interpretant of the other" (F 197).. A. "is recognized as the interpretant of the statements [about it] by force of concrete and testable correlations. serves his purposes. accepted by the museums. Eco posits the establishment of a storehouse of these mutually validating correlations that serves to socially maintain semiotic consensus. in any of its activities. Eco would have us accept his automaton model under these circumstances to eliminate any active participation . A figurative eviction of the decoder is fully effected at the conclusion of this chapter as Eco "perform[s] a sort of surgical operation" on the many and conflicting definitions of the interpretant offered by Peirce (F 198).

Attached is an appendix which. "Interpreting. the reader is chastised by the story's conclusion for making "a wrong hypothesis without being authorized to do so. Alphonse Allais' Un drame bien parisien. however. Eco contends that the decoder confliction in Drame demonstrates that "every text is made of two components": those "provided" (L 206) by the encoder/text." and Abrams. Allais' story leaves the reader "completely jammed. Throughout his account of the Model Reader's response to Drame. of course. or decoding dissonance. "with various rates of freedom and necessity." "the reader is supposed to think. Eco evidently uses this strategy as a means of shoring up his position on the necessity of viable textual regulation. the reader ostensibly cannot anticipate that the cues from the text are designed to be misleading. (For additional commentary on communal establishment of a decoder's actions in a literary context. "and then punishes him for having overdone it" (256). only imagined. As with some of the reductive assertions about code application discussed in Lecture Three. This story is chosen." Eco maintains." In the case of Allais' story. This assumption is employed to presumably validate Eco's claim about the hoodwinking of the decoder who is led into a specific "kind of reading" which "was more or less the one foreseen by Allais when he prepared his textual trap" (L 206).or rather. Eco uses this example to suggest that the text does have the capacity to control the decoder at least to a certain extent. 59 . While it seems to draw upon "the cooperative principle in narrativity. The "Lector" chapter is a fitting conclusion for The Role in that it not only extensively outlines the purported control of the decoder. because it explicitly embodies the forms of decoder restraint that Eco champions throughout The Role. declare the individual sign user essentially impotent in the face of the majority.the decoder is left chagrined over imagined narrative competence that was.) Duping the Decoder In "Lector in Fabula: Pragmatic Strategy in a Metanarrative Text. in the early as well as the later chapters." it simultaneously ends up "challenging our yearning for cooperation by gracefully punishing our pushiness" (L 256). I want to return to this appendix in a moment. Eco declares. In other words. incorporates violation as one of its rules ." "the reader is obliged. because it encourages specific decoder anticipations which are then frustrated at the end (205). Drame seems particularly well suited for Eco's argument in that it appears to encourage the decoder "to extrapolate from it the rules of the textual discipline it suggests." Eco contends. "It lures its Model Reader into an excess of cooperation." etc. In fact. see Fish. but it also appears to substantiate the claims Eco makes about his own methodology through an accompanying empirical "corroboration"." But. "present[s] the results of an empirical test which validates the above extrapolation" (257). that the reader "has been more than authorized to make such a hypothesis. the text (or any message or sign in general) is granted the ability to restrict the reader's operations through inviolable restrictive apparatuses. He adds. and those imported by the reader. that Allais is attempting to dramatize. As such." and this is the very contradiction." "the readership here is summoned. but first will pause to outline his reiterative positioning of the Model Reader's significantly curtailed practices." Eco projects the decoding responses of a "Model Reader" to a challenging "metatext" (256)." Indeed. Eco consistently frames these responses in the imperative: "the reader must. since it violates those rules at the same time .reiterated protestation. or the status quo. indeed." he argues. Like the red herring. "the text postulates the presumptuous reader as one of its constitutive elements.

when faced with an alien semiotic system. what else does the decoder have to go on? Perhaps the main conclusion to be drawn from Eco's commentary on the Model 60 . "perplexity. this "experiment. As long as there is a respectful "cooperation implemented by the reader." "awareness of a tricking textual strategy. gradually piecing together an increasingly "intelligible" grasp of the sign under construction. all this proves is what Eco claims about the process of "undercoding" described in Lecture Three. In the second phase. is under no such obligation.). Clearly. then obviously the decoder is placed in a position of lesser power. Yet. I'd like to return to Eco's attempts to establish a form of "scientific" status for his claims in this chapter through his appendix in which he recounts a "more empirical approach" to his speculation on the decoding responses of his proposed Model Reader (L 261). he asked students at two Italian universities to summarize the first five chapters of Drame. uncooperative decoder. This by no means confirms his contention that the decoder has to participate in the directives dictated by the encoder/text. How does he come to this conclusion? Most of the students went along with the story. this is emphasized through the encouragement of decoder second-guessing that will be frustrated. And. That is. The decoder can thus anticipate that the ending could not have been anticipated. if the decoder is at a loss to anticipate the ending. a similar group of students "trained in semiotics" (L 262) was asked more specifically about their attempts to sort out the confusion that results at the end of Drame (e. The disrespectful." he suggests. the decoder is indeed at the mercy of the encoder/text. Unfortunately. In any event.power lies in the decoder's subsequent re-articulation of the text/message in the course of the decoding process. following the narrative up to the point where it becomes illogical and then applying whatever decoding competence seemed warranted or useful to them as additional information was provided. he reports. this is one of the components of the later chapters that Eco proclaims as evidence of the semiotic maturity that distinguishes them from the earlier ones." etc. Presumably. But. on the other hand. to a very real extent. at the conclusion.or perhaps even greater .g. Eco's claim is compelling regarding this illustration because. In the Drame.. "Our subjects proved that even a cultivated reader gives at first reading a typically naive response" (262). there's no reason to believe that actual decoders are prevented from operating either way at the same time. The summaries were guided by questions designed to elicit whether these actual readers responded the way Eco proposed that they would (e." as Eco contends. Or. the unanticipated ending is at least recognizable as unanticipatible.information is provided that appears to direct the decoder in one direction. while reading a work by an author famous for using trick endings. After all. Moreover. and then the final two which subvert the expectations supposedly engendered in the earlier chapters." In the first phase of the experiment. Eco's point here is that the reader can intrude on the text only to a decidedly limited degree.. "supports the hypotheses made previously at a purely theoretical level and thus proves that it is possible to rely upon the notion of Model Reader as a textual construct. For example. Common social interaction experience demonstrates that an equal . "Is the solution of chapter 6 in any way anticipated by some subjects before they read it?"). Eco's conclusions drawn from the student reactions are puzzling and vague.g. this hardly implies that the decoder could not have created other decoding possibilities. the decoder will utilize experience and inference. the decoder realizes that something else has taken place. and certainly no such control. the decoder could anticipate wildly unanticipatible endings that would run contrary to the logic of the narrative.

even "material" status that the notion of textual structure presupposes. These "lesser" readings are the result of "aberrant presuppositions and deviating circumstances. As he recounts the response in the mid-1960s to "The Poetics of the Open Work. "does not mean to pollute the structural analysis with extratextual elements. he adds. He suggests. "the reader as an active principle of interpretation is a part of the picture of the generative process of the text. a hardly tenable yearning which does at least provide a useful restraining order for those who believe in it. despite the later composition of this chapter. Even in the case of the "open" text. once more even in this latest version. supposedly able to deal interpretatively with the expressions in the same way as the author deals generatively with them. Eco proposes the addressee as an encoded function.Reader and the control established by Drame is that a text can make suggestions that the decoder can choose to follow or ignore. "To postulate the cooperation of the reader. Finally. Significantly.. the reader's "cooperation" with the encoder/text is mentioned at least 17 times (including thrice in one paragraph) in the course of the chapter. but decided. its author has to rely upon a series of codes that assign given contents to the expressions he uses" (I 7). for instance." Eco offers reassurance that his sense of "openness" is not an endorsement of semiotic anarchy. in the case of verbal texts) has not been envisaged at the moment of its generation qua text. it is absolutely impossible to speak apropros of the anaphorical role of an expression without invoking. in terms of percentages. on a paradigm of loose. an agency delimited by the two-prong contingency of the encoder/text relation." Moreover. "the author has. the "Introduction. is no longer a human agent. appears to disregard (or perhaps overrule) the dissonance of the minority idiosyncratic decodings. disquietly jeopardizing the notion of a semiotic texture to be analyzed in itself and for the sake of itself" (I 3). he does so in a manner that homogenizes them into a group which." he concludes." The entire textual model of semiosis Eco proposes is based.) Eco's project allows that in order to imagine control over the reader. overall). regimentation. he argues. and so on. "Literature". Eco's concept of the Model Reader also derives from this belief. however . (See Iser." After all." the chapter written at the latest date and therefore presumably the one most reflective of the new and improved semiotics Eco touts in his Preface. Unfortunately. "an 'open' text cannot be described as a communicative strategy if the role of its addressee (the reader. "Now." he argues.. The reader (or decoder. Those who may propose the decoder's impotence are chided by Eco for not allowing a bare minimum of its necessity. Fish. but rather. Through this contention. Implied Readers. This is exactly what he turns the reader into. in keeping with similar proposals by reader-response critics for Ideal Readers. when Eco finally consults actual reader accounts.. This extends the "shared" code assumption discussed in Lecture Three. that "to organize a text. if not a precise and empirical reader. the encoder has calculated a "foreseen interpretation [as] a part of its generative process. in this scenario. In the very first sentence. it arguably demonstrates no significant "maturation" beyond the earlier entries in terms of the decoder's range of influence over semiosis." Such a proviso is 61 . at least the 'addressee' as an abstract and constitutive element in the process of actualization of a text. For instance. Mock Readers.a textual function that has the same ontologically fixed. to foresee a model of the possible reader. as opposed to an active co-participant in semiosis." he notes: "in a structuralistically oriented milieu. the idea of taking into account the role of the addressee looked like a disturbing intrusion. Eco announces that he will be discussing texts "that can not only be freely interpreted but also cooperatively generated by the addressee" (3)." he allows (I 4). which generate "mere states of indeterminacy" instead of regulated openness (5-7). and Gibson for related commentary on different reader positions..

Eco certainly is using the word "free" in an unusual sense in the numerous passages cited here. What Eco does explain. Eco suggests. the Model Reader he depicts here). "you cannot use the text as you want. although this strategy demonstrates his endeavor to reduce the decoder's seemingly undeniable autonomy through a form of coercive alliance with communal. Rather than constructing an obeisant Model Reader." he declares. Such texts are "immoderately 'open' to every possible interpretation. he claims. in this instance. is that "this cannot happen" to "open" texts." How this situation is a "closed" form of semiosis is never fully explored in The Role. however. a text is frequently interpreted against the background of codes different from those intended by the author" (I 8).. cannot afford whatever interpretation. Eco essentially posits two kinds of this "freedom": "the free interpretative choices elicited by a purposeful strategy of openness" versus "the freedom taken by a reader with a text assumed as a mere stimulus" (40). and vice versa." he asserts. Through this allowance.) This failure to match codes can come about in particular." he adds. Eco acknowledges that "in the process of communication.absolutely essential for the assumptions Eco develops throughout The Role as he establishes a prerequisite of "competence" for the reader to successfully produce one or more of the "correct" versions of the open work. when authors don't inscribe their readers into their texts. A sentiment of this nature appears in Eco's formulation of the decoder's rights: "The reader finds his freedom (i) in deciding how to activate one or another of the textual levels and (ii) in choosing which codes to apply" (39)." he maintains (24). the reader is viewed as a decoder "programmed" to respond to a text in specified ways (21). the open text "produc[es] all the paths of its 'good' reading" (I 10) while offering "the widest possible range of interpretative proposals" (33). in part because it's not explained clearly in The Role. This is because. "Even the more 'open' among experimental texts direct their own free interpretation and preestablish the movement of their Model Reader. when "an open text outlines a 'closed' project of its Model Reader as a component of its structural strategy. (Let's set aside the immensely problematic issue of "intention" here for the sake of continuing to address the immediate discussion at hand. "An open text." he argues. consensual limitation authorized by the encoder/text." Accordingly." To the contrary. however 'open' it can be. "They work at their peak revolutions per minute. he suggests. It should be clear by now which one of these liberties Eco prefers. But it seems to suggest a promiscuous openness compared with the controlled semiosic flow that the open text authorizes (as discussed above). they leave their texts vulnerable to what Eco calls an "actual reader. Eco argues (I 9). writers of "closed" texts inevitably fail. By trying to lead the "reader along a predetermined path" and "carefully displaying their effects" at calculated moments." "They can be read in various ways. "only when each interpretation is reechoed by the others. This is precisely the dilemma that Eco is attempting to avoid by positing a specific type of "average'" reader (i." "Nobody can say what happens when the actual reader is different from the 'average' reader. but only as the text wants you to use it. texts that "seem to be structured according to an inflexible project" neglect to account for the one element that cannot be "'inflexibly' planned": the reader. While the issue of "open" texts will be explored further in Lecture Six ("Finite Infinite Semiosis")." This is accomplished. Eco constructs a certain kind of decoder whose actions can be 62 . The Too-Open Work The "closed" text hasn't been addressed here yet.e. I'll focus briefly here on the way that the decoder's actions are circumscribed by this assumption on Eco's part. "each way being independent from the others.

(Elsewhere in this chapter he calls this considerate individual "the sensitive reader" [26] who agrees that the sender possesses "the rights of his own text" [34].perhaps celebrates ." (Rocco Capozzi reflects on Eco's recent work: "some see Eco betraying his original spirit of 'openness' presented in The Open Work" [221]." on the contrary. This disrespectful decoder will "read a given text in the light of 'aberrant' codes." the decoder "never wants to completely betray the author's intentions. in an act of fidelity to the author and to the historical environment in which the messge was emitted" (276). presumably." Eco argues.described and even predicted.) On the surface. In A Theory of Semiotics.. the behavior of a reader of one's own construction is another matter.) The "text itself" contains the profile of its "good" reader. though. The problem with this consideration lies in the tentativity Volosinov expresses: what exactly constitutes possession "in part"? Eco. "What does being the speaker mean?. Eco argues that "a work of art is never 63 . "the text is nothing else but the semantic-pragmatic production of its own Model Reader" (10). the border zone between himself and his addressee . They are stripped of whatever authority and restraint they are otherwise granted in Eco's closed sense of "openness". Unlike Volosinov. Eco asserts that when interacting with a text and conjecturing between assessing authorial intention and exploring "new interpretive possibilities upon the text the author has set out before him. Volosinov raises this issue in a manner that is less vexed. "closed". paradoxically. unable to tolerate ambiguity like this. he asserts that the actual reader's behavior cannot be predicted. "because the pragmatic process of interpretation is not an empirical accident independent of the text qua text.still." Eco suggests. (Remember. Eco asserts. but are elicited by discursive structures and foreseen by the whole textual strategy as indispensable components of the fabula" (I 32). The encoder/text lose all semblance of enforcement over the decoder when this kind of decoding is tolerated. or what Eco refers to as "inferential walks" away from the text. "Servants of Semiosis" Eco is frequently cited as arguing for unfettered sign interaction by the decoder back in The Open Work. A "reliable reading" (82). in contrast." He accepts ." Instead. is based on "reasonable" (85) association choices that are consonant with a consensual agreement. Failing this control (as it finds "recognizable" [S 80] status through confirmation by a semiotic community). Even when the Model Reader is obliged to engage in far-ranging interpretation. attempts to take possession of this vagueness and turn it into something systemically concrete. constant respect for the text is to be maintained in his conception of a semiotic universe firmly controlled by the encoder/text. Eco returns repeatedly to "possession" of the sign by the encoder. as is reflected in the chapter on "Analysis of Poetic Language.that "the addressee seeks to draw excitement from the ambiguity of the message and to fill out an ambiguous text with suitable codes. These "walks. it does in part belong to him" (86).. "are not mere whimsical intiatives on the part of the reader. constituting. "Even if a word is not entirely his. the respectful decoder establishes "a dialectic between fidelity and inventive freedom. but is a structural element of its generative process" (I 9)." Nonetheless." he asks.) Because "the reader is strictly defined by the lexical and the syntactical organization of the text. as it were." he says. which is why he characterizes unrestricted "open" decoding as. referring to codes that are "different from the ones envisaged by the sender" (22). is "unable to do the job he has. An "unsuitable reader. the decoder is at liberty to produce signs entirely at random. been postulated to do" (9). this appears valid. he ultimately holds that the decoder is "induced by contextual relationships to see the message exactly as it was intended.

but "support" is not at issue. that "any act of freedom on the part of the reader can come after. And accepted first. Eco can only make this claim because he's referring to the decoder's activities in a markedly restricted "open" manner. the wholly open text serves as a form of "support". can be interpreted in one. Intention.really 'closed. Presumably. "the object. Evidently. The title says it all. he had "advocated the active role of the interpreter in the reading of texts endowed with aesthetic value" (6). though. He asserts his authority as the encoder involved. he proposes a compromise model of semiotic orientation between the view that "every text. Eco goes to the extreme of relying on the concept of a restraining "literal meaning" and argues that "no readeroriented theory can avoid such a constraint" (5). isn't worth bringing up either. original.. But he had already expressed his yearning for decoder containment in that early work. Mercury. Approximately 20 years later. This is not much of a compromise. Eco contends. final authorized meaning" (3). he continues. Faced with how to account for the difference between the message and the number of figs. binds" the decoder and the text (24).' because even the most definitive exterior always encloses an infinity of possible 'readings'" (Open 24)." and that of those "who assume that a text supports every interpretation" (3). In other words. the acceptance of that constraint" (6). Eco addresses the Model Reader of his own study. and like his address to the Model Reader in the opening of Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language. As these entities relate to each other. "bound" within such a relationship. though. consisting of stimuli organized according to a precise aesthetic intention. Wilkins told of an "Indian Slave" who was sent by his "Master" carrying a basket of figs and a note to an addressee about them. way. as when he argued that "openness manifests itself structurally" and a "cognitive relationship. The Secret and Swift Messenger (1641). maybe.. my readers focused mainly on the "open" side of the whole business. indeed. he endeavors to control the reception of that earlier work: When those pages were written. Nobody would argue that in the latter example. not before. The decoder is. In this example. Something that initiates in some way a semiosic response. that "any interpretation can be both implemented and legitimated . This stable ground is constituted as "a recorded thesaurus of encyclopedic competence" (Semiotics 3). "the interpreter" is not "entitled to say that the message can mean everything" (5) but instead is limited to its "definite. Even by the mid-1980s Eco was still operating on the same depiction of the decoder's province that he had touted at the beginning of his career. Such a "social storage of world knowledge" is the "only" way.. an accompanying assumption of restrainable "decodification" (Elam) has to be accepted.even in the the case of the most 'open' instances" (3). Half-a-dozen years later: The Limits of Interpretation. I was studying the dialectics between the 64 . underestimating the fact that the open-ended reading I supported was an activity elicited by (and aimed at interpreting) a work. generates and directs various kinds of openness" (39). Eco establishes his position on decoder regimentation at the beginning through an anecdote from a text by John Wilkins. Eco mentions the recent (1989) appearance of the English version of Opera aperta (a somewhat different version of what appeared as The Open Work) and notes that there. In The Limits. or. There. and only one. Eco has progressed beyond this position in later works by reconsidering the need for limitations imposed on the decoder. he asserts the potential dilemma for the addressee who read that message and found a conflict in the reported number of figs versus the actual number that arrived (the slave ate some of the figs on the way). what Eco is doing is returning over and over to the notion that if the decoder is going to be analyzed systemically. again. He allows.. on the first page of Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language. according to the intention of its author.

and if they are to verbalize that informed 65 . Eco tries to cast the decoder's function as a static. "There are certain rules of the game. mechanical substitution. "and the Model Reader is someone eager to play such a game" (61). instead. this tension." Interpretation and Overinterpretation? More than thirty years after "The Poetics of the Open Work" Eco continues to declare that his current work is. as the many illustrations cited here attest. or eliminating.." It even "can foresee a model reader entitled to try infinite conjectures" (64).. This tension surfaces throughout Eco's writings on the decoder. This desire leads to a perspective on semiosis that seems to have jettisoned many arguably integral components in an effort to produce a seamlessly homogeneous system. I have the impression that. but if they are to speak to the work and the experience it informs. Longoni adds that "considerations on the relationship between reader and text convince Eco that it is necessary to deny an excessive interpretative freedom. epicurean version of the more hedonistic pleasure of the text. (126) Victorino Tejera reiterates this position by offering a responsive consideration of the semiosic process that manages to retain some of the cautions that Eco voices: Interpreters are free to do or say whatever they like. As a means of reducing. of semioticity. in "An Author and His Interpreters. in part." Eco maneuvers to characterize the adherence to this restriction as a refined. Accordingly. in the same way that one can propose the intention of the encoder or the decoder. cannot be interpreted by simply referring to a fixed and pre-established code. let us first rank with the slave" (7). in the course of the last few decades. signs at high levels of signness. mechanical undertaking. While remarking upon the title of Eco's study on James Joyce. "As a signification system. " (65)." he says.rights of texts and the rights of their interpreters. "a text is a device conceived in order to produce its model reader. The Aesthetics of Chaosmos. (6) Elsewhere." "we have to respect the text. Returning to the opening example of the slave and the figs. He implores decoders to respect the encoder/text by not attempting to make more of a message than it condones. he declares. They. rather than about other things. the rights of the interpreters have been overstressed. After all. Petrilli refers to this view as a "semiotics of equal exchange" and contends that a more subtle accounting is needed: meaning is not simply a message that has been expressed intentionally by the sender according to a precise communicative will. Eco appallingly suggests that in "a world dominated by "Übermensch-Readers.. through mere decoding processes. his attempt "to reassert the rights of the text" (84).. as the text itself sets some limits" (214). "Eco's semiotics views interpretation as an interplay between the addressee and the work as an objective fact. David Seed notes that "This title strikes just the right note of tension between order and disorder which is implicit in Eco's notion of the open work" (81)." Dolezel notes. In the present essays I stress the limits of the act of interpretation. While arguing the case for "the intention of the reader" versus "the intention of the text. he concludes. should be happy to serve as "the respectfully free Servants of Semiosis. there can be "an intention of the text" (25) A number of related commentators on the issues raised above may provide some helpful suggestions for how a critical semiotics might proceed beyond Eco's considerable uneasiness regarding the decoder. and consequently the work of the interpretant sign is not limited to the very basic operations of identification. the text restricts the range of its possible interpretations" (115). or mere recognition of the interpreted sign.

Encoding. as the one-time possessor of the sign. the classroom. as social constructs. and the whole reading situation as well" (14). "is determined equally by whose word it is and for whom it is meant." "Word". as he refers to it. whereby. however. addresser and addressee" (86). the interpretants determined by the work-asthe-literary-sign that it is. Decoding. "the 'free' reader is simply at the mercy of the cultural codes that constitute each person as a reader. the best evidence we have for this universal is that it manifests itself in the endless instability of reading. It's just as easy to see.he is intransitive. serious: instead of functioning himself. a source alters a message from one representation to another" (465). stand as "divided psyches traversed by codes" and. he is left with no more than the poor freedom either to accept or reject the text: reading is nothing more than a referendum. instead of gaining access to the magic of the signifier. This can be extended to Michael Riffaterre's observations about the temporal effects on reading qua re-reading. Those who perceive the decoder as necessarily positioned right in the middle of the freedom/closure scale articulate a related standpoint. he contends. it's difficult to accept the assignment of a fate that places the decoder significantly at the mercy of the encoder/text. would want to retain a vestige of control over it." Nevertheless. why the decoder would want to take a turn with it as well. between its author and its reader. a destination alters an incoming message from one representation to another. in short. cannot escape the orbit of the text" (184). semiosis in this way "is precisely the product of the reciprocal relationship between speaker and listener. he is. 66 . Robert Scholes contends that readers. this "does not threaten the text's monumentality. it is easy to see why the encoder. and of the manipulative features of the text." he adds. "Within the text's closure. This reader is thereby plunged into a kind of idleness . Barthes begins S/Z by addressing this issue: Our literature is characterized by the pitiless divorce which the literary institution maintains between the producer of the text and its user. In a pair of distinctly clinical descriptions. including their aesthetic responses. remaining circular. or according to. they must speak out of. to contrary. whereby. When readers assent to a proposed interpretation it is because they share interpretants with its propounder: their responses." Perhaps this accounts for much of the discomfort that semioticians such as Eco reveal in their attempts to reduce the impact of the decoder's "transformations" of this nature. as a result. "leaving the reader 'free' to interpret is an impossibility" (14). will be differential and not quite verbalized in the same way. (4) Within this limitation. by operating of code rules. if not their creativity. given the seemingly undeniable inclination of human sign users to assert their own autonomy. between its owner and its customer. by operation of code rules. but one that. is conceived as "a transformation. (150) A related model of semiosis is articulated by Volosinov who also views sign exchange as "a twosided act. Thomas Sebeok may point to one of the more persuasive articulations of this "balanced" account of the impact of both the encoder and the decoder." Accordingly." he argues. In effect. "In fact. to the pleasure of writing. But. These interpretants arise in the interaction or transaction between the reader's literary competence and the (complex) design of the (composed) work. there is an "instability of closure" created by a "repeated inability to stop and be content with a reductive reading. even while it's disseminating in semiosis. entails "transformation.experience.

1974). A." Reader-Response Criticism. 121. The Camp at Wallaby Cross: Aboriginal Fringe Dwellers in Darwin (Caberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies. 210-216." Reading Eco. Ladislav Matejka and I.000 Years into the Future. "Pandora's Box: How and Why to Communicate 10. ---. 1-13. 1975). "Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language. V. Anna Cancogni (Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Lubomir. Ed. 1980). 1988). "An Author and His Interpreters"." Critical Inquiry 2. Scholes. 1980). Seed. Trans." Reader-Response Criticism. "Authors. Collected Papers. Dolezel. Walker. H. Volosinov. "The Reading Process: A Phenomenological Approach. Ed. Stanley. 1973). Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss (Cambridge: Harvard University Press." Reading Eco. ---. The Open Work. 1976). 1978). 1984). Tejera. Basil.. Eco. 70-100. Capozzi. N. Peirce and the Necessity of Interpretation. Scott. Speakers. Thomas. The Limits of Interpretation (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 111-120. 173-184." Reader-Response Criticism: From Formalism to PostStructuralism. "'The Infinite Game': Cortàzar's Hopscotch. S/Z: An Essay. Norman.1 (Spring. Michael. Inc. 59-70. 217-234. Gibson. Social Semiotics (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Margherita Bogat and Allen Mandelbaum (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 1992). 164-184. "The Themata of Eco's Semiotics of Literature. ---. 1982). I. Corti. Peirce. M. "Literature in the Reader: Effective Stylistics. Culler. Umberto. "Rationality and Imagination in Cultural History: A Reply to Wayne Booth. Robert and Gunther Kress. Hodge. Richards." Reading Eco.3 (Spring 1976): 447-464. ed. 1968) Riffaterre. and Implied Authors. Wolfgang. Trans. 1997). 73-81. ---. Maria.References Abrams. 1989). Simpkins." On Signs. "Esoteric Conspiracies and the Interpretative Strategy. 1990). R. Semiotics and Interpretation (New Haven: Yale University Press. and Mock Readers. "Eco. Elam. ---. 23. Samson. Richard Miller (New York: Hill and Wang. Readers. Readers. Holland." The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association. Petrilli. Keir. Marxism and the Philosophy of Language. Ed. 50-69. Reading Eco. "The Interpretant in Literary Semiotics. Titunik (Cambridge: Harvard University Press." Reading Eco. Interpretation and Overinterpretation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1931). "Interpreting the Variorum. Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ---. Barthes. Brace & World. "Literary Competence. 1980). Sebeok. 1990): 61-74. Rocco Capozzi (Indiana: University of Indiana Press. Charles Sanders. Fish. Victorino. Iser.136. Trans. An Introduction to Literary Semiotics. Longoni." Reader-Response Criticism. Trans.466. Susan." Reading Eco. 1-6. Marshall Blonsky (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Rocco. 67 . Roland. A Theory of Semiotics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Jonathan. "Towards Interpretation Semiotics." in Reading Eco. "The Open Work in Theory and Practice. Anna. David." Reading Eco: An Anthology. ---. vol. 147-162. The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama (London: Metheun.s I-VI. Robert. 1985): 448." Reader-Response Criticism. 5 Readers Reading (New Haven: Yale University Press. "Interpretation and Overinterpretation: The Rights of Texts. Jane Tompkins (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press." Reading Eco. Practical Criticism: A Study of Literary Judgment (New York: Harcourt.

But. Therefore." Modern Criticism and Theory: 172-295 and "From Work to Text. This is consistent with the discussion of semiotics. Ed. 68 . 1990). For. R. David Lodge (London: Longman. R. Kress observes that "For Firth a system is an enumerated set of choices in a specific context" (xiii).Lecture Five: The limits of "system" and the authority of the encoder. Without the grounding backdrop of systemic order. what constitutes the systemic? Or system? Or systemicity? G. give those signs a field delimited by a constraining logic of some kind. which frequently posits the notion of a "system" of signs. Modern Criticism and Theory. Michel Foucault. "What is an Author?". Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang. Trans. 'What is systemic?'" J. we may study his speech and ask the question. it seems impossible to imagine signs functioning at all. Roland Barthes. "Textual Analysis: Poe's 'Valdemar'. 1988): 197-210. 1977):155-164. and a system is born. indeed.The Limits of Interpretation (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Overview: Restraining Orders The System of Systemics Systemizing the Encoder The Death of the Encoder Systemizing the Decoder Structure or System? System or Process? Greimas on Maupassant Barthes on Poe Eco on Hartman on Wordsworth The Politics of Systemics Up From Systemics: Semiosystemics "We may assume that any social person speaking in his own personality will behave systematically. Assigned Readings: Umberto Eco. Firth ("Personality" 187) Restraining Orders I'd like to pursue Firth's question. since experienced language is universally systemic." Image-Music-Text.

"the location. the decoder who fails to cooperate is no longer acting within the confines of the system.. After all. in order to define the point of origin of a system network" ("Deep" 97).be its assignment to a place in the systemic network. Halliday says: "A system is a set of options with an entry condition. it proscribes the activity of participants who may endeavor to exceed its "limits" which cannot be transgressed if the agent is to operate within the system. or a force.K." The system. depends on the potentiality of contrast in the stated environment" (97) "Environment" is a crucial component of systemics for both Firth and Halliday. and in this way act powerfully. in the other sense. "A putative feature which could not be shown to contrast independently with one or more others at some point would not be a distinct feature" ("Deep" 96). but they are nevertheless limited to playing out their unique sequence according to the constraints of the game's system." moreover.) In other words.the system and a cooperative encoder . the decoder cannot fulfill his function in relation to the system and the encoder if he does not cooperate with the constraints they presuppose (in the case of the system) or adhere to (in the case of the encoder). the system establishes and enforces agent integration. They can encode a significant move. together with a statement of the conditions under which the choice is available" ["Brief" 3].) Leaving a system could be said to constitute a corresponding "condition of exit.. merely positing it 69 . "the crucial factor in the designation of any feature as present in the grammar would. As soon as she makes a move that chess does not allow.This system also needs an agent to operate it. which system is located in hierarchical and simultaneous relation to other systems" (96-97).a set of things of which one must be chosen.to specify the syntagmatic environment. Halliday asserts that "it is necessary.in this case . once "recognized".. This is not to say that the agent cannot act independently of the system. in this sense. possesses the capacity to control an underlying semiosis.. It is to say. Like the aberrant encoder whose "move" violates the system." for example. Add the decoder to this model. (Take note of this phenomenon later in the discussion on Barthes's analysis of the word "extraordinary" from an Edgar Allan Poe short story. The chess analogy is further illuminating in this respect because the players are able to play a "unique" game in a sense. but "making a move" in the course of pushing a chess piece on the board entails engaging chess's system. (The traffic cop who enforces the speed limit." Halliday observes. Erving Goffman distinguishes between two kinds of "guided doing" along these lines (22). It possesses "limits" in two senses. is "'polysystemic': the recognition of a system. A figure granted a directive status: a god. Systemicists talk about "condition of entry" that signals one's participation in a system. In the case of language. and the assignment of a feature to it. As long as she moves chess pieces in keeping with the system of chess. for example. Following the pioneering work by Firth and others. yet again the system curtails their agency to a significant extent. something else is taking place. both prescriptive and proscriptive. that when the agent does so she is no longer operating according to the system. systemicists have substantially theorized the system and what constitutes adhering to its "limits". she could be playing the game as specified by that system. In one sense. and even more regulation is assumed. this figure's actions are constrained by the system itself.and a regulated field results. Moving a chess piece on the board is simply a physical gesture. While origin is a problematic notion. or . though. From this standpoint. Still.A. who consider it as a means of identifying a contextual sense of "situation".. becomes "a term in a system. (The "speed limit. This can be extended to account for "each feature" which.. Combine these two elements .an encoder. (M.) To Halliday. the system prescribes a fixed perimeter within which signification takes place under the dictates of certain specific controls which "limit" behavior (of the encoders and decoders) in accordance with itself.) And.

at the same time. he contends. So much so. in fact. enforcing a margin of error. as to have no systemic perimeters whatsoever. he claims. The book is described on its back cover as 70 . so to speak. He views semiosis. like each structure. all clauses) and allows further specification of the environment to be in terms of features" (97). open only to the indefinite.. This ground operates as a means of. it is clear when he opines that "It is possible to hypothesize that for every text there is a system which organizes the possible inferences of that text. that is. While this can be seen in numerous examples. would be assigned to a given rank as its most generalized functional environment. A.as a provisional starting point is extremely important for systemics. Halliday adds.g. as constrained "according to a certain ground" which is not unlike the notion of "environment" (28). imposing a type of "open" limitation which enables Eco to posit the relative autonomy of the sign user while. "One way of defining a point of origin for a system network. The "system" obviously offers a great deal of potential organizational framing. "Rank" functions importantly as the "initial identification and labelling of certain stages in a constituent hierarchy in. Literary symbols. While usually described as framing entities consisting of highly developed organizational components. for Eco. underlying this statement is the text-system that makes textualization possible to begin with. systems can obviously vary a greatly in nature and degree of complexity and order. it "makes possible the assignment of a system to a place determined solely by constitutent status (e." This designation also helps to establish distinctions between multisystemic relations. textually. He maintains that "texts are the human way to reduce the world to a manageable format. can contribute to a better understanding of what he calls elsewhere "the semiotic grammar system" ("Interaction" 62). or "infinite". In this conception. "but syntagmatically. The System of Systemics By identifying "the system of systems" (Structural 119)." he observes. Halliday proposes identifying levels as a means of further refining this systemic model. nevertheless displays implicit alliances with them. as someone like Umberto Eco demonstrates. Greimas highlights an often overlooked component of systemics. An overview of representative position statements regarding it may help to identify some of the salient elements that constitute its system. who is not usually identified among systemicists. but by no means infinite." As a consequence. Systemic methodologies have shared close alliances with the discussion of semiotics. are "paradigmatically open to infinite meanings" in this respect.. J. This description. Once a beginning place is designated. that Robin Fawcett and others have come to refer to it as "systemic semiotics" or "systemiotics" (xviii). additional elaboration can be erected around it. Eco. interpretations allowed by the context" (21). the "system" provides him with an ideal conceptual grid. Because Eco spends so much time discussing systemic limitations in his collection of essays published in English as Two Modelsof Interpretation. "each system. again. and this system can be represented in an encyclopedic format" (Limits 260). would involve "a rank-type constituent structure" (98). I will draw upon it extensively here to illustrate a systemic approach to literary semiotics. Since he often promotes a conservative semiotics based on sign restraint. by extension. Of course. but not so wide.general terms. Indefinition. for example. Greimas also provides one of the more flexible depictions of systems as merely "ensembles of signification" (118) that can be described through a process he depicts as "systematics" (119). evidently means a wide array of valencies. open to an intersubjective interpretive discourse" (Limits 21).

someone who goes outside the system is merely "using" the text (in the negative sense of "use" as in bad-faith manipulation). to use systemics to establish a regimen of literary semiotics that is empowered by order and voluntary subservience to it by the decoder . Martin's work: "As a text unfolds from a generic element to another. This perspective is not unlike Eija Ventola's explanation of systemics derived from James R. 71 . the language allows for a choice among a small fixed set of possibilities. which is a set of options together with a condition of entry" (6). In these four essays ("Two Models of a priori. This can also apply to the nature of options available as "range of choice. This claim is made. (This would be akin to Noam Chomsky's concept of "complex rule systems" [5]." "Intentio Lectoris : The State of the Art..formalizes the notion of choice in language. This latter endeavor is characteristic of many of the potential abuses of systemics. Halliday positions the concept of choice as constituent of systemicity: "Whenever we can show that. so therefore what a decoder can do with it seems to be the only defendable position to adopt regarding decoding practices.) Eco feels otherwise. Eco's version of this is "conventional rules" that as sign users we "share" (Limits 2). in part.. "To critically interpret a text means to read it in order to discover. Eco argues that through a systemic analysis of a literary text." The remaining essays "apply" this theory and highlight his emphasis throughout on the need for the decoder to exercise "interpretive prudence" (162).. In keeping with this lecture's exploration of the implications of systemics." he suggests." and "Small Worlds") Eco once again consistently establishes a regimental operation for semiotics. This positioning is realized through the contention that these two kinds of agents can only make choices while operating within the confines of the system. at a given place in structure. systemics relies on a mechanism that requires both decoder and encoder subordination. however." which Halliday describes as "the number of terms in a system. as the examples cited in this lecture demonstrate. is "in" the system when "interpreting" a text according to the system's rules. "To use a text means to start from it in order to get something else.) Halliday's stress is on the options available to the language user. No inside/outside distinction. it is possible to discern "the way it works"(Limits 57). even accepting the risk of misinterpreting it from the semantic point of view". in other words. From this viewpoint. To recall the earlier discussion of this point.and even the encoder. no system. something about its nature. I would like to treat Eco's application of his "theory" as synonymous with the employment of a "system". This formula of inclusion/exclusion is a central component of some systemics since the notion of system necessitates establishing its boundaries in order for it to acquire the status of system to begin with. we have a system" (Linguistic 30). within Eco's dynamic of condition of entry. 'Pragmatism'. the number of contrastive possibilities among which a choice is made at a particular place in structure" ("Typology" 180). A decoder. "The underlying notion in the grammar is that of choice. for that matter. which again reveals his inclination toward placing the decoder in a lesser position of power in relation to system. and this is represented through the concept of a system. along with our reactions to it." "Unlimited Semiosis and Drift: Pragmaticism vs. whereas Eco uses this same model component to restrict choice to social agreement at the expense of the individual." Halliday maintains ("Brief" 3). This is dramatized in Eco's discussion of Richard Rorty's commentary on using a text as opposed to merely interpreting it. (Rorty believes that there is no immanent meaning of a literary text.opening with "four theoretical essays dealing with various aspects of interpretive theory. "The system. the FIELD orientations in elements are hypothesized to be realized on the discourse stratum by lexical structures generated by the choices from the LEXICAL COHESION system network" (131). As will be seen.

" There seems to be little potential for exercising individual agency within the collective assimilation into such a system." he says ("Personality" 187). along with it. Louis Hjelmslev identifies a parallel reluctance. he adds. according to a systemic methodology." linguistics "has failed to carry analysis through to the end. in the course of "reject[ing] the idea of system. Hjelmslev observes (again in 1943) that. similar accusations could be made about the sacrifices involved in aligning oneself with what Firth called "systematology" ("Use" 34). this relational schema is central to contemporary semiotics as it is based on the presumption of systemic intelligibility.but not a closed totality. "is that he wanted to emphasize how each linguistic unit is meaningful only in relation to the other units making up its system" (19). to make its premisses clear. and placing them in universal descriptive phonetic pigeon-holes with a specially appropriate letter attached to them. metaphysical and aestheticizing. and handle them systematically by stating them by the spectrum of linguistic techniques.] the individual physiognomy is a totality which it is incumbent on the linguist to know through analysis and synthesis . from which alone it is possible to throw light on the individual peculiarity of the physiognomy." 72 . systemics offered a significant explanatory force. "sets up a calculation of all the conceivable possibilities within certain frames" (17) may. For. "One reason Saussure focused on language as a system. as when he observes: "In certain fields a tendency to systematize may be observed. it can just as easily empower the individual sign user in a way that could not be accomplished independently of systemics. In Firth's view." systemicists would not necessarily discover "one closed system. By "apply[ing] systematic categories to the statement of the facts.(126) A reluctance to abandon autonomy for the greater advantage of assuming a role in a system is certainly understandable.Like the charges of antihumanism levelled against structuralists. Instead. or to strive for a uniform principle of analysis. to say nothing of those many occasions when it has entrenched itself in a completely anecdotal form of presentation" (10). in fact. But there are myriad advantages to the ordering capacity of sysemicity that need to be considered. As John Stewart notes." "Distinctions" could accordingly be made to speculate on identifying "a place [for each sound] in the whole phonetic structure or system" (35). is characterized by its "aggregating and integrating constancy. but history and. perhaps. as a result of narrow conception of systemics. "The phonetic analysis of a language does not consist in merely 'collecting' the sounds. This structure. and it has therefore remained vague and subjective. they can "separate from the mush of general goings-on those features of repeated events which appear to be parts of a patterned process. It is a totality with outward cohesions which oblige us to encatalyze other linguistic schemata and usages. and may explain some of the resistance to systemicity." Stewart concludes. the humanities as a whole still [circa 1943] seem to be far from willing to recognize the legitimacy and possibility of any such systematization" (9). who saw the systemic potential behind assessing elements in a system as "terms". Hjelmslev's hypothesis is related to that developed by Firth. succeed in producing a "general calculus" of a language system (18). Hjelmslev's description of systemic implications reveals this when he depicts system as "an organized totality with linguistic structure as the dominating principle" (8). Hjelmslev remarks: The individual act of speech obliges the investigator to encatalyze a system cohesive with it[. "The linguistic theoretician" who. it identifies them as terms which he describes as "integral parts of the whole phonological system of the given language. On the obligation to pursue an enlightened systemicity. Yet the costs of this paradigm acceptance come." he asserts ("Use" 34). But. and it is a totality with inward cohesions with a connotative purport that explains the totality in its unity and in its variety.

"A certain [chess] piece is only a queen if defined by a freedom of movement not available to other pieces." This openness can be said to apply to choice options in this same vein. Using analysis of literary sign systems as an example. Systemizing the Encoder Michel Foucault's "What is an Author?" mirrors Eco's view by stressing economic caution in the engagement of semiosis. but. is to presume the effective agency of what he calls an "author-function" (202). In effect.and more importantly for Foucault . its architecture." "Systemic theory is more like language itself . the author-function 73 . Halliday depicts language as "a 'metastable' system" whose very tenacity results from it being "constantly in flux" ("Systemic" 7).perhaps the primary one for an author .would be consideration of a collective body of literary works.The seeming inclination toward systemic reification is possibly its greatest shortcoming. not as a given. One way to do this. [and] differentiate them from and contrast them to others" (201). "This does not mean that we cannot characterize a particular language.as something we constitute or create through our talk in interaction" (280). its intrinsic form." Foucault contends (200). nor to reconstruct through the text a thought or experience" (198). Systemicity as a whole can be view in this light as "a systemic set of options that function in certain structural positions to indicate a set of meaning potentials. in the case of the present discussion) is a potentially useful facet that has been needlessly neglected. Yet many systemicists acknowledge this tendency and include a conscious tentativity and flexibility to guard against it in their analyses. "but negotiated relative to a particular choice from a set of choices" (280-281)." The author's name not only "permits one to group together a certain number of texts. "but that our characterization of it has to incorporate this feature. "this basic and core principle of systemic views of language does not tie analysis to objects in the world. "But rather. Foucault merely suggests that the author (or sender/encoder/enunciator. The author is potentially significant not only as the initiator of a given message. For. define them. "to analyze the work through its structure." he charges. The system would thus necessarily police its reserve which. and the play of its internal relationships.. but also . are indeed potentially autonomous actions and not just a limited ensemble hermetically separated from the larger universe of signification. John Wilson asserts "systemic choices from within language as an independent system allow us to create our world." Wilson observes." And. or representations in the mind. And it is this descriptive function that enables a potential restraint over the free-floating elements within the overall process of signification by "assuring a classificatory function. then. as if limitless signification would ultimately become unsustainable otherwise. Foucault contends that "it is a very familiar thesis that the task of criticism is not to bring out the work's relationships with the author. but rather to abstract rule formulations that gain/give meaning in their being worked out" (281). Wilson thus considers systemics as analyzing "rule potential. Accordingly. The author thereby helps to impose the "limits" of the system. is finite and cannot afford an immoderate exchange of semiosis." he says. Foucault suggests. One such component of organization ." he notes. these potentials themselves are always open to change. These choices.a system whose stability lies in its variation. however. from this viewpoint. The author serves as a locus for organizing a system. The author's name can therefore serve as "the equivalent of a description.." Instead of actively promoting this position. "meaning is not imposed" in this schema.as a means of curtailing promiscuous decodings of it.

and recomposition of fiction. "is therefore the ideological figure by which one marks the manner in which we fear the proliferation of meaning." he declares. "the author is the principle of thrift in the proliferation of meaning. distortions. Foucault contends. the author can be viewed as "a field of conceptual or theoretical coherence" (204). Hjelmslev also had earlier identified a "principle of economy" that reflects this desire for regulating semiosis (60-1) This can be seen." Structural xliv). Foucault is chastising those who rely on systemic control as he elaborates on the cultural anxieties behind the use of the author-function. in Eco's later observation about the regulative faculty of "rules which allow a contextual disambiguation of the exaggerated fecundity of symbols" (Limits 21). but also their transformations. or at least characterizing." he concludes. but also with one's discourses and their significations. in other words." To Foucault. Suddenly." The author provides a function in this schema "by which one impedes the free circulation. and diverse modifications. the great danger with which fiction threatens our world" (209). "fiction would be put at the disposal of everyone and would develop without passing through something like a necessary or constraining figure." As Ronald Schleifer points out." Along these lines. an amorphous and evidently uncontrollable aspect of semiosis is tamed." he argues (209). at least to a certain degree." Foucault asserts. the author's name "seems always to be present. "The author." along with other potentially relevant components of the overall literary system. The author can thereby be utilized to establish a "principle of a certain unity of writing. the author serves as a surrogate parental function in a given sign system. "to imagine a culture in which the fictive would operate in an absolutely free state. Oddly enough." This could be accomplished by drawing upon the author's "biography. revealing. the author-system. a system. Most important for literary semiotics. this figure supplies "the basis for explaining not only the presence of certain events in a work. the free composition. in this respect." "It would be pure romanticism. Foucault opines. in a given culture. Consideration of the author-function alleviates the threat of "the cancerous and dangerous proliferation of significations" as it "allows a limitation" on semiosis.also "establishes a relationship among the texts. as I will call it." Within the author-function. however. the free manipulation. Foucault reveals several motivations for granting the author-function the status outlined above. it appears that. decomposition. I would argue." Within this chaotic vision. must receive a certain status. the individual who initiates a message can be said to establish and engage a condition of entry with an accompanying invitation to others also inclined toward semiotic sociability. though. is that the systemic author is just that. rendered into a network of structural connections with a rich and somewhat definable nexus of origins at its center. its mode of being. Ultimately. The encoder assumes a similar status as social corroborator within the sign system. To return to issues of systemic economy. the elders. that for Foucault. maintaining semiosis to keep it in check. assumes the status of a knowable quantity. Furthermore. and the revelation of his basic design. the determination of his individual perspective. the analysis of his social position. This prudence is a necessity "within a world where one is thrifty not only with one's resources and riches. For. in Vladimir Propp's narrative typology. too. the most important advantage is that the author-system could "reduce the great peril. it "serves to characterize a certain mode of being of discourse" as "a speech that must be received in a certain mode and that. No longer an unaccountable." It "manifests the appearance of a certain discursive set and indicates the status of this discourse within a society and a culture. "the sender (the king. One is that it could help to construct "a typology of discourse" (208). unknowable entity. marking off the edges of the text." In effect. and others) usually represents the social order" ("Introduction. 74 . or yet another manifestation of what I have been calling "system".

" but it "will have to be determined or. to remain faithful to such an absent intention. (Limits 33) Eco's point here is that the encoder leaves behind residual effects on a text's signifying system." Since this latter consideration is usually unrecoverable. this contention carries even greater attraction. however. but only by something with a comparable restraining order. While Foucault observes that in modern times. resulting in the author-system. or recoverable only in a problematic fashion. for instance. systemics incorporates the encoder to such a powerful extent that it is incapable of exerting anything like genuine autonomy. but still with a system of constraint. the system. that a text cannot incorporate an absolute univocal meaning. the encoder effectively loses the ability to function as an independent agent. he suggests. or the possibility. experienced" instead (210). the system thrives on. Eco opts for the alternative of analyzing the systemic components of the text that reside within its signifying complex. This new. "does not necessarily mean that it has no objective or literal linguistic meaning" (33). (This will be discussed later in relation to Eco's commentary on the "intention of the text. It is thus possible to conclude that language is caught in a play of multiple signifying games. this is precisely what systemics yearns for. its readers no longer have the duty. contra Foucault." he speculates on the eventual passing of the author-function. This could transpire "in such a manner that fiction and its polysemic texts will once again function according to another mode. 75 ." something Eco casts as remotely systemic (Limits 39). Eco demonstrates this preference in a discussion on Jacques Derrida and "the deconstructive framework. Ironically. however. as a result of an emphasis on structural analysis over consideration of the author. In fact. but in a new way. The Death of the Encoder The author-function essentially turns the encoder into an integral part of a system. and within the confines of. that the signifier is never co-present with a signified which is continually deferred and delayed. that this systemic component could eventually be superseded." This "system". which goes on ad infinitum. "the author has played the role of the regulator of the fictive. aberrant human subject is thought to lack. Eco projects the implications of this view by conjecturing on the consequences of removing the encoder intention altogether: Once the text has been deprived of a subjective intention behind it. that Foucault cannot allow semiosis to occur outside of a systemic boundary of some kind. In this manner. "To affirm that a sign suffers the absence of its author and of its referent. And. Eco gives prominence to the function side of the pairing. Even without an author. "will no longer be the author. that "a text can be interpreted independently of the intention of its utterer" (39). and that every signifier is related to another signifier so that there is nothing outside the significant chain.It may be.a capacity that the quirky.") Eco suggests. that there is no transcendental signified. ineffable replacement of the authorfunction would thus remain aligned with systemicity. and this original intention was motivated by a Dynamic Object (or was itself the Dynamic Object). Note." Eco declares. But he adds that "we cannot deny that any text is uttered by somebody according to his/her actual intention. The encoder's presence in effect is neutralized into a systemic absence as a result. with the problematic status of the author. This alternative means to systemizing the author entails positioning the author as one who is merely making choices dictated by. since it shows the same inclination for a type of structural "objectivity" that is reflected in Saussure's preference for langue as an object of study. Systemicists prefer to treat the author as an object in the authorsystem because then it has a capacity to be regulated as a term . perhaps. While Foucault emphasizes the author in the author-function.

Eco argues." (Lecture Three noted that Barthes actually dramatized this disappearance of the author in S/Z by declining to consider the author-system in his analysis of codes in Balzac's Sarrazine.One of the best illustrations of the encoder's incorporation into the system appears in Roland Barthes's "From Work to Text." Barthes argues that the death of the author . The system is so powerful as a controlling entity that.there is now the requirement of a new object. Under these circumstances. But. 76 ." Eco contends (Interpretation 67). the encoder is treated as a token to be manipulated without fear of contradiction. In the same way that a character has no real agency within the arena of decoding. Rather. because it sounds uneconomical'" (Interpretation 73). albeit for different ends. Barthes views the Text as "a methodological field" (not unlike his notion of the "writerly" also developed in S/Z) that can be "experienced only in an activity of production" (157). obtained by the sliding or overturning of former categories" (156). Nevertheless. Considering that the author is one of the primary decisive agents in the process of literary semiosis." And. the decoder is also granted a correspondingly weak position in the overall system. and its circumstances of production. the Text "reads without the inscription of the Father" (161) which Barthes depicts as "the myth of filiation" (160). in the case of the system. He imagines a situation in which a reasonable response by an encoder to an anticipated proposed decoding might be a reluctance based on semiotic thrift. "Over against the traditional notion of the work.. the encoder may justifiably say: "'Independently of the fact that I did not mean this. decoders will employ a decoding system that is aligned with literary practices of a specific time. it is not something the community will condone to be "spent" carelessly.has a status distinct from the earlier humanistic concept of the Work.the author knows that he or she will be interpreted not according to his or her intentions. Eco espouses an at least partially restrictive capacity of systemicity when he concludes that "the interpreted text imposes some constraint upon its interpreters" (Limits 6). "but he then does so as a 'guest'" and is to be treated "like one of his characters. claims that authorial intention can have no bearing on the decoder's handling of the text. given the prudent maintenance of economy over this "treasury". This can be said of the entire process of literary decoding. which reflected not only "a fragment of substance" (156)." And. While Eco is famous for emphasizing the contribution made by the decoder in the overall process of semiosis. its arguable referent." a "message" (Limits 4) nevertheless still retains a certain amount of undeniable and fixed "referential power" (5). I think a reasonable reader should not accept such an interpretation.. "even when separated from its utterer. Eco. along with their competence in language as a social treasury. it's not surprising that elsewhere Eco will assert a systemic power accorded to him or her over the one ostensive outsider to the overall system: the decoder." This contention signifies the dependent. "When a text is produced not for a single addressee but for a community of readers. "The limits of interpretation coincide with the rights of the text (which does not mean with the rights of the author)" (6-7).forecasted in his earlier essay by the same name .status. To the contrary.had taken place by 1971. Although he proposes that "any act of interpretation is a dialectic between openness and form. in his text. he consistently grants the other facets involved an equal . inanimate status the encoder is granted upon systemicization. "it is not that the Author may not 'come back' in the Text..or. The system of text reception also functions to disempower the encoder in other ways as well. "The [Text] is a processs of demonstration" and "speaks according to certain rules (or against certain rules). The informed encoder will expect to be decoded "according to a complex strategy of interactions which also involves the readers.) In "From Work to Text.the Text . It will be parcelled out with moderation and care by the system and its cooperative agents. however. a greater ." he suggests. describe. but also the kind of origin that both Foucault and Eco.. This object . for instance.

. In addition. is ordered as "a system of expectations" (Limits 63)." Like John Stewart's emphasis on systemic coherence (discussed in Lecture Two). He allows. "Interpretive cooperation" .. This perspective thereby situates "the functioning of a text" as something that "foresees and directs.by the system (21). Admittedly. within such a systemics. the one authorized by the dullest and the simplest of the existing dictionaries. One systemic component Eco employs to propose enforceable control over the decoder is that of denotation based on dictionary entry order.conceives of the encoder's "textual strategy as a system of instructions" for the decoder (52). This guidance is designed to elicit "a possible reader whose profile is designed by and within the text. Yet. Eco goes so far as to link this cooperation with the extent of the decoder's semiotic well-being: in order to explore all the possibilities of a text. Eco systemicizes the reader in a manner that parallels the treatment of the encoder discussed earlier here." This engenders "intention of the text" which is nonetheless "only." positing that "no reader-oriented theory can avoid such a constraint" (Limits 6). semiosis seems contingent on a form of context even under the most transparent of semiotic circumstances. there is a literal meaning of lexical items and that it is the one listed first by dictionaries as well as the one that Everyman would first define when requested to say what a given word means" (Limits 5). he similarly concludes that from this perspective." it is clear that the upperhand in this dialectic is always held . the one authorized by the state of a given language in a given historical moment.) Eco remarks that "within the boundaries of a given language. that "any act of freedom on the part of the reader can come after. he calls this conjecture something which. more importantly. (This would be an example of Halliday's polysystemicity. the interpreter must first of all take for granted a zero-degree meaning. "even the meaning of the most univocal message uttered in the course of the most normal communicative intercourse depends on the response of its addressee. and this response is in some way context-sensitive" (Limits 45). the one that every member of a community of healthy native speakers cannot deny. he suggests that "the initiative of the Model Reader consists in figuring out a Model Author that is not the empirical 77 . "Internal textual coherence controls the otherwise uncontrollable drives of the reader. Eco also relies on an internalized logic which the decoder is required to acknowledge and. in which one system intersects with another. respect. In this light.for Eco .the result of a conjecture on the part of the reader" (58). Systemizing The Decoder It may be useful to revisit Eco's contention on this issue cited in Lecture Four: "the interpreter" is not "entitled to say that the message can mean everything" (Limits 5). Eco does avoid a total commitment to a self-contained system whose immanent signified can be apprehended by the decoder." he suggests (59). the decoder's ability to participate is clearly circumscribed in a number of ways. even those that its author did not conceive of. can be extrapolated from it and described independently of and even before any empirical reading.interpretive cooperation" by the addressee (45).. though.initiative on the part of the interpreter and contextual pressure. To Eco. not before.he cites his notion of the Model Reader as an example .(36) Eco resorts to the concept of a restraining "literal meaning. As was seen in other systemicists' reliance upon context derived from surveying of readerresponse theory.. the acceptance of that constraint. Eco additionally hazards the "rule" that "the internal coherence of a text must be taken as the parameter for its interpretations" (60). itself.

and thus unpredictable. Eco likewise appears to emphasize a creative faculty by the decoder.belong to a community of knowers. the decoder's completion of the "text intention" is only a matter of relatively acquiescent cooperation rather than independent creation. links between schemata and text.. that is. to understand it. This caution is particularly important for Eco. that the reader's participation is largely mechanical and responsive to the text's "formal devices" or "hermeneutic mechanism" (Limits 52). Eco admits that while such renegade decodings might be "interesting". "Every text is a complex inferential mechanism." he argues (260). "Indeed. construction of schemata. "but do not remain empty" (42). ironically. This "decoder-system" essentially replicates the actions of the real ." he insists. "The thought or opinion that defines reality must. the reader has to 'fill' the text with a number of textual inferences. He further derides this activity by demonizing the concept of semiotic play. for example) who have explored the reader's significant contribution to the finalization (or "concretization") of the text. But Eco employs this concept to argue.which has to be actualized in its implicit content by the reader.one and that. connected to a large set of presuppositions defined by a given context (knowledge basis.. construction of point of view. "and this community must be structured and disciplined in accordance with supra-individual principles" (Limits 40). prescribed. "implemented. or the idea of a community as a transcendental principle. and it is the transcendental idea of a community. By situating the decoder's practice in harmony with the other aspects of systemics discussed here. an inclination that was revived repeatedly by various subsequent Aestheticist outbreaks culminating in poststructuralism. Part of this systemicity created by the community entails directing semiosis.or worse . play has become in the 1990s a once-again denigrated activity. and so on). he stresses repeatedly that their lack of voluntary semiosic economy threatens the status quo of the system (Interpretation 76). at the end. in Eco's view. "There is something for Peirce that transcends the individual intention of the interpreter.overly creative decoders (Interpretation 49)." it "must also assume that it 78 . Decoders who refuse to abide by this social semiotic contract risk having their activity framed as outside of the system. background assumptions.) Like those reader-response theorists (Roman Ingarden and Wolfgang Iser. the decoder is limited to "economical" decodings that are consistent with the valencies established by the system and its apparent "intention"." Eco announces. Given this systemic armature. unsystematic .decoders but in a fashion that is predictable and systematic. While Romantic aesthetics emphasized "play" as the highest form of aesthetic achievement." Eco argues. "they can agree that at certain moments the 'play of musement' can transitorily stop by producing a consensual judgment" (Limits 41-42). or permitted by the textual linear manifestation" (Limits 44-45). In his system. coincides with the intention of the text" (59). Eco gives this endeavor a wide-ranging epistemological consequence. rather than creative and active. The decoder's engagement with the literary text is. If a literary semiotics "assumes that texts are open to multiple readings. but only to foreground a later localization of it specifically into the realm of literary semiotics. In order to make sense of a text. the decoder is placed in a systemic field. encouraged.. Eco's reference to Peircean play here is used only as something to rise above through an act of economical maturity and communal utility. (The later discussion in this lecture of Eco's analysis of an act of interpretation by Geoffrey Hartman illustrates this well. system of values.. symbols grow. Even when decoders are "using a text as a playground for implementing unlimited semiosis." Eco suggests (40). who repeatedly laments that interpretation is vulnerable to "the ascription of pertinence to the wrong element" by overzealous .

"the addressee probably ought to first make certain conjectures about the possible sender and the historical period in which the text was produced." Eco contends. Firth also had earlier supported this position: in emphasizing the systemic nature of language. Various systems are to be 79 ." And. I do not propose an a priori system of general categories by means of which the facts of all languages may be stated. "the addressee could make various conflicting hypotheses. "the process of semiosis produces in the long run a socially shared notion of the thing that the community is engaged to take as if it were in itself true" (Limits 41).is no more than the fact that somebody has found something interesting to say about a group of marks or noises some way of describing those marks and noises which relates them to some of the other things we are interested in talking about" (Interpretation 95). at least about those that a text discourages" (45). The "public agreement" of readings can therefore be employed to displace the decoder who has exited the system (28). he proposes that "the coherence of the text.is possible to reach an agreement." Hasan observes. In response to Eco." he remarks. "To validate his or her hypothesis. "But at this point. which Eco asserts is indeed outside of the system. he proposes that "describable semiotic mechanisms function in recursive ways. This would certainly contrast Eco's touted "internal textual coherence" by locating the agency of this discernment within the decoder as opposed to the text's system. Eco stresses saving semiosis from spendthrift decoders. Rorty is using "interesting" in a much less "economical" way than systemicists like Eco prefer. And Ruqaiya Hasan takes a specifically genre-oriented approach to make essentially the same point. "the criterion of economy becomes rather weak. "If the sign does not reveal the thing itself. Eco argues. A certain degree of historicity can also contribute to the construction of a systemic order of decoding. when the encoder engages a system that has already incorporated a specific systemic response. "The addressee should rely on certain preestablished conventional interpretations" that the encoder and subsequent text rely upon when employing a given semiotic system (5)." he contends somewhat contradictorily." Eco adds. This can be accomplished in advance. Eco says. "The controls upon the structural make-up of a text are not linguistic in origin. "in that language as a formal system does not enable one to predict what generalized structural formula could be associated with which genre" (229). if not about the meanings that a text encourages. Jonathan Culler complicates this discussion by contending that systemic components are recognizable as such only after the system's material has been rearticulated by the decoder.. providing a traditional overlay that actually diminishes the individual decoder's activity range. but I strongly believe that there are certain 'economical' criteria on the grounds of which certain hypotheses will be more interesting than others" (Limits 5). extra-systemic decoding. the limits of which cannot be identified in advance" (Interpretation 121). "It is reasonable that the reader has to the right to enjoy" various wideranging readings "that the text qua text provides him or her" (Interpretation 71). of course.. obviously. he suggests that "it certainly has to do with researching the cultural framework of the original message" (5). This raises the issue of merely "interesting". "the act of reading becomes a terrain vague where interpretation and use inextricably merge together. While in the course of decoding a given sign vehicle." Rorty attempts to develop a positive alternative to this position in his own privileging of decoder "use" of a text. Also in response to Eco. And. Like Foucault." While this "has nothing to do with researching the intentions of the sender.

Eco demonstrates the apparent division between structure and system when he observes: Semiotics studies both the abstract structure of signification systems (such as verbal language. pollution and obscuration is evidently the only foreseeable outcome for Eco should the security of a specific type of system disappear. on the other hand. to designate states of possible worlds or to criticize and modify the structure of the systems themselves. according to which every item of the furniture of the world is linked to every other element (or to many) of this sublunar world and to every element (or to many) of the superior world by means of similitudes or resemblances" (Limits 24). and. Eco cannot go beyond systemic control in a manner that is also comfortably systematic . and so on) and the processes in the course of which the users practically apply the rules of these systems in order to communicate. "seems to be the uncontrolled ability to shift from meaning to meaning. since the pleasure of the drift is given by the shifting from sign to sign and there is no purpose outside the enjoyment of travel through the labyrinth of signs or of things" (31). these practices "reduce the text to an ambiguous bunch of still unshaped possibilities. ruled. card games. state the facts in a suitable language. Not only does "Hermetic semiosis [transform] the whole world into a mere linguistic phenomenon. His response is to call this type of decoding "hermetic drift. Science should not impose systems on languages. anyway. it should look for systems in speech activity. from similarity to similarity.. the "main feature" of this sense of drift. Eco can barely contain his contempt for the non-systemicity of a system of unrestricted semiosis and "pretend" rules. road signals.found in speech activity and when stated must adequately account for such activity. having found them. "Connotations proliferate like a cancer and at every step the previous sign is forgotten." he concludes with alarm. as it pretends.based on principles of universal analogy and sympathy. As a consequence. expresses considerable alarm over this threat to the neatly limiting implications of systemicity. Eco portrays this as semiotic anarchy.even in his most "open" 80 . A system like this would hardly provide the organizing harmony usually posited by systemicists. To the contrary. it also "devoids language of any communicative power" (27). Structure or System? But. And. "This world perfused with signatures.(Limits 207) Careful scrutiny reveals that this conception of process is really merely a semantic displacement of "structure" for "system" and "system" for "process". thus transforming texts into mere stimuli for the interpretive drift.at least on the surface. from a connection to another" (26-27). finally." A carcinogenic mélange of cheap pleasure. he insists. "The most radical practices of deconstruction privilege the initiative of the reader. results in producing a perennial shift and deferral of any possible meaning" (Limits 27). no contextual stricture holds any longer" (30). however. obliterated. They seem to be avoiding the vulnerability that hampers structuralist methodologies and thus are establishing a model that could potentially reconfigure the paradigm for semiotics as long as it resists becoming mired into reduction. For." which he depicts as an "interpretive habit. "in the most extreme cases of Hermetic drift. by the principle of universal significance..("Semantics" 144) Eco. This can even taint the system itself since "aspects" of texts can be "polluted and obscured" by "too many uncontrolled intentions of the readers" (62). A debacle of this nature is particularly likely in the case of the systemic nihilism of Eco's favorite villain: deconstruction. that is. aimless drift. iconological codes." Eco declares (52). systemicists like Eco aren't conflating structure with system in this debate . Not unexpectedly.

status. a system is not unimaginable without a process. That this assumption has to be developed carefully is indicated by Hjelmslev's own caution that linguistics (circa 1943) needs to "test" the "theory that a process has an underlying system . and separate. in another it appears remarkably similar to process. The system does not come into existence by virtue of a process's being found. (Greimas's concept of system as an "ensemble" could be said to apply in this instance.apprehension of the term. a system which governs and determines it in its possible development. he adds. the eixstence of a system does not presuppose the existence of a process. This substitution by Eco may become clearer in comparison with Halliday's distinction between structure and system: What distinguishes systemic theory is that its basic form of synoptic representation is not syntagmatic but paradigmatic. As James R. would suggest that structure is "the realization of complexes of systemic features" (94). The constituent structure is the realization of these options. the organizing concept is not structure. On the other hand. and hence plays a derivative role in the overall interpretation. ("Systemic" 8) Accordingly." This "relatedness". To return to Culler's assertion regarding systemic recursivity. Hjelmslev proposes system as an organized "potential". for this independence of system over process appears to validate its objective. whereas process is taken as "the realization of this potential as process" (248). Halliday pairs systemic description with paradigmatic relations and structural description with syntagmatic relations ("Deep" 93). It could be argued that this conceptualization pinpoints a common assumption of systemics that could have prompted much of the criticism about it. that while the system is necessary for the existence of the process. Halliday remarks that there are "some possible consequences of regarding systemic description as the underlying form of representation. Martin notes. "structure would be fully predictable.) But Hjelmslev provides what is arguably the most theoretically sophisticated distinction between system and process that advances clarification of their conceptual differences. The various levels. A process is unimaginable . Hjelmslev suggests. it is sufficient to point out that he identifies system with a "correlational hierarchy" and process with a "relational hierarchy" (39). of the semiotic 'code' are interrelated networks of options. System or Process? While in one regard system seems synonymous with structure. (Which actually is quite similar to the distinction between paradigmatic and syntagmatic relations.a fluctuation an underlying constancy" (10). but system (hence the name). A system "lies behind" a process.because it would be in an absolute and irrevocable sense inexplicable . Without going into Hjelmslev's complex development of this distinction. in other words. however.without a system lying behind it. and subsequently is "ordered to" it (39). The most substantial means of differentiating between these two elements in Hjelmslev's model is to consider them as different "hierarchies" (29). If this is found to be an accurate assumption. if it turned out that the structural description could be shown to be derivable from it" (93-94). Since language is a semiotic potential. respectively. the description of a language is a description of choice.) 81 . the system itself does not depend on a corresponding process for its own existence: the existence of a system is a necessary premiss for the existence of a process: the process comes into existence by virtue of a system's being present behind it. or strata. He contends.

can be used to posit a "dynamic system" which is "active-potential".. structure. on the other hand. The "text as a process" is accordingly "actual-active" (67).'" Clearly.even though the only way to analyze language (or any other topic) is linguistically. "the inventories established by an analysis following. Peter H. "important ideas tend to be placed in 82 . "Freddie Miller. objectively.." "Social encounters are systems where social processes. This system uses a "genre network" to represent a "synoptic system" which is portrayed as "staticpotential". and in an object-to-subject relationship with. he is among those currently proposing a process-oriented semiotics (or. Scientist. That the system can be apprehended in an extra-human condition also begs a nagging question about the epistemological ground of that belief.To develop this system/process distinction. To Stewart. Firth entertains a perspective that reverses Hjelmslev's prioritization of system over process. then it cannot account for the constitutive component of semiosis performed by those agents. Ventola proposes constructing a literary genre system (not unlike Hjelmslev's) that considers "texts at the same time as products and as processes" (67). "that linguistic s must be systemic. giving the latter the initiating force for subsequent analysis. He concludes that through this mutual cataloging of elements. adding process as a significant component of semiotics may effectively reorient systemics and make it more responsive to what seem to be the actual conditions of semiosis.." offers a good illustration of this approach by employing "three simple working assumptions": "important ideas tend to be repeated". From a textlinguistic standpoint. It is important to recall Halliday's admonition that "the name 'systemic' is not the same thing as 'systematic'" ("Brief" 3). a "post-semiotics". or mode of human being" (19). in Stewart's case) designed to correct this imbalance. "in doing so. This "text as a product" view situates the text as "actual-static". unfold in stages and. If the system is considered as something separate from the realm of its agents. or 'scientifically.is unproblematically accessible to investigation by human subjects" (20). Ventola posits a humanized alternative to Stewart's charges that seems to hold substantial potential for making systemics more attuned to what John Deely refers to as "the human use of signs. 'in' language" (20). Stewart contends that "system commitment distorts language study" because "it attempts to separate the analyst from the phenomenon being analyzed . dynamic sense of systemic order. "frequently under the rationale that this is the only way to treat it systematically. event." One of Stewart's primary charges against semiotics is that "semiotic characterizations of language picture it as a system rather than as a process. he proposes that "such systems are maintained by activity. Hjelmslev suggests that a combination of "partitioning" (associated with process) and "articulation" (associated with system) can produce a similar. and function" ("Semantics" 143).language . Consistent with the negative side of the often presumed "objectivity" of systemics is its concomitant supposition that the system exists separate from human agency." he concludes. communicatively. which realize the social activity. humans communicating" (50). for often the two are treated as one." she asserts. Fries's analysis of Lillian More's children's story. and in activity they are to be studied. As was mentioned in Lecture Two." Stewart argues. systemicity too often implies that "an object of study. "The inclination to treat language as a system has consistently hypostatized the process. discursively. Firth suggests in 1948 that linguistics will inevitably "find it necessary to postulate the maintenance of linguistic patterns and systems (including adaptation and change) within which there is order. As Stewart observes." "It is on these grounds.traditional lines would lead us to recognize a sign system behind the sign process" (44). "the so-called system of language cannot coherently be conceived as existing separate from. Significantly. achieve a certain goal or purpose" (1). A "flowchart" schema..

as some critics of systemics would argue. is a revealing instance of what systemics has to offer to semiotics. we must link the choices made in telling this story to the choices that are available in the system of the language being used. "we automatically conceive of the absence of that meaning ['non-life']." Greimas argues that "the elementary structure of signification forms the semantic universes taken as a whole into systems" (50). as well as an opposing system of meaning ['death'] that correspondingly implies its own absence ['non-death']" (54)." Schleifer suggests that in his analysis of the "modal aspect of. as Hjelmslev and others note. will exhaust the logical structural relations between its minimal elements. "Once any unit of meaning [e. as the case might be) in S/Z .life. for instance).." Greimas on Maupassant A much more thorough and well-developed demonstration of a related form of systemic analysis can be found in Greimas's Maupassant . Greimas proposes as a "constitutional model" ("Interaction" 49) of this structure what he later refers to as the "semiotic square" (Maupassant 43)." Greimas's "functional analysis links the events of narrative to the elementary structure of signification. This categorization demonstrates a viable systemic method of analysis since. non-death. In a manner similar to other geometric relational paradigms." she proposes. This also can apply to the larger social semiotic system in the respect that "this story relates to the potential of stories in the language. or any story. "The Interaction of Semiotic Constraints.) The square is a "hypothetical model" which might reveal an entity's "figurative organization" and its "axiological values.. we can also "pay attention to those features of the text which mark it as unique and distinguish it from all other texts.. "For any content which can be understood as itself analyzable into binary oppositions (S vs. non S)." By "linking the choices made in telling one story to the choices available in the language system as a whole. it dramatizes some of the shortcomings discussed above that stem from systemicist presuppositions.are Greimas's from Maupassant [5]. regularity (and even regular irregularities) are usually evidence that a given entity is ordered to some extent." Greimas suggests (Maupassant 43).g. it creates a passage from process to system" (Greimas 124). The operating procedure in Maupassant is theoretically foregrounded. "The semiotic square is a logical mapping out of structural possibilities. Fries asserts that "we can look at [the story] as an example of a type.. Moreover.The Semiotics of Text. repeated and superposed. I would argue. a confident ordering feature of semiosis that appears to exhaust the semiosic relations of a given element ("life". Greimas's study. by an earlier essay Greimas wrote in collaboration with François Rastier. and "meaning is conveyed only where there is choice." By proceeding in this way. (This is actually an extension of Greimas's even earlier commentary on "homologation" in Structural Semantics.positions of prominence". the square. Armstrong reveals." Ronald Schleifer observes ("Introduction" xxxiii). which allows us to compare different texts. Schleifer 83 . along with several assessments of it by others. While emphasizing the component of "choice" in systemics." Fries says. Fries notes that "to describe this story.. (The examples in brackets .of items within a context where certain goals are to be attained" (316). which is frequently considered a response to Barthes's systemics (or a-systemics.functions.) Before proceeding to Greimas's account and application of his system. Nancy Armstrong constructs a concise account of the semiotic square's system that is especially useful." And. 'life'] is conceived. death. and non-life . the story under consideration can be assessed in terms of potential locations in the literary system (316). it is fruitful to pause and assess the implications of the contentions offered by Armstrong and Schleifer.

actually uses the term "exhaust" and projects this totalizing capacity of systemics much beyond a careful tentativity. a producer of any semiotic object. and even the sewers were being emptied of their regular tenants. These levels "order the combinations that can appear. famished. its closure can be attributed to the interaction of the different systems that produce it. "designate the processes that cause the nonmanifestations and define usage negatively (the constraints determine asemanticity. operates within an epistemy. "Constraints." The first section of Maupassant adequately reveals Greimas's use of a systemics based on semiotic square dynamics." he contends ("Interaction" 61). The "social component" of semiosis within his schema. "Nothing permits us to assert that a semiotic manifestation is dependent on only one system at a time" (60). Gremias's text for analysis is Guy de Maupassant's "Two Friends" and he begins with the opening lines of the story: Paris was blockaded. "By definition.no matter what. Greimas himself engages in this assumption as he posits the systemic principle that "each term of a semiotic structure is defined by relations of conjunction and disjunction" ("Interaction" 61). it can be incorporated in such a way as to contribute to that outcome just as easily. (1) 84 . "a system's rules of injunction describe compatibilities and incompatibilities (a system without incompatibilities would not be an ordered system). "Within this society it is possible for him to make a limited number of choices." he suggests. but they can also be defined negatively by what they are not" (52). From these two examples alone it is easy to see how systemic orientation can readily lend itself to reductively programmatic decodings. a death rattle in her throat. that is." Like Halliday. but the nature of realized manifestations (positive definition of usage). which is an axiological and dialectical system immanent in all the semiotic structures of the society under consideration." Both choice and constraints are matters of another type of choice at another level of this system for Greimas. or "the hierarchy of the systems" ("Interaction" 61). "appears as common sense.humorous elaboration. and thus not only the closure of the manifestation (negative definition of usage by nonmanifestations). "An author. which is the result of his individuality and the society in which he is inscribed. "the manifestation of a system" is not "defined solely by the relations it permits" (59). they may be defined positively. he notes. "And so far as it is dependent on several. "The term choice can be used to designate the processes that produce the realized manifestations and define usage positively. although this element continually returns to the extra-human position in the system that Stewart identifies. Greimas substantially broadens systemicity to include the factors outside of a specified system. Greimas provides a subtle distinction of inter-systemic levels he refers to as "epistemy"." he contends. which have as an initial result the investment of organized contents. he asserts. People were eating . Greimas employs a hierarchical model which hinges on selection by the individual agent involved in order to refine the non-differentiated concept of system. While Greimas allows that "epistemy accounts for the historicity of the manifestations. or incompatibility of the interacting terms of the systems). implicit or not. The sparrows rarely appeared on the roofs. "every system has a set of rules." to the contrary." Agent participation helps to integrate Greimas's sense of system with that of process." he supplements this with a ." While this seems to resist the homogenization that frequently accompanies systemicity. Additionally. Additionally." Here.perhaps unintentionally . contents endowed with valencies (possibilities of relations).

Barthes limits his procedure very specifically: "in analysing the 'signifiance' of a text. a "spatial setting" is established through the Paris reference. spurring an axiological relation in accordance with Greimas's schema: /enclosed/ vs /enclosing/ __________ ___________ "Paris" (non-Paris) Without pursuing this excessively. the opening is portrayed as a projection of the "homologation of the zoomorphic beings 'sparrows' and 'rats' with their respective spaces" (15): "roofs" "sparrows" /high/ /aerial being/ _______ : __________ : ______ : ________________ "rats" "sewers" /low/ /chtonian being/ This overview is an extremely sketchy rendering of an immensely complicated and mature systemic account of Maupassant's story.has a multiplanar organization" consisting of "undeniable delimitations. Greimas proposes to begin with "spatio-temporal criteria of segmentation" of the text. each having a different subject: 'Paris'. it should be apparent where Greimas is going with this analysis. Accordingly. we shall abstain voluntarily from dealing with certain problems" (174). the 'sparrows'." with an accompanying belief that "a description should consist of an account of patterning at a given level and a set of realization rules that link the levels" (1). Barthes says. Barthes on Poe Despite the a-systemic manifesto that Barthes develops as a disclaimer in his "Textual Analysis: Poe's 'Valdemar'." he adds. are consideration of the author. which are sometimes situated at one or other levels of discourse" (1). yet it does show some of the strategies typical of this approach that may suggest further directions for the ongoing development and refinement of systemic models and analysis. for instance. that the opening sequence is "composed of four co-ordinated propositions. Greimas argues. while Greimas inhabits a comfortable central position within it. Bailey identifies as a defining characteristic of systemic linguistics: "the idea of 'levels' as a root metaphor for language behavior. Among these exclusions. He suggests. Greimas says that "all discourse . this leads Greimas to emphasize what R." his actual analysis is not all that different from Greimas's. Barthes is on the outer limits of systemics. the larger literary historical context within which 85 . details a "series of 'events' or 'things' which are necessarily inscribed in a system of spatio-temporal co-ordinates." A "temporal infrastructure" (Maupassant 2) is being established in Maupassant's opening paragraph. proposing the opposition: "before the war" vs (during the war) This can be figured additionally as "a specifically temporal category": /before/ vs /during/ vs /after/ as well as "a denominative category": /war/ vs /peace/ Similarly.Significantly. W. Or.and especially narrative discourse . "Pragmatic discourse. Admittedly. 'the sewers' and the 'People'" (3). though.

telepathy. (As mentioned above. as we read it. that the extraordinary case of M. escaping the logic and the ego-cogito and engaging in other logics [of the signifier. the cry from the heart of that positivist age runs thus: if only one could believe scientifically in immortality!" Barthes identifies this as a subset (the "scientific code") within the larger "cultural code" which "will be of great importance throughout the narrative. It would have been a miracle had it not . Eco discusses an analysis of a William Wordsworth poem by Geoffrey Hartman." he adds. Contextualizing this example will be helpful because Eco establishes an elaborate ideological position on systemics both in his preceding work on semiotics and in his present discussion up to the point that he introduces Hartman's reading." This produces what Barthes calls a "bonding" that is "cultural" in nature. of contradiction]. "The Facts in the Case of M. (Barthes elsewhere offers a working definition of Julia Kristeva's conception of 'signifiance' as "a process in the course of which the 'subject' of the text." This prompts the reader to desire "the solution of the enigma posed in the title (the 'truth').an operation of the "narrative code" (177).) "Textual Analysis: Poe's 'Valdemar'" demonstrates Barthes's system well. Greimas.)." This delay is "a matter of whetting the reader's appetite" . they have as an "obvious function" the role of "exciting the reader's expectation. 86 . Poe's vague diction suggests that the "story will be a horrible one (outside the limits of nature) which is yet covered by the scientific alibi (here connoted by the 'discussion'. Maupassant stands in a similar relation to S/Z. The striking semantic selection draws attention to the word as it signifies a condition or event that "departs from the norm but not necessarily from nature (if the case remains 'medical'). which is a scientist's word). etc." Barthes assesses the function of this aspect as: "delay in posing the enigma." Barthes identifies a site of particular semantic weight in Poe's "ambiguous" use of "extraordinary" which is marked as "meaningful" precisely because of its ambiguity (176).Poe can be situated." begins: Of course I shall not pretend to consider it any matter for wonder. and the impact of reading a text in translation. "The supernatural adopts a scientific. Valdemar has excited discussion. what has moved into transgression. "Translator's Note" 10]. rationalist alibi." Barthes announces. Still.) Poe's story.. but even the exposition of this engima is held back.especially under the circumstances." "But it can also refer to what is supernatural. and Barthes demonstrate various strategies for engaging in systemic analysis." Eco on Hartman on Wordsworth While Fries. Eco provides an example of a systemicist's rejection of another systemicist's practice. struggles with meaning and is deconstructed ['lost']" [cited in Heath. there is an additional value of this "patter" as it signals the text's semiotic status as a "commodity" (176). Moreover. as his analysis of the first two sentences of Poe's story suggests. (His use of a sectional method and code application is a variation of his technique in S/Z. "We shall take the text as it is. spiritism. Valdemar." "There was great enthusiasm for observing the supernatural scientifically (magnetism.) In Interpretation and Overinterpretation. (177) These sentences "are apparently meaningless. but far less overtly so.that Poe tells'" (177). This creates an "appetiser" which stands as "a term of the narrative code (rhetoric of narration).. Barthes departs somewhat from his procedure when he notes that Poe engages in the characteristically nineteenth-century fascination for "the mixture of the strange and the scientific." he observes "'This is the 'fantastic' element of the stories." Barthes remarks.

"has the duty to take into account the state of the lexical system at the time" when the text was constructed (68). as his body of semiotic writings attests. This is the systemic framework he establishes for reading these lines: A slumber did my spirit seal. a significant development for Hartman's decoding of the poem and Eco's response to it. and distinguished from the courtly and affected diction of the time" (148). I had no human fears: She seemed a thing that could not feel The touch of earthly years. "A sensitive and responsible reader. mourning. While he was talking about the interpretation of Peirce's work in this statement. for showing how a text can be read in relation to different cultural frameworks.Eco is well-known proponent of endeavors to "protect the reading. the text (the dream-text. and this is the systemic grid he applies in his reading. With this observation. Hartman's analysis focuses on "three highly charged themes: incompleteness. 87 . For Freud. and memory" (145). "I feel sympathetic with the project of opening readings. This stance on systemics is borne out in Eco's reponse to Hartman's own systemics as seen in "The Interpreter's Freud" in which he analyzes "A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal" in "a Freudian context" (138). By aligning himself with the system and the encoder over the decoder. "It is only important to distinguish between use and interpretation" (Limits 62). Hartman's approach consists of exploring a system of "subliminal punning" that develops these themes (149). Hartman limits himself to a consideration of the historical context of linguistic and literary conventions of Wordsworth's period.. He continues. Hartman is essentially adhering to Eco's systemic technique of inventorying elements that make up what could be called the thematic or imagistic system of the text. however." "To defend the rights of interpretation against the mere use of a text does not mean that texts must never be used. "if I want to interpret" a specific text "I must respect [the encoder's] cultural and linguistic background." he insists. in this instance) "becomes less of an object and more of a series of linguistic relays that could lead anywhere . Similarly." Hartman suggests. Hartman contends that Freud "created a new hermeneutics by charting compulsive and forced connections which 'regarded nothing as sacred'" (154)." Eco adds. (This last observation. Eco maintains that "internal textual coherence controls the otherwise uncontrollable drives of the reader" (Interpretation 65)." he concludes. "But. he argues.) Not unlike Fries's analytical practice. that "I also feel the fundamental duty of protecting [readings] in order to open them. it applies to his sentiments about all texts. Eco attempts to turn the decoder's willingness to cooperate with the system into an act of voluntarily accepting systemic restraints.system and encoder. To return to his distinction between use and interpretation: "I can certainly use [a] text for parody. "is its underlying and resistant euphemism.. or for strictly personal ends (I can read a text to get inspiration for my own musing)" (Interpretation 69). by the way. "What makes Wordsworth's poetry so difficult to psychoanalyze. blends the two foci of this lecture . and a surface reading of his books on The Role of the Reader and The Open Work might seem to corroborate that. so in this respect as well he appears to conform to Eco's regimen. coterminous with ordinary language.depending on the system of rails and who is doing the switching" (142).rather than open[ing] it too much" (Limits 37)." he argues elsewhere. since I consider it risky to open a text before having duly protected it" (54).

But." he concludes (63). duly reorganized." Eco says) which Eco often correspondingly associates with disrespectful semiotic promiscuity." (149-150) In his by-now familiar formula." "In theory. This type of associative analysis would be in keeping with Eco's systemic "respect" of the text in that it restricts itself to seemingly text-based interpretation. possibly because of their "economy" in terms of sign generation.' and 'course' may recall the older pronunciation of 'corpse'" (149). Eco does not pass up an opportunity to chide Hartman for excessive." Read "tears. to a dull yet definitive sound. irresponsible decoding. Since he associates Hartman with deconstruction (he is "one of the leaders of the Yale deconstructionists. but where it is assuredly difficult to assert that it is wrong" (Interpretation 60)." Hartman's reading of "grave" is. we must show that all the letters of A. produce B" (61). he additionally oversteps the boundaries of propriety (for Eco) by asserting: though there is no agreement on the tone of this stanza. but only as long as the isotopies are not too generic. "'Tears' is not the anagram of 'trees'." Eco goes on to point out that comparisons between figures such as Achilles and a lion could be relevant in terms of beings who are "courageous and fierce. "If we start to discard some letters. he contends that there is a "euphemistic displacement of the word grave by an image of gravitation ('Rolled round in earth's diurnal course')" (149). "An analogy between Achilles and a clock based on the fact that both are physical objects." on the other hand. it is clear that a subvocal word is uttered without being written out. 'diurnal'." however. And even though he relies upon communal input regarding interpretation of the poem." 88 ." "The funereal interpretation of Hartman has the advantage of betting on a constant isotopy. there should be "at least a proof" of textual support "depending on the isolation of the relevant semantic isotopy. "Tears. Even "in the shrewdest representatives of this school the hermeneutic game does not exclude interpretive rules. taking this process to the next level of suggestivity where "grave" is associated with "gravitational" is a form of unacceptable semiotic extravagance. however. cosmic metaphor comes alive." Eco objects. one can always invent a system that renders otherwise unconnected clues plausible. however." but which is closed off by the very last syllable of the poem: "trees. 'corpse'." systemic rules which apparently Hartman has grossly violated. 'fears'. Yet another incidence of this lavishness is identified in Hartman's proposed tears/trees connection. and 'hears'). "If we can to prove that a visible text A is the anagram of a hidden text B. Eco calls Hartman's analysis "a case where the rightness of the interpretation is undecidable. certain kinds of associations are acceptable. Hartman goes too far in Eco's eyes. when he suggests that other. no force. She neither hears nor sees. It is a word that rhymes with "fears" and "years" and "hears. far-ranging readings of these lines are equally defendable." he adds. "'diurnal' (line 7) divides into 'die' and 'urn. the anagram "trees. the poet's lament echoes through nature as in pastoral elegy.No motion has she now. "the game is no longer valid. Systemically." Eco continues (Interpretation 62). "suggested by a 'gravitation' which does not appear in the text but is produced by a paraphrastic decision of the reader" (61). 'urn'. "is of no interest whatsoever. and 'tears' can be in some way suggested by other terms that appear in the text (namely. But." yet comparing him with a duck because "both are bipeds" would go too far. must give way to what is written. In Hartman's reading. 'course'. Eco explains that he agrees with Hartman's fairly restrained assertion that "'die'. Note the procedure Eco employs to make this distinction. For example." and the animating. "Bets on the isotopy are certainly a good interpretive criterion. Rolled round in earth's diurnal course With rocks and stones and trees.

Perhaps his sense of associative link was acoustic rather than alphabetic." he conjectures (Interpretation 70)." something positioned "between the intention of a given human being and the linguistic intention displayed by a textual strategy" (69). though perhaps one does exist in rhetoric or poetics. and between an absent 'gravitation' and an absent 'grave'?" This. he obliged the words (or the words obliged him) to set up a possible series of associations" (70). He oddly shifts this argument by turning to "Mr Wordsworth in person. but since the dictionary definition is something that he relies upon for systemic regularity (recall his comment on this above) it appears that he seized upon this deviation to build up a systemic case against Hartman's reading. Something like a Model Author. Eco suggests that "on the threshold situation where Mr Wordsworth was no longer an empirical person and not yet a mere text. and he responded: "I guess I could have called it a 'false anagram'? But what is THAT? I couldn't find a better term.it would be difficult to doubt it .Eco's response is puzzling in part because it's hard to believe that Hartman was using "anagram" in its "true" sense. instead.to suggest by the use of the rhyme a strong relationship between 'fears' and 'years'. Eco would have been able to incorporate Hartman's observation and retain the spirit of the point he was making instead of employing the letter of the system. This figure would be the "Author on the Threshold" or the "Liminal Author. "why should not one suspect that even Wordsworth was unconsciously seduced by these possible echo-effects?" (Interpretation 70). there is a question whether "what is found is what the text says by virtue of its textual coherence and of an original underlying signification system." Furthermore. Mauro Ferraresi. rather. At first. (I asked Hartman about his use of "anagram" here despite his obvious knowledge that it was not strictly a "true" anagram. "the intention of the text is basically to produce a model 89 . too. in the end. it appears that Eco is actually going to side with Hartman in considering Wordsworththe-person as someone capable of accepting the tears/trees association." This process is "the result of a conjecture on the part of the reader." "Are we sure" that the poet "wanted to evoke the association. to challenge Hartman. so to speak. I would bet that Eco realizes this. which works along the same lines as an anagram. "If a normal Englishspeaking human being is seduced by the semantic relationships between words in prasentia and words in absentia. "one has to decide to 'see' it." As a consequence. or what the text said independently of the intentions of the author" (Interpretation 63-64). In the second case. Eco grounds this situation between "finding in a text either what its author intended to say. this would unveil the "intention of the text"." Eco says. he was suggesting a type of scrambled resonance that operates according to a logic not unlike that of the anagram. Evidently. something which is "not displayed on the textual surface". runs contrary to Eco's frequent protestations that the real author has no control over the intention of a literary text. Eco cites an idea from one of his students. or what the addressees found in it by virtue of their own systems of expectations" (64). coincides with the intention of the text. "the initiative of the model reader consists in figuring out a model author that is not the empirical one and that. of an author existing in a third position between the Model Author (which is "an explicit textual strategy" [69]) and the empirical author. Eco's response to his own question falls back on his elevation of system over all of its (real) agents. if he had respectfully adhered to and protected Hartman's reading in the spirit of his comments on the decoder's responsibility to act in this manner. Ironically. By employing the encoder/system distinction. is what Eco promotes to provide the service that Foucault ascribes to the authorfunction. between 'trees' and 'tears'. This intention "was certainly . introduced by the reader Hartman. 'force' and 'course'. including the encoder in this instance. of course. In light of Hartman's analysis. he notes. Again.") Another way that Eco accomplishes this is by speculating about the intention of Wordsworth's text to build a systemic consensus against Hartman.

he says. who can fail to find the right things in it? (288-289) According to this metaphorical stance. to blame the speaker for failures.reader able to make conjectures about it. Perhaps Eco is falling prey to what Michael Reddy refers to as "the conduit metaphor.what can go wrong? A package can be difficult or impossible to open. because he's a "deconstructionist". He's not using the same system that Hartman says he's using. In the final outcome. what he is suggesting by this evident equivocation is that Hartman has clearly constructed a systemic foundation for his reading. in the course of his critique of Hartman. on the other hand nothing excludes it" (Interpretation 62)." Thus. it can be pointed out that he announced his intention to engage in a semiotic prodigality consistent with Freud's analysis of the dream-text. it's just that Eco doesn't approve of its semiosic license." Curiously. the reader is then "reading things into" something. "The evidence may be weak.") This metaphor gives the encoder a certain amount of power in relation to system. (An illustration of this is seen in the statement: "It's very hard to get that idea across in a hostile atmosphere. Yet. But." it is safe to say that. and then turned around and pretended that he found them there. which is why he finds questionable validity in Hartman's account." the belief that words (for instance) are receptacles that can somehow contain and transport meaning without significant alteration by the decoder." only as a result of the "associations" arising "at least potentially" because they were "evoked by the text" (62). "that it is legitimate for a sensitive reader to find what he finds in the text." Eco concludes that the text. if not fully convincing. if it is undamaged. Eco seems to soften toward Hartman as he sifts through the implications of his reading. while Hartman's analysis "sounds. but it does fit in. To Eco. In fact." he allows. but not economically absurd. "As far as Wordsworth is concerned. Reddy cites as an example one category of expressions "implying that human language functions like a conduit enabling the transfer of repertoire members from one individual to another" (311). This finds similar possible corroboration in that "the poet might (perhaps unconsciously) have created some 'harmonics' to the main theme. 90 . in other words." is accordingly "more than a parameter to use in order to validate the interpretation. The reader "sneaked those thoughts into the words himself. at least charming. Eco confidently asserts that Hartman is "certainly not suggesting here that Wordsworth actually wished to produce these associations . receiving and unwrapping a package is so passive and so simple ." Eco argues. and successfully opened. it is not "interesting" to Eco (Interpretation 61).such searching after the author's intentions would not fit Hartman's critical principles" (61-62). "having surreptitiously made use of his power to insert thoughts into words when he should have restricted himself purely to extraction." Eco evidently is using Hartman's demonstration as a means of dramatizing degrees of success for systemic analysis. Hartman is a semiotic spendthrift. It is easier. when speaking and thinking in terms of the conduit metaphor. "though on the one hand nothing proves that the text suggests neither tomb nor tears. Eco is simply refusing to adhere to Hartman's proclaimed system. again.) Hartman is suggesting." By recalling Hartman's explanation of his systemics." Reddy says (289). but this power also bears with it a certain vulnerable responsibility. "one may judge [Hartman's] interpretation too generous. as "an object that the interpretation builds up in the course of the circular effort of validating itself on the basis of what it makes up as its result. After all. (Evidently. due to its excess.

("Systemic"11) Culler applies this systemic approach to Eco's plea for economy by arguing that "an excessive propensity to treat as significant elements which might be simply fortuitous" may actually be "the best source of the insights into language and literature that we seek. "The 'real world' context may always override all the expectations set out by the conventional and conceptual systems involved. "It would be sad indeed. "if fear of 'overinterpretation' should lead us to avoid or repress the state of wonder at the play of texts and interpretation" (123). he does acknowledge that certain elements of semiosis "cannot be foreseen by an [coded] system of signification" (Limits 212). so that it can be stretched and squeezed into various shapes as required. this type of modeling could also yield results that reflect "everyday" experience. To be completely fair to Eco. which ultimately appeals to the immediate context for explanations. even though. a quality to be cultivated rather than shunned" (Interpretation 122). rules for felicity conditions. he declares it "epistemological fanaticism" (24) to embrace either pole of the open/closed debate.would certainly be appropriate models to employ for such an analysis. which is seldom systemic in a logical or predictable way. topic. "dynamic models of semiotic systems are not yet very well developed. as Halliday observes in 1985.") Yet he continues to cling to the belief that certain facets of signification possess systemic fixity. (The liminal author . and so on. Maybe a dynamic model should." he observes. and did. prediction of ordinary contexts. (Eco's examples: "presupposition.. reference to a set of knowledge idiolectally posited by a text as referring to a fictional world. Whatever theoretical positioning one chooses to employ will substantially influence the outcome of a systemic analysis. To a certain extent. After all." Ventola remarks (29).) An emphasis on process-oriented. This could be the largest shortcoming to systemics insofar as it is used by individuals like Eco to attempt to conceal their own motives through appeals to a system that ostensibly transcends individual agency.or even the Model Author . Halliday notes in a related vein: Systemic theory is explicitly constructed both for thinking with and for acting with. Hence . As an alternative. While those 91 . for instance. [and] conversational implicature. remain underdeveloped and then adapted to given decoding circumstances.over the real author." Ventola asserts. And that is exactly Hartman said he was going to do. (He cites as some examples: "textual co-reference. This applies equally to systemic analysis. and to be nonparsimonious. yet decidedly inclines toward the closed end in depicting his compromise position.like language. transformational systemics may make this conceptual modeling more effective. a theory of language may have to share these properties with language itself: to be nonrigid. To be an effective tool for these purposes. as Firth suggests. again ." ("Systemic"10). The Politics of Systemics The point behind comparing these analyses is that in different ways they reveal the inherently ideological nature of systemics. text coherence. by necessity. so that it has more power at its disposal than is actually needed in any one context.it is rather elastic and rather extravagant.") Finally.. "The problem of the differences existing between the expected global structures of text types and the actual global structures manifested in text realizations of texts is not solved in the procedural approach.that would not adhere to the "sacred" definition of "anagram" . Ventola focuses on "irregularities and modifications" instead of "yielding to regularities and expectedness" in systemics.Systems that proceed according to a quasi-anagrammatic principle . that may be desirable.

one that is "displaced from reader to reader throughout history.which is evidently formal . He imagines codes as "simply associative fields. His method attempts to "locate and classify without rigour. Barthes proposes "the conjunction of two ideas which for a long time were thought incompatible: the idea of structure and the idea of combinational infinity." His goal will be that of "producing a mobile structuration of the text" . what makes the text is the intertextual" (174). but instead. closed product". "the outlet of the text on to other texts. "implies at once structure and movement." Through this assumption. Barthes does not assess "codes" "in the rigorous. Barthes proposes this approach as endeavoring not to "describe [or "record"] the structure of a work.on other end also may be understandably classed among the fanatics." The narrative is not considered "a finished." But.. Once this paradigm is in place.but the forms and codes to which meanings are possible" (172-3). a supra-textual organization of notations which impose a certain idea of structure. Barthes's essay." although it might seem that an infinity of that nature essentially dissolves the notion of systemic confinement.) Briefly. scientific.... Moreover. space. narratives are categorized "under the notion of 'text'." he says. "Textual Analysis: Poe's 'Valdemar'. other signs." "The conciliation of these two postulations is forced upon us now because language. closed.in the process of self-construction. Barthes's decoding "is not a question of delivering the 'structure' of Poe's story. but they are incorporated flexibly. sense of the term" (191). While Barthes's depiction of this system is fairly vague.." "Textual analysis does not try to find out what it is that determines the text. this designation establishes an "operating field" parallel to the systemic concept of the delimited arena and its constituent logic... This position effectively identifies what also could be called an "infinite systemicity." (This latter form. there seems to be a middle ground between the two that is actually configured much like the end opposite of systemicists like Eco. "The avenues of meaning. not all the meanings of the text. accountable structure. system and infinity" (191)." Later in the essay. he does at least repeatedly characterize it as unhindered by structuralist boundaries. process of meanings at work." in other words (173). "What founds the text is not an internal." he contends. it supposedly can function as a "narrative model" according to which "each particular narrative will be analysed in terms of divergences" from "all the narratives in the world." outlines a means for comprehending a "paradoxical" view of system that is parallel in many respects to the proposal outlined above for a dynamic form of systemics that could be called a "semiosystemics". Barthes does this by contrasting two "tendencies" in contemporary structuralist analysis of narratives. Up From Systemics: Semiosystemics In theory as opposed to application. Barthes reiterates this stance by imagining the linking of two sets of seemingly mutually exclusive oppositions: "narrative. One "seeks to establish a narrative model . Barthes constructs this intersection of infinity and system through a code-based analysis not unlike that discussed in Lecture Three. which we are getting to know better. is at once infinite and structured. In this instance. "but rather how the text explodes and disperses. it is an intertextual "production in progress." will be discussed in greater detail in Lecture Seven. which Barthes calls "Textual Analysis.and thereby articulated with society and history in ways which are not determinist but citational." Barthes concludes. For Barthes. a structure or grammar of narrative" (172). Barthes's system is opposed to the static sense of structure which so often spurs protests from process-oriented systemicists. and 92 . within the other orientation." Barthes's claims for a free-form literary semiotics do rely on consequential elements of systemicity.

" the "dilatory" Text "practices the infinite deferment of the signified" ("Work" 158). Barthes's model does have the advantage of not falling prey to the allure of static systemicity that is so common. It remains "an irreducible (and not merely an acceptable) plural" (159)." he notes. networks are associated with organic adaptation. to the principal codes that we have located. returning more freely. 93 ." he argues. Ventola and others. and disempowerment of the individual. restraint without absolute containment. This can be seen in Barthes's use of the notion of the "field". according to a serial movement of disconnections. rather. poorly theorized. Moreover. Halliday. While "the work closes on a signified. and zestily idiosyncratic. a realization of the ideal into something akin to Chomsky's notion of a "perfect system" (1). stasis. it seems to evoke a yearning for total encapsulization of semiosis. to the contrary. suggest rigidity. but." and it is this abstraction. After all.even less that of all narratives." Halliday also characterizes system as "an abstract representation of a paradigm. while he imagines a sense of the Text that appears radically polysemic." Barthes's treatment of the Text as an open system provides a viable area of pursuit for a critical semiotics that is consonant with the proposed conceptual blending of system and process into a semiosystemics.. "As a reminder of this distinction. of which the text is the field) is realized not according to an organic progress of maturation or a hermeneutic course of deepening investigation. and with less attachment to the progressive unfolding of the text. The Text's "field is that of the signifier and the signifier must not be conceived of as 'the first stage of meaning'.." "The metaphor of the Text is that of the network. Culler. In this way. Yet. Barthes moors the Work to the signified. that may account for its seeming distance from the realm of actual experience ("Language" 55). "we often talk of 'closed system' and 'open set'. along with its connotations of closure. Halliday's distinction between system and set is helpful here: "the range of possibilities in a closed choice is called technically a SYSTEM. variations. without closure" (159). engage in a process of "simply. While obviously far less systemic than Hjelmslev would have proposed. Furthermore. "if the Text extends itself. in complete opposition to this. the infinity of the signifier refers not to some idea of the ineffable (the unnameable signified) but to that of playing. from a conceptual standpoint "the network is open-ended" (3). Like his decidedly unsystematic development and deployment of code analysis in S/Z (also discussed in Lecture Three). and perhaps most importantly. while the Text perpetually floats unfettered by virtue of only associating with the signifier. that in an open choice a SET" (Linguistic 22). overlappings. As Halliday notes. but. the Text is "like language. however. This leads to what Barthes calls "a paradoxical idea of structure: a system with neither close nor centre. with individual constructedness. it is as a result of a combinatory systematic" (161). containment. control. By positing the separability of the signifier and the signified. Barthes's modeling perimeters operate within the system's comfortable confines (a familiar stance among the discussion of semiotics). Systems. Barthes's systemics is chaotic. as its deferred action" (158)." in that "it is structured but off-centred. the generation of the perpetual signifier (after the fashion of a perpetual calendar) in the field of the text (better. And it is for exactly these reasons that it provides so much potential for future study of sign systems not unlike the semiosystemics anticipated by Firth. What is it about the "network" that evokes greater growth potential and accountability than "system"? The metaphorical connection of generation might serve as one explanation. its material vestibule." He will. asymmetry as well as symmetry.

"The Semantics of Linguistics cience. Ed.The Semiotics of Text. Deely. "Inside Greimas's Square: Literary Characters and Cultural Restraint. Benson and William S. Vol. Goffman. A. Maupassant ."texture" . 1991). 1985): 295-321. In this example. Erving." Halliday: 88-98. The Human Use of Signs. NJ: Ablex Publishing Corp. "The Use and Distribution of Certain English Sounds. G." Eija Ventola. It would be a different type of networking indeed. Greaves (Norwood." Texture. "Personality and Language in Society." Halliday: System and Function in Language. precisely in that the latter possesses the property of texture. Chomsky. Elements of Anthroposemiosis (Lanham.'" Systemic Perspectives on Discourse. "Negotiations and Meaning: Revisiting the 'Context of Situation. 94 . "is what makes the sentences of a text cohere" (241). M. James D. 2. she specifies texture as a condition in which "the lexicogrammatical units representing a text hang together" and create "linguistic cohesion within the passage. 1988).that might be more suitable. James D. Benson and William S." On Meaning: Selected Writings in Semiotic Theory.. 1995). Peter H. MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers. 1957): 177-189." Papers: 139-147. "A Brief Sketch of Systemic Grammar. Ed. Or. W. 1983). she contends. Eco. Wendy Steiner (Austin: University of Texas Press. Nancy. Firth. Paul Perron and Frank Collins (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. ---. R. Bailey. Trans. Paul Perron (Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Co. The Structure of Social Interaction: xvii-xix. Trans. Stefan Collini (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. semiotics may well move to the next level into a systemics that could be founded under the rubric of a dynamic model . "A random string of sentences differs from a set of sentences representing a (part of a) text." she remarks (228). 1985): 1-17. NJ: Ablex Publishing Corp. Trans. 1974). References Armstrong. By including the constituent force of semiosic activity into an ever-changing grid of processoriented systemicity. Hasan offers a term . R. Umberto. Robin. J. ---. Fawcett. "The Interaction of Semiotic Constraints. ---. Vol. Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Everyday Experience (New York: Harper and Row. Greimas. Ed. "Deep Grammar: System as Semantic Choice." The Sign in Music and Literature.Perhaps a nomenclature that is even less forbidding could be employed to avoid the stigma associated with systemicity. Jonathan Culler.K. Structural Semantics: An Attempt at a Method. Halliday." Papers: 34-46. ---. and Christine Brooke-Rose. Noam. 1976): 3-6. 1994). 1." Papers in Linguistics 1934-1951 (London: Oxford University Press. Daniele McDowell. Kress (London: Oxford University Press. Selected Theoretical Papers from the 9th International Systemic Workshop. Interpretation and Overinterpretation. 1987): 48-62. Ed. R. Ed. "How Does a Story Mean What it Does? A Partial Answer. ---. 1981).perhaps a semiosystemics. J. John. Ronald Schleifer.A.. Greaves (Norwood. Fries.. and Alan Velie (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. The Minimalist Program (Cambridge: The MIT Press. "Foreword. Selected Theoretical Papers from the 9th International Systemic Workshop." Systemic Perspectives on Discourse. with Richard Rorty.

"Translator's Note. Stephen. A. with A. Reddy."Systemic Background." Explorations in the Functions of Language (London: Edward Arnold. 1964). "The Conduit Metaphor . Schleifer. 1987)." Systemic Perspectives on Discourse." Beyond the Symbol Model: 279-302. 1985): 137-154. Ed. "Language in A Social Perspective. Martin. Hartman. 1: 248-274. The Structure of Social Interaction: A Systemic Approach to the Semiotics of Service Encounters (London: Frances Pinter Publishers. "Process and Text: Two Aspects of Human Semiosis. 1973): 48-71. ---. Image-Music-Text (New York: Hill and Wang. Michael." Roland Barthes. R. Structural Semantics: i-lvi. G. Eija. "Meaning. J.---. Halliday. 'The Interpreter's Freud." Beyond the Symbol Model: Reflections on the Representational Nature of Language. 1979): 284-324." Easy Pieces (New York: Columbia University Press. Hasan. Whitfield (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. 1: 16-49. Andrew Ortony (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1977): 7-11. Ruqaiya. Descriptive and Applied Linguistics (London: Longman. Language as Constitutive Articulate Contact. Context and Text: Fifty Years After Malinowski. Heath. Trans. 1: 1-15. Stewart. Ventola. Strevens. Vol. 95 ." Halliday: vii-xxi. Semiotics and Discourse Theory (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press." Systemic Perspectives on Discourse. 1966). Greimas and the Nature of Meaning: Linguistics. Prolegomena to a Theory of Language. 1996): 9-68. M." A. The Linguistic Sciences and Language Teaching (London: Longman. Hjelmslev." Systemic Perspectives on Discourse. ---. "Discourse Worlds and Representation. "The Symbol Model vs. ---.A Case of Frame Conflict in Our Language about Language. Greimas. Vol.K. John. Vol. "Introduction. Ronald. "Introduction. 1987). James R. Louis." Metaphor and Thought. Kress. J. Wilson. 1961). Francis J. John. Ed. Geoffrey. John Stewart (Albany: State University of New York Press." Patterns of Language: Papers in General. McIntosh and P. "Typology and the Exotic.A.

The key element of that conception. For. so that rather than depleting the sign's meaning in the course of signification. "unlimited semiosis. The Open Work. in other words. Note that this rendition anchors the process within the sign itself. and needlessly so. however. This is significant in that the stress on containment is imported into the concept of semiosis. rational assumptions has to ground itself on just such an arguably desperate leap of faith.Lecture Six: Finite Infinite Semiosis." Versus: Quaderni di studi semiotici 55/56. (Designated throughout as "R". 2 (Gennaio-Agosto 1990). the process of semiosis is considered relatively ceaseless. as "a process of continuous self-reproduction of signs" (168). significantly." Hanna Buczynska-Garewicz (166) Imported Finitude Peirce's perspective has had a strong impact on contemporary accounts of semiosis. Anna Cancogni (Cambridge: Harvard University Press. the entire order of a semiosis based on productive. Buczynska-Garewicz is a revealing example of this tendency as she portrays semiosis. Overview: Imported Finitude The Reign of Finite Infinite Semiosis "Reeling in the Signs" Redux A System of Indeterminacy The Conditions of Openness Openness Under Control The Benefits of Control Finnegans Wake in Captivity Semiosis Unbound "Semiosis is not an objectless process. in order for a sign to exist. For. "Reeling in the Signs: Unlimited Semiosis and the Agenda of Literary Semiotics. In many models of signification in the discussion of semiotics. The significance of her assertion lies in the endeavor to frame sign action as a purposeful undertaking -. constraining perimeter. semiosis actually reinforces it. 153-173. Rather. "it is essential that it 'stands for something else'" (166). this apparently has been brought into 96 ." to employ Eco's term for Peirce's concept.one that simply must have a purpose. 1989). Assigned Readings: Scott Simpkins. in no way requires a finite.) Umberto Eco. is relatively ceaseless. This "essential" characteristic bears more weight than might appear at first. trans. as can be seen from Buczynska-Garewicz's attempt to salvage signification from an otherwise meaningless fate. Buczynska-Garewicz supports her claim in relation to Peirce's position on semiosis by adding that for Peirce.

or unable -. From this perspective. Producing these essays. But. Robey's observation is typical of the narratives generated about the trajectory of Eco's career. The Open Work actually consists of essays derived from Opera aperta (chapters 1-6) and five other sources. Moreover. Buczynska-Garewicz again illustrates this effectively by declaring that "semiosis is a process of logical implications. however. A careful examination of Eco's assertions in The Open Work reveals otherwise. The latter orientation. semiotic work. it's the concept of freedom. spurred Eco's move into a focus on semiotics. specifically. This stance is not unlike the one Eco frequently assumes as he attempts to qualify yet another term in order to make it adhere to his beliefs. The Open Work tells a different story. Since the IG has so strongly influenced literary semiotics. The Introduction by David Robey provides a revealing frame for The Open Work that situates Eco's commentary (circa 1960s) as substantially different from his later. "Considering sign processes as open chains formed by the unending deferral of interpretants leads. Yet. and deferral. in light of Eco's later works on semiotics and his fiction. which apparently also changed in composition in the course of subsequent editions. Consider Lubomir Dolezel's suggestion that "ever since A Theory of Semiotics Eco has been staking out a reasoned position between the postulate of a single interpretation and unlimited semiotic drift" (115). sooner or later. and 'unlimited semiosis' in relation to his earlier observations on the 'rights' of texts and readers" (217). an enterprise portrayed as decidedly opposed to a "scientific" agenda. is typically aligned (and unjustly so) with deconstruction. semiotics yields a rational. This distinction is an important facet of such an inclination in semiotics as it attempts to distinguish itself as a discipline that yields progressive accumulations of "knowledge". while dissemination is an accidental play of traces and differentiations" (169).the discussion solely to quell the fears of semioticians (like those in the Indiana Group) unwilling -. In this case. Without this understanding. contractural agreement. The Open Work. Despite this apparent consensus about Eco's career.to accept the implications of ceaseless sign deferral. Rocco Capozzi likewise notes that. Finnegans Wake (hereafter: (FW) . I will explore here a manifestation of this view of a shackled semiosis on a specific topic: critical commentary on James Joyce's novel." she maintains. while deconstruction generates mere "noise". "to a need to consider the terms and sense of the opening" (133). I would like to address some implications of the open/closed issue and Eco's writings related to.' interpretation. "critics have started to (re)examine the author's theories on 'open works. In fact. Eco's readers will recall his frequent references to this novel as an illustration of a purportedly extreme instance of literary openness. systematic product of understanding. Eco has been doing this throughout his semiotic commentary. he 97 . displacement. In The Role of the Reader. this consideration in itself is central to Eco's sententious interest in asserting that the decoder's practices must adhere to a negotiated. Susan Petrilli likewise contends that there has been a seemingly natural development of Eco's emphasis on semiosic limitation. the decoder is at liberty to use the sign-vehicle indiscriminately. Robey argues that all but two of the essays in the English volume are representative of "Eco's major 'presemiotic' writings" (vii). though. before I enter into that commentary (an extension of my earlier essay on the subject). "some [critics] see Eco betraying his original spirit of 'openness' presented in The Open Work" (221). in that his so-called "pre-semiotic" concerns are remarkably similar to those he raises in his "semiotic" phase. as opposed to meaningless sign slippage. The Open Work differs from the version in Italian (Opera aperta) published in 1962. he relates from Eco's own admission. of course.

interpretations allowed by the context. This dynamic pits three entities against one. Yet. he situates it as a prescribed freedom that is directed on several fronts.seemingly allows Eco to make a stronger case for inherent multivalency. Peirce. even though Eco is talking about openness." Elsewhere (as was cited earlier). "A text is a placed where the irreducible polysemy of symbols is in fact reduced because in a text symbols are anchored to their context" (21). Of course. But he confesses his belief that "it is possible to distinguish between the free interpretative choices elicited by a purposeful strategy of openness and the freedom taken by a reader with a text assumed as a mere stimulus."). accordingly. then the decoder would be unable to intelligibly say anything about it that could be confirmable. The Reign of Finite Infinite Semiosis Victorino Tejera's "Eco." he insists. but it's another to do so in a manner that conveys significance to a decoder.) On the other hand. textually open only to the indefinite." What Eco is trying to accomplish here is to essentially continue the enforcement of rule-bound openness that he had established much earlier in works such as The Open Work. utterance. the text then contains its own procedures for decoding it. It's one thing to emit a meaningless. he adds. In The Limits of Interpretation he proposes that the text itself establishes an effective boundary on the decoder's practices. This is essential for the complemental emphasis he makes on distinguishing the artistic use of signs from instrumental uses. Its elements of chance and vitality are truly limited. with openness surrounded. to follow this argument. "One should look for the rules which allow a contextual disambiguation of the exaggerated fecundity of symbols. and the Necessity of Interpretation" outlines a perspective on semiotic controllability that reflects a shared stance with Eco regarding the need to show "more 98 . Eco also distinguishes between an act of communication and noncommunication (what Tejera refers to as "communication" versus "signification" [154]). that is. that Eco relies upon a fundamental distinction in his commentary on opennesss and control. if the work signified a genuine sense of disorder and semiosic exhuberance. the decoder faces three limitations when dealing with the sign-vehicle -. This anchoring has considerable authority for Eco.asserts that "Everything can become open as well as closed in the universe of unlimited semiosis" (40). For one thing. "Any act of interpretation is a dialectic between openness and form. or extremely open. Eco had relied upon the invocation of rule-bound behavior by the decoder regarding this issue. along with all the connotations of formal organization. It is important to note. As a result.similar to the "normal" use of language versus the "poetic" use proposition -. Characteristically. initative on the part of the interpreter and contextual pressure" (Limits 21).hardly a form of open decoding." Eco endeavors to grant the sign-vehicle the capacity to set the rules by which the decoder is obliged to draw upon in order to assess what it communicates. "Many modern theories are unable to recognize that symbols are paradigmatically open to infinite meanings but syntagmatically. the conditions for aesthetic appreciation. (This specific issue will be pursued at length in Lecture 7. but by no means infinite." it is nonetheless "still dependent on the most basic categories of communication (since it bases its informativeness on its formativity)" (Open 103). Even though it is an "art of chance and vitality. the artistic register of a sign is. too. "it also offers us. His commentary on action painting is revealing on this point. After all. going to be more inclined toward openness than a non-artistic one is (as can be seen in an apparently monosemous statement such as: "I have forgotten my umbrella. This opposition -.

This schema is related to Michael Riffaterre's efforts to propose a model of controlled decoder activity. the encoder would effectively establish constraint over the decoder who then abides by this semiotic agreement. Clearly. This is exactly what Tejera does. essentially. "the interpretants which the complex literary sign is determining" (154). Semiosis is thus logically confined.respect" (147) for the text's "aesthetic integrity" (152). Riffaterre finds a means for accommodating unlimited semiosis into this paradigm as well. These concepts are unlimited semiosis and "the definition of text as a set of constraints imposing uniform reader responses and consistent interpretation that endure despite changes in esthetic or ideological fashions. because confinable. the interpretant itself is partially inscribed in the verbal sequence -. As a result. we reverse the sequence of mental events that resulted in its being written. While according a type of materiality to interpretants may seem like a curious strategy (since they're usually considered a mental entity). in other words. but also a set of constraints on the reader's freedom. but casts it as an impoverished form of play." Additionally. as we experience it in producing our own messages.the semeiotic object" (153). in reading such a text.mediate the effective object of the literary sign and the constructed work of art which is that sign" (150). Riffaterre contends that "the very logic of language controls [the reader's] response" (174).a monument to the semiosis that took place in the author's mind. Like Eco's portrayal of aesthetically "open" texts. namely "circularity". Riffaterre offers a decidedly mechanistic explanation of how semiosis can be directed by the encoder in this fashion: The only difference between the mental interpretant." Through this assumption. By placing the interpretant into a suitable vehicle. A monument. that reflect different personalities. it can be used as a component of a proposed larger model constructed on the premise that semiosis is an intelligible. Riffaterre's rendition of the workings of the sign-vehicle allows for a certain amount of decoder lattitude. Riffaterre's plan outlined here is designed to install the encoder as the "God" of semiosis. "What different readers who are said to share the same 'interpretive response' in fact share is the same interpretants.or raise them to consciousness as generated by -. (183-184) Even better. process. "they will articulate these in terms that suit themselves." Moreover. These would be. As the derivation from the intertext-interpretant opens enough textual space to allow lexical feedback from the interpretant to modify the direct derivation from the sign. the flow of semiosis is transformed into a processual entity like the food chain. this allowance constitutes "a most important systematic limiting principle (constraint) of interpretation." Riffaterre goes so far as to cast this phenomenon in the same terms that opponents of truly unlimited semiosis use to condemn it. As Tejera concludes. Employing the rationalistic premise used by so many semioticians. so that there is something the decoder has to treat scrupulously.. organically whole and ultimately logically discernible as such. the onus of "responsible" decoding can also be proposed under these circumstances. decoders need to "correlate their feelings with -. To Tejera. "The circularity created by feedback from the interpretant to the text suggests a compatibility between two concepts that appear at first to be mutually exclusive" (184). Tejera can propose a shared physicality within semiosis that serves as a basis for contentions favoring the possibility of an encoder enforcing the degree of openness that a signvehicle is said to possess. Tejera argues that "the constraints of the interpretants. varying literary competence.. that programs him to retrieve the original semiosis by decoding upstream from the genesis sequence. and non-congruent amounts of collateral information. and the recorded interpretant of the literary text is that. 99 . Yet Riffaterre is able to rearticulate this concept in a manner that brings it back into accord with the views of control-oriented semioticians. a model for his interpretation.

Capozzi remarks that Eco "is fully aware that the internal coherence of a text is constructed with 100 . the best evidence we have for this universal is that it manifests itself in the endless instability of reading. Certain types of works (she cites FW as one example) actually can "impose on the reader a plurality of interpretations" and "can be endlessly reassembled" by decoders (215). Dolezel also suggests that "Eco's semiotics views interpretation as an interplay between the addressee and the work as an objective fact." Each re-reading forces him to work at retrieving the elusive significance. Paradoxically. and Riffaterre are headed." The decoder.. David Seed reveals his investment in it when he notes that "the writers which Eco highlights as pursuing multiple and indeterminate meaning are characteristically those whose works resist closure or who pursue diverse systems of signification" (79). (A related component of this proposal appears under the guise of context assessment. In the course of his assessment of Eco's orientation on this position. "the intentio of [Dante's] Commedia is not that of a never-ending reading. to discover endless potential messages by interpreting the ambiguity of the meaning. yet the sign-vehicle is described as generating a finite array of decoder responses. or only a little. In fact. A component associated with encoder intention is brought into this scenario. in effect. "In fact Joyce imagines a reader who is able to arrange units of sense. must be built upon clear proofs given to the reader" (213). based on hypotheses and proofs. The goal behind this web of interrelated assumptions is puzzling. while this is (but always within certain limits) the intentio of Finnegans Wake " (Longoni 215). A proposition of this nature. establishes the sign-vehicle as operating according to a logic derived from the paradigms of systematic reasoning. Tejera. Accordingly. cannot escape the orbit of the text." (215-6). but one that. this instability of the decoding. As a signification system. remaining circular. "The context must give the reader a guideline that will set the boundaries within which to move in the oscillation of interpretation [which becomes wider the more complex the interpreted text is]" [Longoni 213]. For instance. but one taking place within the text's closure. The decoder is ever mindful of "the awareness of a semiotic transformation peculiar to the text" and this caution "causes him to re-read. Consistent with the orientation revealed by Longoni and Dolezel. And where is this mechanism located? In what Eco refers to as text intention. can stand as a locatable origin that can be recovered by engaging in the equivalent of retracing one's "work" while doing a mathematics problem to be certain of having achieved the "correct" sum. Anna Longoni reveals their goal succinctly: "A hypothesis. In a different context. It's easy to see where assumptions like those by Buczynska-Garewicz. this repeated inability to stop and be content with a reductive reading does not threaten the text's monumentality.. Longoni resorts to presuming that semiosic activity can be restricted. Capozzi identifies Eco's belief that "the author's intentions are inherent in the linguistic and textual strategies that a reading must keep in mind when interpreting a text" (221). This alternation is therefore a form of unlimited semiosis. in order to become a legitimate interpretation. to double-check.) Tellingly. too. Capozzi reveals a noticeable and sympathetic longing for certitude. as is reflected in the distinction between works that "oscillate" a lot. the text restricts the range of its possible interpretations" (115). (184) This presumption of the sign-vehicle's status as something akin to that of a planet allows Riffaterre to situate decoders as moons or satellites that are always limited to moving only in accordance with its gravitational allowance. They seem oriented toward a scenario in which the encoder has the capacity to take charge of semiosis.This logic is reinforced by Riffaterre's notion of "retroactive reading. This assumption is widespread in semiotics.

doesn't the something go beyond the endless chain of unlimited semiosis?" (231). This frequently goes unnoticed. though. It's hard to believe that this take on Eco's obvious manipulation of "openness" to suggest "closedness" doesn't come across as somewhat peculiar. it should become apparent that Eco reflects the majority opinion on semoisis as a controllable operation. and uncontrolled unlimited semiosis" (218). psychological. the encoder's careful planning and construction. the undertaking of semiotics collapses. and on these grounds. and evidently "unintentionally". And. "if signs. however. and -. Eco. and directed by that something at the same time. overinterpretation is the "result of a free-wheeling application of associations.the possibility of a semiosic "end".) This is certainly the case when Eco's conception of The Open Work. Seed demonstrates this well when he asserts that in The Open Work. semiotic. This returns to my opening discussion and the semiotic theology implict in this conception of a limited semiosis. any interpretation can be both implemented and legitimated -. for Eco. (In fact. as is seen in Cappozzi's remarks on internal coherence. "At most.even in the case of the most 'open' instances. for if there isn't. Additionally. Baudrillard and Cultural Theory sponsored by the Cyber Semiotic Institute. finally. This can be constructed out of boundary and craft metaphors. as Peirce tells us. ironic. asserts that unlimited semiosis "does not give a reader the license to practice unlimited interpretation through an endless series of connotations that words and names elicit" (227). "it provides a theoretical tool for identifying." With his emphasis on legitimation. connotations.) that an author plans. similarities. Again. a continuum of intermediate positions" between the two poles. stylistic. freedom from prescription. As Capozzi suggests. for he is employing the term in a manner that is undeniably. are signs which stand for other signs which in turn stand for something in some capacity for someone. infinite chains of signifiers. There simply has to be a goal to semiosis from this perspective. this goal has to be somehow present in the signvehicle in order for the decoder to be said to be decoding something. Eco shares these assumptions and relies upon institutions of empistemological consensus for incarcerating semiosis. "Reeling in the Signs" Redux The account in this lecture of the management of semiosis by many individuals currently writing on semiotics was anticipated by my 1990 essay which may profitably bear revisiting.) This orientation can be found in his discussion of interpretation and overinterpretation which similarly relies upon the presumption of programmable control of the decoder. he says. a careful examination of his self-positioning reveals that he is aligned with those who favor a view of sign movement that has a domesticating agenda.the different strategies (semantic. Between the two ends of Peirce's continuum "stands a recorded thesaurus of encyclopedic competence.most importantly -. and potential" (76). for his readers" (224). and only on these grounds. structural.." he argues about this notion. "Eco gradually maximizes the connotations of the term 'open' as suggesting flexibility. he bears no small responsibility for contributing to the creation of this opinion. sympathy. eventual finitude versus infinitude) (Philosophy of Language 3). inherent intentions. according to different semiosic processes. very carefully. (See Gary Genosko's related commentary on "panic semiurgy" in the "Massage and Semiury" lecture of his course on McLuhan. a social storage of world knowledge. This medium perspective in his orientation is suggested by his dismissal of either of the two "extremes" related to Peirce's conception of semiosis (i. While he appears to inhabit a middle ground on this issue. etc. and so on" (78). For Eco. I suggested 101 . isn't this a case of overreaction? Tejera notes that Eco displays "unnecessary panic" when faced with the possibility of genuine semiotic openness that is found in contentions like: all language is metaphorical (157). intellectual receptivity.e. openness "always carries connotations of heuristic freshness.

found himself unable to live with its logical extensions. In fact. they are by no means useless. this issue is often raised as a means of denigrating the emphasis on play in some deconstructionist viewpoints. In fact." Charles Ruhl.or 'order' -.1875: 1. "The notion of value is based on comprehension and without this potential. it is exactly this potential that allows them to signify" (R 156). "Referentiality without end" evidently was too much for him and. The evident conclusion derived from the assertion that indeterminacy is the dominant operation in semiosis is that nothing can be said with certainty about communication. in other words. Signs that are static and unmalleable couldn't be manipulated for communicative purposes by individual encoders. is that "although signs never stop signifying. for one. For them. generative quality of sign oscillation. then. The usual justification for this strategy is drawn from the seemingly undeniable "reality" of at least partially successful communication. it is nothing but the representation itself conceived as stripped of irrelevant clothing. the goal of analytical security -. if a semiotically meaningful exchange "does take place with regularity. many semioticians have attempted to cope through a related strategy. signs have to be permanently subject to alteration as they reverberate in the larger arena of semiosis. So there is an infinite regression here. who provides a threatening conception of semiosis.. then it is indeed likely that signs do halt their otherwise infinite slippage (even if this happens only for a scant moment)" (154). What this means. "if the activity of a system of semiosis is viewed as constantly mutable and highly unstable. Out of necessity. for semiotic analysis" (154). On the contrary. For. A situation not unlike that which fuels the motives for systemics develops as a consequence of this acceptance. although it can be taken in ways that alleviate this uneasiness. if not probable" (R 154). After all. "nothing but a 102 . "reflects this notion when he concedes that 'monosemy is theoretically preferable to polysemy' in that it provides a stronger ground. Belief in sign stoppage provides support for the contention of logical coherence. As was seen with contentions like those raised by Eco and Tejera. Peirce bears a significant portion of responsibility for the anxiety associated with unlimited semiosis." Like characters in Ernest Hemingway's fiction who deal with the insecurities of war-related chaos by embracing an exaggerated sense of routine in their post-war life.. "he could not abandon sign systems to what appeared to be an abyss of endless displacement" (R 153). communication is a hopeless venture. is required for the construction and use of signs. But this clothing never can be completely stripped off. The plastic. Finally. and as a representation. After all.is unattainable.then that even someone like Peirce. like many following in his wake in the IG discussion. as depicted in his description of ongoing signification: The meaning of a representation. a systematic stability. a reasonable way out of this dilemma is found in the faith that "signs eventually stop signifying at some grand point" (153-154). it is only changed for something more diaphanous. if we can exchange information with others at a moderately successful rate." has been the source of a lot of hand-wringing about Peirce's contention. Lo.339) This "nothing but. then it can be analyzed and schematized and consequently better understood through semiotic analysis. The one facet of semiosis that is especially troubling to those uneasy with infinite signification is that this phenomenon seems essential to the creation of meaning. can be nothing but a representation. it has its interpretant again. another infinite series. the belief in communication is difficult to refute. with the implication that satisfactory information exchange is possible. (c. the interpretant is nothing but another representation to which the torch of truth is handed along. "In other words.

it hinges on the notion that things can be "explained according to rational lights" (202). Accordingly. Eco supports this view. semioticians who argue for a constrained sense of semiotics are in effect refusing to accept the consequences of an arguably fundamental component of signification. is "built on the creation and satisfaction of the dominant need for property and propriety" (203). he does so only under the condition that such a 'limit' is extremely fleeting.1875: 1. This orientation. (Presumably. how can they be studied and analyzed with any degree of finality?" (R 168). cannot satisfactorily accept a semiosic landscape grounded by a presumed groundlessness. In fact.) 103 . attacks this perspective for its presumption of a two-worlds view. While he allows for the conceptualization of the end of semiosis. may be conceived to have an absolute object at its limit" (c. In a typical follow up to this negative presentation of semiosis. once this conclusion is reached. What could be conceived of as a source of limitless growth is. the knee-jerk reaction to this assertion always seems to predominate. Peirce. Smith compellingly traces the origin of this drive to the tradition of Platonic rhetoric and its quest for knowledge and truth. (John Stewart. "The acceptance of this condition often appears as a type of defeat. though. he suggests. each representing the one behind it. "the reality of the unverifiable or indeterminate is denied or suppressed" (203). were "determined to get the better of signs. given a modality aligned with pestilence through Boler's frame. at least "from Peirce's perspective. a representation just has a status that is different from that of entities inhabiting the material realm. As a result. To many. Peirce adds this sentence to the quote above: "But an endless series of representations. A representative instance of this can be found in John Boler's diction as he suggests that "Peirce makes the sign relation a sort of breeding ground for infinite series" (382). within this paradigm. Lectures 7 and 8 will extend this distinction in terms of the implications of favoring the "weaker" orientation of this nature.) Still. this 'absolute object' is ultimately only another representation. As this addition attests. Andrew R. although somewhat vaguely. he observes. an admission of futility for the semiotic project: if signs and signification cannot be conceptually accepted as describable (due to their fluidity). to show that the truth of the referent could be revealed through proper dialectical methods that would not allow the weaker argument to prevail over the stronger" (203). Smith offers a plausible explanation in his discussion of the "the ideology of communication exchange" (202). The nature of our "cognitive purpose" is something this current lecture explores. Boler echoes Peirce's depiction of ongoing semiosis when he asserts that it "raises the spectre of infinite regress and. To reiterate a point made above. creates the suspicion that all signs are somehow shoddy or incomplete" because "a sign is always open to further interpretants" (382). like semioticians such as Boler. Nonetheless. it may be recalled from Lecture 2. the potential destruction of semiotics goes hand in hand with this acknowledgement. One can hardly blame those who are willing to concede "a modicum of stasis" within the concept of semiosis in order to prevent this from happening.339). what I think is more important. then a subject is lacking for semiotic inquiry" (R 158). and vice versa. but our cognitive purpose organizes. instead. Additionally. when he concedes that "semiosis is potentially unlimited. "After all. The Platonists. frames and reduces such an undetermined and infinite series of possibilities" ["Unlimited" 5].representation" is not nothing. it itself becomes a representation which finds its meaning in another representation and so on all over again" (R 160). if signs never halt in their progression of semiosis. with the weaker aligned with the false.

To posit this coherent blueprint enables semioticians such as Eco to justify their analysis of semiotic systems because. an end which in its finitude reveals a logic. In 1990. "As a result of this development. potentially explainable by all the others" (Role 74). is the key factor behind the success of signification" (R 169). she asserts that a "legitimate interpretation" is problematically discernible while "it is easier to say what a misreading is" (216). "Therefore. "Precisely because semiosis is unlimited -. constitutes a multidimensional network of metonymies. Eco argues that semiosis is a process where "each term is explained by other terms and where each one is. he asserts. This social semiotic agreement is essential to Eco's argument since it is the basis on which his conception of finite infinitude rests. for example. not from the inherent multivalency of semoisis. Eco suggests moreover that "the imagination would be incapable of inventing (or recognizing) a metaphor if culture. in turn. One of the attractions of this strategy is that this makes a great deal of sense. signs would indeed continue to shift and mutate. it is the duty of the interpreter to look for a pertinent one: his aim is to grasp a fragment of the truth. but rather.) A willingness to accept shaky limitational formulae can be found in Ruhl's identification of what he labels as "bogus polysemy. "although in decoding the literary text it is not possible to find the true interpretation. upon reflection.the system of signs can become self-critical and self-corrective" (35). yet they would do so in a determinate manner with a goal. because the series of interpretants potentially stretches to infinity -. I would 104 . Eco takes this further by placing a related form of this constraint on the decoder who engages the sign-vehicle by voluntarily adhering to normative practices. the consequence of this maneuver is that "research will not then be an illusive combinatorial game. in its process of unlimited semiosis. from the vagaries of the individual decoder's subjective importation of meaning into the semiosic event.The situation Smith describes certainly accords with Longoni's apparent goal. as a result. in keeping with this position.that is. the familiar expression Eco employs for this distinction. each of which is explained by a cultural convention rather than by an original resemblance." she concludes. Extrapolating from Peirce's point. Vincent Colapietro accommodates a logic within sign movement in a related manner that relies upon this type of progress as a necessary consequence of semiosis.") To Longoni. Eco clings to a residue of logic within semiosis and." (It should be evident that the semiotic "game" Longoni decries is that what deconstructionists are assumed to be playing. Significantly. but the positive answer to the challenge the author and the text issue to us to discover in the narrative universe the cipher-key of Existence." (Perhaps what Peirce had in mind with passing on "the torch of truth. again." This is derived." This is how Eco resolves the paradox behind his notion of closed openness. for the source of "true" (read "finite") polysemy is founded on a belief that the sign-vehicle and the encoder have the power to enforce semiosic boundaries. Of course. again. his argument is directly related to the one Eco uses to disempower the decoder. I suggested that. did not provide it with the subjacent network of arbitrarily stipulated contiguities" (Role 78). Using. Eco also is embracing a yearning for truth with this contention. as the concepts of feedback refinement and overdetermination suggest. they would actually operate according to a highly complex. that metaphors are made possible "because language. Now. but nonetheless distinctive order" (R 167). Semiosis is ongoing and indeterminate -. under the form of a possible structure of the global Semantic System.but not perpeptually ongoing and not fully indeterminate. basing his model on the premise that analysis of signification will eventually lead to a type of epistemological illumination. implies that it is a discernible element of signification. through an infinite chain of interpretants. He contends. "the endless referentiality which might pose a threat on the surface can thus be seen more fruitfully as a source of infinite potential and growth" and "unlimited semiosis.

he apparently incorporates the latter to lessen the rigidity of the former. this does not imply that semiosic constraint has to accompany it. To make semiosis safe for the human sciences. Boler asserts that a developmental accretion takes place for the decoder in the process of undergoing a semiosic experience." Boler echoes this orientation when he exclaims that Peirce's account of semiosis doesn't presuppose "an endless parade of interpretants" (389). "the unlimited semiosis stops (and this stopping is not final in a chronological sense. "An absolutely determinate sign is no more desirable than an absolutely frictionless surface." An experience of this nature stands for Eco's rendition of "the final interpretant" -. and it's apparent that Boler can't have it both ways. To the contrary. Another vantage point to this situation exists.. is the only guarantee for the foundation of a semiotic system capable of checking itself entirely by its own means.the site where semiosis halts. it is the indeterminateness of a sign that allows it to signify. The exchange of signs produces modifications of the experience. Likewise. which. consistent with Eco's desire for a finality in all this. "This means that." Clarification and indefinite specificity are radically opposed concepts. this openness is closed substantially in between these points." he suggests. Language would then be an auto-clarificatory system. Eco is representative of those who have to drag epistemological progress into the picture." (Theory 69) Although this passage begins and ends on a note of infinitude. or rather one which is clarified by successive systems of conventions that explain each other. that this sense of development is illusory and paves the way for the gratuitous importation of finitude discussed above. Essentially. That is. since our daily life is interwoven with those habit mutations). semiosic flow doesn't have to rely upon an explanatory capacity in order to produce intelligible signification. Eco incorporates the kind of self-monitoring like that which Colapietro discusses so that he can maintain the paradox of a limited infinitude based on an underpinning of logical constraint. Like Eco. While Eco seems to accurately describe the necessity of unlimited semiosis when he suggests that metaphors can't be conceived without it. He utilizes Peirce's commentary on the "habit" as a means of asserting that "change of habit" impacts the semiotic arena inhabited by the decoder (Role 194). the interpretant becoming in turn a sign. As a consequence. he can depict the richness of semiosis as nonetheless always constrained by concern for semiosic economy in order to avoid the overabundance associated with "noise". In the very next sentence he concludes: "To say that a sign can be clarified or specified indefinitely need be nothing more than a way of calling attention to this feature of signs. Boler is compelled to retreat to an emphasis on determinacy. however." he adds." But. 105 . "Peirce knows perfectly well that being indeterminate is not a flaw in a sign but just the way it ought to be" (394).argue otherwise. Eco relies upon this acceptance of infinitude only as a means for introducing the accumulation of knowledge into this scenario. "As a matter of fact. "At this point. A good illustration of this development can be located in Eco's depiction of the process of signification once signs are set in motion: At this point there begins a process of unlimited semiosis. though. In effect.. Therefore a sign is [in Peirce's words] "anything which determines something else (its interpretant) to refer to an object to which itself refers (its object) in the same way. our way of acting within the world is either transitorily or permanently changed. paradoxical as it may be. As Boler remarks. and so on ad infinitum. after having received a series of signs and having variously interpreted them.

in fact. a more of less conventional sense of proportion." Someone like Ruhl would be quick to point out. only noise takes place." he declares. Eco returns to Peirce's admission of this finality serving only as a temporary way station before semiosis oscillates again. Without this limit. "The result" of this interaction directed by the aesthetic sign-vehicle "is a multiform. it is never exactly what it previously was. and accompanying this time differential is a degree of change in space. "But. Semiosis dies at every moment. not the inadequacy. "In light of the oscillatory nature of sign and text perception." This fluid sense of the "truth" generated by semiosis conflicts significantly with the stance of those like Eco. it can reside in a material manifestation. (394) Ever attempting to heighten paradox in his semiotic conceptualizations. Eco even celebrates the voluntary acceptance of this subservience (recall his comment from Lecture 4 that decoders should be happy as "respectful servants of semiosis"). the need for versimilitude. This constraint can assume substantially different forms. plurivocal signified that leaves us at once satisfied and disappointed with the first phase of comprehension precisely because of its variety. Merrell is insightfully emphasizing an aspect of the entire process of semiosis that has to be taken into account if one hopes to generate what might constitute a responsive model of signification Responsiveness appears to be a viable means for avoiding becoming mired in what Merrell describes as "the muck of a relativistic epistemology that can only culminate in nihilism" (Foundations 148). Infinite divisibility shows the presence of a habit.Peirce's talk of infinite series does not imply that thought cannot be completed or that signs are essentially inadequate. And even that extendibility which allows sign processes to enter into more inclusive processes does not build upon the inadequacy of signs: that I could do something more does not mean that I have not finished this. however. this reining in of the decoder is conceived as a necessity for meaningful semiosis to occur. "Form is perceived as a necessary. only a relative truth. justified whole that cannot be broken. to become something other than what it was or could otherwise have been" (Foundations 146). Still. as soon as it dies. "The final interpretant is not final in a chronological sense. no matter how small. that this polysemy is of the "bogus" kind. in light of these frequent problematic vacillations in his own orientation. however fundamental it may be. The would-be (for all its futurism) reflects the power. every text. with each transition from 'inside' to 'outside' there has been a time differential. Eco could either come across as a champion of unlimited semiosis. Unable to isolate referents. every statement. "In a field of aesthetic stimuli. with successive readings and under different circumstances. meter. An alternative means to approaching this situation positively without these compromises can be found in Floyd Merrell's emphasis on the decoder's experience and temporal effects. Either way (among the two illustrations given here). This view of unlimited semiosis. its 106 . it arises again like the Phoenix" (Role 195). For example. "Every sign. it can manifest itself as an acquired literary competence coupled with cultural discernment. for whom a sign can't communicate unless its signifying field has a limit of some kind. signs are bound by a necessity that is rooted in the perceptual habits of the addressee (otherwise known as his taste): rhyme. or equally as one of its sternest guardians. always changes. Depending upon which pole of this schematic that one prefers to emphasize. of signs. "After each successive oscillation a sign (or text) never remains identical with itself. "allows us to maintain the idea that any particular system and any particular theory constitutes only an approximation." he says. No wonder that Eco's reliance upon closure-oriented paradigms so seldom receives comment. the addressee must then rely on his capacity to apprehend the complex signification which the entire expression imposes on him" (36-37). other stylistic concerns" (Open 36). along with the optimistic vision of there perpetually existing the possibility of discovering [or] inventing newer and more broadly based portions of truth ad infinitum. Or.

a noise which. stands as nothing but chaos. There is no recognizable order in their disposition. This limited autonomy is always mediated by Eco's claims of eventual finitude that underlies -and actually could be said to constitute -. the existence of a restricting "field" belies the suggestion of limitlessness that arises when terms such as "unlimited" and "open" are employed the way Eco uses them." In a related vein. "Or rather. Eco leaves the discernment of semiotic direction to the decoder who has been trained to detect evidence of such guidance and can thereby identify potential communicability in a given entity. according to Eco. laws pertaining to the linguistic system). logically speaking. semiosis. "By setting the speakers free to establish an immense number of connections. This entropy in its advanced form constitutes "noise" which threatens stable. all direction. the "constant threat" to semiosis is that it could lapse into "white noise. "If the meaning of a message depends on its organization according to certain laws of probability (that is. Their configuration is extremely open and. but which in fact gives us none at all" (96)." he claims. logical semiosis. We are free to connect the dots with as many lines as we please without feeling compelled to follow any particular direction. This can witnessed in "all those processes which." He depicts this development as "the undifferentiated sum of all frequencies -. as is reflected in Tejera's remark about Eco's inclination to "panic" when faced with a freedom that is a little too free for his taste. A genuinely unlimited semiosis. Eco actually considers this form of polysemy as one that is valid only insofar as it is sanctioned by the twin controlling effects of the encoder and the sign-vehicle. prefer to disclose a field of possibilities." Yet. the process of unlimited semiosis permits them to create a text" (Limits148). Eco says that "open works reveal a "contemporary poetics [that] merely reflects our culture's attraction for the 'indeterminate'" (Open 44). should give us the greatest possible amount of information." he says.indefiniteness" (37). the listener's ear is no longer capable even of choosing. this potential remains at a mathematical level and does not exist at the level of communication. then 'dis-order' is a constant threat to the message itself" (50-51). 107 . Without this semiosic permit. To Eco. Eco identifies "a certain amount of disorder" or "communication consumption" as something inherent to "messages as organized systems" (Open 50). This is where "openness" arises as the deocder is thereby authorized to participate in semiosis. the decoder cannot. The eye no longer receives any direction. "An excess of equiprobability does not increase the potential for information but completely denies it. instead of relying on a univocal necessary sequence of events. because intelligible. claim to be decoding responsibly." Without this "direction". the decoder of pavement can not be said to be decoding a work. contains a maximum amount of information. to create 'ambiguous' situations open to all sorts of operative choices and interpretations. albeit only somewhat freely.successful. to the contrary. (Open 98) This would be the form of openness that Eco would align with the "closed". In his commentary on information theory. as such. all it can do is remain passive and impotent in the face of the original chaos. "Deprived of all indication. Instead. Eco likens this noise to the chaotic disorder of gravel crushed into a pavement: Whoever looks at the surface of a road can detect in it the presence of innumberable elements disposed in a nearly random fashion. "For there is a limit beyond which wealth of information becomes mere noise. the pavement is a concrete manifestation of noise.

in that a stable direction. entropy isn't a real threat to semiosis. he asserts. oddly enough.is a restrained expenditure of significant communication. "for although the poetics of openness seeks to make use of a dis-ordered source of possible messages.if somewhat hopeless -. in fact. and a reception that is nothing more than solipsistic ranting. (Literary "competence" would be a good instance of this latter notion. and ultimately. Information. containing within itself all probabilities and none." he argues (Open 100). Not only is a form of "faith" in the possibility of successful semiosis needed. where not only the most common meanings but every possible meaning remains essentially unorganizable" (64). as a dis-order. he says. Unless the communicative instance breaks down into noise." a problem arises (Open 63). this oscillation is not necessarily any less chaotic than disorder. not hopeless at all.as long as it is under control -." or what could be called "an original organization of disorder.) "A constellation is itself a kind of order.that is. The outcome of this ordering is "a continuous oscillation between the institutionalized system of probability and sheer disorder. It can be accommodated successfully. information theory situates this as consistent with the principle that "the most difficult message to communicate is the one that." Similarly.view of semiosis as necessarily infinite. When he distinguishes between information and meaning. but an extensive system of enforcement is necessary as well." he maintains. will avail itself of a larger channel. refers to "the wealth of aesthetic meaning contained in a given message" (59). Put this wealth into the hands of a spendthrift decoder." Eco says. and it can be paradoxically depleted through its unchecked proliferation. while at the same time characterizing this situation as." The problem with this widening is that it produces a channel "more likely to allow the passage of numerous elements without filtering them -." Here. but the latter basically stays the same. a channel capable of conveying a great deal of information but with the risk of limited 108 . Thus. In relation to the new music and "the ambiguous message. in other words. mere noise. a meaningful act of communicative synthesis will take place. the difficulties involving "comprehensibility" and "probability" when one attempts to create a "dialectic between form and openness. however. Eco raises the issue of semiotic economy as a requisite measure to prevent total sign "consumption". To the extent that this "wealth" is "contained". His concept of this exchange is model more like that found in Plato's dialogues than something like "normal" conversation. "then the information carried by a message (whether poetic or not) that has been intentionally organized will appear only as a very particular form of disorder" (Open 55). But. "The highest level of unpredictability depends on the highest level of disorder. a logic. between free multipolarity and permanence. unlimited semiosis -. For." Eco's use of "dis-order" is a strategy his readers have seen before. "If entropy is disorder to the highest degree. noise is forestalled and meaningful communication is possible." To Eco. This would be "a 'dis-order' that is such only in relation to a preexisting order. it allows him to embrace an enlightened -. it tries to do this without renouncing the transmission of an organized message" (Open 63). Thus." which he defines as one which is "at once particularly rich in information and yet very difficult to decode. This containment requires an immense amount of cooperation by the decoder. "Only then can the message be considered an act of communication and not just an absurd dialogue between a signal that is. he argues that the former can contract or expand. it can be salvaged and domesticated through what Eco proposes as a form of "dialectic". relying on a wider range of sensibility on the part of the receiver."Only a critical act can determine whether and to what extent the 'openness' of a particular work to various readings is the result of an intentional organization of its field of possibilities.

the aesthetic message possesses all the characteristics proper to the source of a normal informative chain. While considerable pleasure can be derived from untethered semosis. is "not only enjoying his own personal experience" within this scenario. while begging the question in the process by not addressing whether any degree of imposed order is at all possible when it comes to semiosis. Eco proposes that a residue of intelligible organization is passed on from the encoder to the decoder. albeit a source of information that is yet to be filtered. should be seen as the first step of a new chain of communication. interpreted. As a new source of information. To enact control over the uncooperative decoder.not absolute disorder but nonetheless disorder in relation to the order that has preceded it. "but is also appreciating 109 . Eco repeatedly insists that a decoder who disregards any caution is not actually functioning as a legitimate decoder." he declares (Open 65). thereby introducing an initiating constraint that remains as a means of directing the decoder's practice. Eco constructs a procedure by which even this delinquent can still be mediated by the message and its concomitantly imposed limits." Significantly. on the other hand. "Only a dialectics of oscillation can save the composer of an open work. he argues. A System of Indeterminacy Within a conception of the "plural aspect of the artistic communication" (Open 95)." The viewer. the concept of finite semiosis will serve as a "filter" of this nature to avoid the danger attendant with too much openness. Eco proposes the possibility of being able to "recognize a system of indeterminacy whereby information decreases as intelligibility increases" (65). In an effort to maximize this "risk". is minimal. Eco posits a delicate balance between dis-order and disorder. This would evidently be especially germaine for aesthetic semiosis which is initiated by a sign-vehicle that is artistically ambiguous." Evidently. This is only another instance of happiness through semiosic restriction as the viewer immediately "goes back to the work to seek in it the origin of the suggestion and the virtuosity behind the stimulus. rather than an acquiescent reception. If the viewer of the "new" painting "abandons himself to the free play of reactions. But this is a sensible assertion only insofar as the decoder is considered as a relatively acquiescent recipient of a message who makes no essential contribution to the overall production of meaning. "The viewer [of a painting] can either work toward the recognition of an intentional message or abandon himself to the vital and unchecked flux of his most unpredictable reactions. (Open 67) Eco attempts to turn his view of semiotic control into a moral responsibility in which the decoder should shun "the lures of vitality" (101). he similarly frames "vitality" as a bacchanalian indulgence of sensation without measure." Consistent with using "open" in a negative way. "The distance between a plurality of formal worlds and undifferentiated chaos. Lecture 5 highlights the operation Eco is establishing here as he posits a systemic containment of sign movement as a constituting force behind the concept of semiosis itself. This is where the final stage of semiosis begins." this freedom is mediated by the work which "provokes" it (Open 103). totally devoid of all possibility of aesthetic pleasure. out of an initial disorder -.intelligibility. The decoder. Eco portrays this experience as negatively onanistic. this semiotic salvation can come only as a consequence of the boundaries erected through the process of a dialectic. since the message he has received is in itself another source of possible information. accordingly. But Eco situates this a simultaneous reinstigation of semiosis.

and chance rests on the dialectics between the work itself and the 'openness' of the 'readings' it invites" (100)." he says. only if it is granted the status of a Work. For. a formative intention. If a text is not granted this status. what for Barthes is a Text. its aesthetic quality. Thus. becomes constrained. a conscious organization. once it is recognized as originating from the disposition of the signs. the exhilarating infinitude of the Barthesian Text is an instance of noise for Eco..that is. intelligibly open. the rhymer "is no longer the victim or the prisoner of his enthusiasms and emotions. Eco proposes that this direction by the text somehow incorporates unlimited semiosis into the sphere of the text. "but because it was generally assumed that only discipline could stimulate invention and force one to choose the association of sounds that would be most agreeable to the ear. A good example of Eco's portrayal of the satisfaction derived from this type of semiosic finitude can be found in his commentary on "the system of rhyme" (Open 137). one of the components that the work has fused into its own unity and.. a source of the creative dynamism that it exudes." he says. with them. Eco declares." Aesthetic information. This can be taken to the extreme so that "even an art that upholds the values of vitality. movement. becomes an integral part of the work. the way an Ace bandage restrains the movement of an ankle or a knee while allowing the runner to run 110 . consists in referring the results drawn from [quantitative nformation] back to their original organic qualities. "A work of art can be open only insofar as it remains a work. This distinction allows Eco to reinforce his ordinary/aesthetic sign division. it becomes mere noise" (100). and in enjoying this new awareness. Barthes's "From Work to Text" sheds light on Eco's strategy here: Eco is essentially arguing that. (104) Eco identifies this dynamic as enforcing a controlled semiosic environment in which "the dialectics between work and openness. the viewer can savor.. behind the suggestive wealth we exploit. the very persistence of the work is itself a guarantee of both communication and aesthetic pleasure." he suggests." This is certainly a peculiarly austere form of "guaranteed" pleasure and nothing like the jouissance that Barthes and other proponents of the Dionysian form of unlimited semiosis imagine. not creative. then it has experienced a systemic condition of exit and is outside the arena of an aesthetic signvehicle (i." By adhering to these "conventions".the very quality of the form. At this point." This voluntary restriction is accepted "not out of masochism. "beyond a certain boundary. so that the viewer's ostensibly autonomous actions are actually constrained by it: the free play of associations. be another inexhaustible source of pleasure and surprise.e." This freedom is paradoxically acomplished as "the rules of rhyme restrain him but at the same time liberate him. in turn. in seizing." Given the encoder and sign-vehicle control over this process. in charging these signs with all the personal reactions that might be compatible with the intentions of the author. This awareness of the project that underlies the work will.the value of the work itself. action. Eco's view of the work configures it as possessing what he calls "aesthetic information" (Open 103). the value of a work that is open precisely because it is a work. brute matter. the viewer's enjoyment is derivative. a work). "Quantitative information. "consists in drawing as many suggestions as possible out of a totality of signs -. on the other hand. Eco asserts that rhyme encompasses "a number of stylistic patterns and conventions. Moreover. since it will lead us to an ever-growing knowledge of the personal world and cultural background of the artist.

It should suffice to note that Eco's observations here derive from his belief in differing degrees of polysemy in the passages from these two writers that demonstrate what he calls "two kinds of openness" (Open 39). Eco conceives of the aesthetic sign as possessing a similarly parental capacity of mediation over the decoder. The implications of this scenario are clear: in order to propose semiotics as a systemically logical discipline.is open to a variety of readings" (24).it could not be discussed in relation to a rational ground. intoxicated sign users from themselves." Eco's comparison is striking: he portrays a harnessed semiosis that protects giddy. Most of these arise from his emphasis on the artistic sign. consider what might motivate this maneuver. a premise which itself needs to be troubled to highlight some of its underlying assumptions. As with his observation about rhyme dominating the rhymer. alone knowest Thyself. "Every work of art." To Eco. once again. as created by his aforementioned portmanteau words that pun in numerous languages.even one as absurd as this -. Significantly. were not conceivable against a backdrop of some kind -. The Conditions of Openness Eco's impact on contemporary perspectives of semiotic openness is undeniable. Take note of this sleight of hand: an enclosed infinity. As Eco declares insightfully in Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language.a narcissistically oriented semiosis that is far removed from the purport "contained" in or by the text. Eco asserts that "a work of art is never really 'closed. In establishing his sense of openness. lovest and smilest on Thyself! In contrast to Dante. If semiosis. it would stand as a chaotic flux of sign dissemination (recall Tejera's discussion cited earlier) without an underpinning of logic." Eco always returns to an accompanying form of closure to buttress this openness (31). A lengthy overview of his comparison isn't necessary. Not to be trusted with entirely self-directed semiosis (if this is possible. and for their own good. who alone abidest in Thyself. this restraint is viewed by Eco as imminent to the text itself. as is seen in his comparison of the textual fields of two different authors. produces a "polylingual chaosmos" characterized by "polyvalence" 111 . this type of sign can actually save the decoder from falling victim to her own worse desires -. "one cannot match a theory of semiosis as indefinite interpretation with a 'doctrine of signs'" (1). And. his perspective is mediated by a host of closure-ridden concepts. keep bringing new aspects out of it. focusing on it from different points of view. of course). Still. Even though he contends that "the message (the sentence) opens up to a series of connotations that go far beyond its most immediate denotations.. but also because it wants to be an inexhaustible source of experiences which. though. it is open "not only because it inevitably lends itself to the whims of any subjectivity in search of a mirror for its moods. Furthermore. it has to appear to consist of enforceable controlling agents and agencies.without fearing a torn ligament. Dante's apostrophe to the Trinity is offered as openness that is created by using "only words with very precise referents" (40): O Light Eternal. Consider his discussion of Dante and Joyce. Joyce's openness. and known to Thyself and knowing. chaperoned by the combined preparatory guidance of the encoder and the sign-vehicle itself.. Instead.' because even the most definitive exterior always encloses an infinity of possible 'readings'" (Open 24). the decoder is carefully guided through a truly modest interaction with signs.

For. who is himself available to all sorts of openness and none. florilingua. is the mechanism that establishes -. In part. Eco notes that a "polarity between the concrete personality of the artist and that of the interpreter allows Pareyson to situate the potential for permanence of a work of art in the very infinity of the interpretations it opens itself to" (Open 165). but also to different degrees. which is in itself materially determined. between these two latter distinctions rests Eco's strategy for giving the former the upperhand over the latter. each with its own way of seeking. or in the subject. while their openness remains fixed. rather than materially. the decoder would have nothing to work with and from. This distinction." While "this fecundity will inevitably be confronted with an infinity of interpreting personalities. in universal. a pro's tutute. and it is the 112 . Although at the end of this passage he appears to acknowledge a presumably equal mix of the two. "Neither openness nor totality is inherent in the objective stimulus.and "multi-interpretability" (41). "By giving life to a form. thinking. allows him to emphasize the function of the decoder as fabricator of the work. and in the course of which the object. these effects "lie in the cognitive relationship that binds them. in signs so adds to. of openness -. consisting of stimuli organized according to a precise aesthetic intention." He qualifies "possible" by citing Pareyson's contention that "the work lives only in the interpretations that are given of it. Eco places a great deal of emphasis on formal binding that is both responsible for aesthetic pleasure (by virtue of its directivity) and plural because of allowances sanctified by its so-called context. "The impression of endless depth. Eco endeavors to substantiate this claim through a reliance upon a form of internal materiality that is also immaterial. Once more. In a reflection on Luigi Pareyson's writings on aesthetics.that we receive from every work of art is based on both the double nature of the communicative organization of the aesthetic form and the transactional nature of the process of comprehension" (Open 39)." the first distinction carries more weight (165). flayflutter. commonly known as 'form'" (37)." This "binding". Eco attempts to make the case for unlimited semiosis as a mirage that disappears upon close scrutiny. strassarab.semiosic closure." he contends. in each ausiliary netural idiom. This process of initiating aesthetic semiosis sets off a "chain reaction that characterizes every conscious organization of stimuli. by the semiosic dynamic between the sign-vehicle and the decoder. in polygluttural. then. In this way." Similarly. Eco cites as an illustration this passage from FW describing a letter: From quiqui quinet to michemiche chelet and a jambebatiste to a brulobrulo! It is told in sounds in utter that. Both texts are open in different ways. Eco craftily identifies an "internal" control over the decoder that is within the text cognitively. of all-inclusive totality -.in short. the work is "infinite" due to "the characteristic fecundity of the form itself. Eco proposes that the source of pleasure from an artistic experience is directed openly. generates and directs various kinds of openness. sheltafocal. sordomutics. the artist makes it accessible to an infinite number of possible interpretations. a con's cubane. This dynamic is relevant for Eco's comparison of the different ranges of signification in Dante's and Joyce's texts. Instead. ereperse and anythongue athall. Both texts are rendered finite to a certain extent because in each case the decoder is "bound" by "the field of aesthetic stimuli" (36). and being. if it weren't for the initiator of this polar oscillation. the formal constraint always prevails in his schema of semiosic movement.for Eco -. Eco goes so far as to elevate the encoder to the position of functioning as the generative source of semiosis. additionally.

"he wants to break with the conventions of accepted language and the usual ways of linking thoughts together." Employing his criterion of semiosic economy. the text contains in some way a key that prevents closure-oriented decodings. Yet. by providing decoders with "a range of possible interpretations and a web of suggestions that are quite different from the kind of meaning conveyed by the communication of a univocal message. in order to increase the signifying potential of the message" (Open 58). nevertheless. unambiguous communication. In other words. the decoder is obliged within this model to adhere to the "suggestions" of oscillations that are rendered "possible" by the text.decoder's participation in following this direction that produces it." he says. "through the elaboration of a message that violates the rules of the code. Additionally. In effect. "involves to some extent a rupture with (or a departure from) the linguistic system of probability. Eco describes this plurality as "a surplus of possible and still imprecise significations conveyed by something that -. by definition. this is seen in the "new music" which draws upon "new discursive structures that will remain open to all sorts of possible conclusions" (62).. objects and events that make sense literally but when. Eco allows that "semantic plurality" is one operative criterion for assessing that a text has an "aesthetic" register (Open 41). "The symbolic mode is. the encoder is viewed as a selector of the strategic violations of linguistic/communicative norms that signal an aesthetic register.. Eluard employs figurative language not because he desires to "reassert received ideas and conventional language by lending them a more beautiful or pleasant form" (Open 94-5)." This is accomplished.instantiated when a text describes behaviors. Eco observes. Eco attributes this assessment to the case of symbolic elements of a sign-vehicle." Eco says. For instance. Apparently. "Aesthetic discourse. which serves to convey established meanings." it follows then that "each form whose aesthetic value is capable of producing such pleasure is. This is the case even when "its author may have aimed at a univocal. this relies upon a rather tenuous presumption of discernibility between the literal and the figurative. "The standard reaction to any instantiation of the symbolic mode. To the contrary." The supposition underlying this contention is that the encoder can enforce openness through code-breaking moves. And it is the former that constitutes the "open" work. this would be consistent with "the basic openness of all works of art.elements of disorder in dialectical tension with the order that supports them" (58). he proposes that "it is precisely the multiplicity of the roots that gives daring and suggestive power to the phonemes.use of language. Eco is maintaining that this plurality is discernible.should not be there. can be found in poetry by Petrarch that reveals. "is a sort of uneasiness felt by the reader when witnessing a sort of semantic waste." The artistic use of language essentially entails programmed polysemy. the reader feels them to be pragmatically inexplicable because the context does not succeed in justifying their intrusion" (Limits 138-139).. Using a linguistic example." But Eco argues for the possibility of establishing intentional openness as well." One means for detecting these different significations entails violation of literality which indicates an aesthetic -. Additionally. which furthermore he conceives of as a normative practice.as opposed to "normal" -. open" (Open 39)." From this perspective. Because "the openness of a work of art is the very condition of aesthetic pleasure.. Another instance of this procedure.in terms of conversational or narrative economy -. as opposed to an equally discernible monosemy. there must be a means for deciding between multiple decoding possibilities of a sign and merely single possibilities. Eco illustrates the semiotic effects of aesthetic language by citing the poet Paul Eluard as an example of a composer of open works. In 113 . Eco proposes.

it appears that openness from Eco's perspective is established by specifically prescribed decoder participation. however.. (Keep in mind that the English title of the main study under discussion in this lecture is The Open Work. not The Open Text.) Obviously." (Remember that he is talking about an aesthetic message here. Eco goes to extremes to reinforce the belief in controllability. in keeping with his stress on plurality he accords this decoder a certain degree of uniqueness in the process.. as was seen above. and these manifest themselves as a retracing of its inner genetic process. semiosis cannot be said to be taking place since it lacks an object. namely that this is what constitutes a work. semiosis is not an objectless process. its sensibilities and inhibitions" (166). the personal situations of the interpreters." he contends. Openness Under Control The discussion of openness and closedness is possible only by begging the question of whether "an author can exert control over both the reader and the process of unlimited semiosis which goes into effect once the reader begins to read" (R 161). "Since form is nothing but the organization of an entire personal world. cooperative decoder within this scenario.other words.' based on the fundamental unity of human behaviour. Eco is building this entire concept on the presumption that aesthetic texts have strong connections with the tradition they derive from and. then the whole fabric of this discussion falls apart. far from precluding any access to the work. "Interpretation is an exercise in 'congeniality." [Open 166]. manifested by another personality. this contribution is persistently directed by the aforementioned "form" of the Work. in this example. with their encoder as a source of controlling origin.) Related to his acknowledgement regarding decoder input for the production of metaphor is his commentary on the function of ambiguity. form can be used to guide an otherwise completely open act of decoding. become occasions for this access" (166). Without this possession. Yet. While he posits a respectful. Eco's talking about open works in particular and how to construct this openness according to which "the free interplay of ambiguities always presumes a rule of ambiguation.) As was mentioned in the earlier commentary on this point." "To create the impression of a total lack of structure.. Eco says. Ostensibly. this is meant seriously.in such a way that it offers itself as a single whole in a thousand different perspectives. And.. (Recall such declarations as: "A work consists of the interpretive reactions it elicits. this distinction is further extended into differentiations between degrees of this effect. and presuming both an act of fidelity toward the work and one of openness to the personality of the artist" (Open 165-6) These are. Evidently. if this is not accepted. "a fidelity and an openness which are.) Finally. precisely because its very acknowledgement is required before the decoder can be said to have something to decode. more importantly. "the message challenges the code. a work of art must possess a strong underlying structure. He repeatedly makes assertions like: "the freedom of the reader's choices must be 'directed' by the text itself" (Aesthetics 67). "The possibility of switching from one level to another could be effected only by a cunningly organized network of mutual relationships. Which is precisely why it usually is overlooked in semiotics. ambiguity is the very element which the aesthetic work is said to authorize as it "forces the addressee to approach the message in a different 114 . "Ambiguity is not an accessory to the message: it is its fundamental feature" (Open 196). etc. (Some texts are more open than others." It is important to note that Eco's point is based on a notion that is almost buried in this observation. despite the founding of freedom on constraint. with its own dislikes and preferences. he concedes. In effect. Additionally. as we know. But.

Eco has.containment of the decoder. and extreme" (39). And yet the capacity to vary is not totally extraneous to the proposition" (31). is the belief in privileged multi-direction and limited multi-vocality. one would be faced with a "closed" work (in Eco's sense of the term). "A text can foresee a Model Reader entitled to try infinite conjectures. as it is "based not merely on the nature of the aesthetic object and on its composition but on the very elements that are combined in it" (39-40)." Eco says (Limits 148). Later on. "contemporary open works" reveal that "in most cases. Eco's stress on openness reflects what Robey identifies as his manifest "urge to system and order" (Open xvi). most commentators on even an "open" perspective of literary semiotics. From this perspective.but rather to see it as a constant source of continually shifting meanings. Typically. explicit. his believe in the impact of internal constraint is far greater than Eco admits here. this criterion of the "open" is internal. as "begging relentlessly to be decoded. it is still possible to keep a referential proposition under control by reducing the understanding of different receivers to a single pattern" (30). "each addressee will automatically complicate -. In this genre. personalize -. it is clear that he believes such containment is obtainable through the construction of "an oriented production of open possibilities" (218). But. "what is missing is a rule. however. This yearning for control is revealed in Eco's insistence that semiosis can be reined in by "intentional 'openness'. that would allow the listener to predict the development of the composition in a particular direction. for Eco says that in The Open Work he wants to analyze "how every work of art can be said to be 'open." This positioning is strategic. ambiguous communication affects the total organization of the discourse and determines both the density of its resonance and its provocative power" (41). Eco says that in a speech situation. in his observations about personalized decoding. for without these restrictions.' how this openness manifests itself structurally." (The sign-vehicle becomes "totally irrelevant once he [the decoder] has grasped the content it is carrying. he notes: "the referential diversity of the proposition (and." Implied within this assertion." The assumption of organizational integrity and cohesion allows Eco to talk about systemic components of something as seemingly unsystemic as modern music which has "no privileged direction and no univocality" (Open 96). Additionally. "whatever the number of 'pragmatic' reactions that such a plurality of understandings can entail. As his position on ambiguity reveals. While Eco positions this as a hypothesis.fashion. admittedly.") Moreover. This. He cites as an example the sentence: "The train for Rome 115 ." It is. "organized so as to coordinate all the addressee's possible decodings and force him to repeatedly question the validity of their interpretations by referring them back to the structure of the message. Eco says. And undeniably Eco has a lot of sympathizers with this position." as is indicated by the rule of ambiguation (24). allows for loose -. not to use it as a mere vehicle. For instance.his or her understanding of a strictly referential proposition with a variety of conceptual or emotive references culled from his or her experience" (Open 30).but firm and decisive -. not to mention desirable.that is to say. the "typical structure" of the sign-vehicle is conceived. After all. this view is pitted against a hopelessly bleak alternative of communication rendered entirely impossible otherwise. this is evident when he asserts that "the desire to produce an open. tend to happily accept the notion that some degree of semiosic enforcement is capable of being obtained. then. of its conceptual value) resides not in the proposition itself but in the addressee.. and to what extent structural differences entail different levels of openness" (24). a tonal center. in a bizarre use of anthropomorphism. their openness is intentional. therefore. for example.. "But infinite conjecture does not mean any possible conjecture. crafted his perspective on textual control in a manner that seems to inhabit the far end of openness. Actually.

once made. the speaker will succeed in constructing a communication whose effect is at once undefined and yet limited to a particular 'field of suggestivity'. "Normal" language." "At every new reading. only if the decoder cooperates instead of allowing himself to spin off solipsistically into an anarchic universe of endless sign deferral. however. Tor Eco.it still relies on a single. Eco cites the lines from another poet that "violate all linguistic probability" (Open 59).. And. This power is successful. ("The quantity of information conveyed by a message also depends on its source" [52]. are enough to guarantee a fairly unified range of interpretation" (32). this richness violates the principle of semiosic economy." The success of the train schedule as a "collective reaction" constitutes "proof". Eco asks (Open 56). basic. for Eco.. obviously openness would be a desirable orientation because it would elicit the constrained richness that Eco celebrates. because the message wouldn't be depleted through multiplied associations. For successful creation of this effect. the closed work would be associated with strategies creating greater closure.) Eco's concept of "consumption" seems imprecise here. Indeed." Later. "redundancy"] that will increase the probability of its survival" (Open 51). "despite its lack of any conventional kind of meaning. Eco proposes the encoder's ability to ensure this communicative success (this "impact") through semiotic strategies like overdetermination. cultural (and psychological) context. as well as the audience to which he addresses it. the individual responsible for the "wrapping" can help to guarantee the protection of the message's openness. of course. a belief that an encoder (via a text. The "message" is thereby "consumed" in the sense that it loses its encoder-constructed monosemy in the course of polysemous expansion. a system of rules that would involve a fixed number of elements and that would exclude some combinations while allowing others. Eco shifts metaphors of semiosic confinement from swaddling to an internal constraint imminent in the sign-vehicle itself.e. "All. it is necessary to 'wrap' it in a number of conventional reiterations [i.leaves from Central Station at 5:45 P. This also raises the "text intention" issue." This occurs despite "the halo of openness that radiates out of every proposition.. in fact. Platform 7. as was discussed earlier... that it would become infinitely richer. again. "By reducing the number of the elements and possible choices in question: by introducing a code.that accompanies all human communication. "the communication must have a definite impact on the spectator so that the suggestion. will not exhaust itself in the game of references to which the spectator has been invited to participate" (34). and pragmatically verifiable pattern of understanding whereby all ten passengers will be on the same train at the same hour. "this amount of 116 . "How can one facilitate the communication of a certain bit of information?"." these lines "still [convey] an immense amount of information.. however." While it could "produce different reactions in ten different people." he continues. In the case of aesthetic language.. Thus." he contends (Open 31-2). It would seem. "To protect the message against consumption so that no matter how much noise interferes with its reception the gist of its meaning (of its order) will not be altered. But. As an illustration. no matter how strictly referential... though. "The time and place of his utterance. A distinction regarding openness is also related to the two different sign systems that concern Eco in The Open Work. for example) can curtail the decoder's activity. would seek the greatest amount of containment possible.linguistic elements tend to enrich the organization of a message and make its communication more probable" (51).M. of a "common frame of reference" for mutually assured semiosis which results from accepting limited decoder freedom. "If all the listeners belong to the same. the encoder is granted a capacity of exerting "suggestive power" over the decoder in such a scenario (34). or a similar.

" he asserts that "obviously because the painting organizes crude matter. "This is why. the explosion of the figures incite the viewer to create his own network of connections" (Open 103). Here. endlessly expanding the message of the poem and opening up new and different perspectives.." he says. yet again this argument carries with it a considerable amount of faith in its execution. it would not qualify as a "work" precisely for this reason. with no little irony. To reiterate an earlier point: the truly open work would be a form of disorder. and competent in. Eco argues that semiosis is bound by a "measurable threshold" of intelligibility that "represents an insurmountable limit" (Open 64). Every move by the decoder is circumscribed by Eco's network of constraints imposed. once more. And. Admittedly. engaging sign systems characterized by controllable openness. though. by conditions of "openness". "intention" does serve usefully to base speculation on the system of aesthetic semiosis." Using Jackson Pollock's paintings on this point. the marks of a work of art. applicable systemic rules.intention may assume a much more complex form.) This chaos can be rendered intelligible. Eco." Of course. however free and casual. Eco explains at length elsewhere how an author. In the case of the "new painting. In a broader sense than that specifically raised in his illustration. uses intention to this end. are equally as informed about. Without this allowance. "at times.information increases. Eco maintains that this should be the focus of the decoder's engagement. This is essential if someone wants to claim to be discussing an act of semiosis that is directly related to a given sign-vehicle and its creator. is in itself a direction that will eventually lead us to the discovery of the author's intention. toward a freedom that is constantly curtailed by the germ of formativity present in any form that wants to remain open to the free choice of the addressee" (65). before launching into a hymn to vitality. "This tendency toward disorder. are nevertheless the products of an intention and." Nonetheless. by imagining a semiosic scenario in which both the encoder and (more importantly. Despite all this openness. it is apparent that this assumption is being employed to naturalize the neutralizing operation that attends Eco's sense of openness. conjecture about the ways in which an author can be said to have constructed something that somehow manages the decoder could not even begin. therefore. the critic celebrates the painter and what he proposes. That is what provides Eco with a criterion of intelligibility within this distinction. "A disorder which is not specifically aimed at subjects accustomed to moving among systems of probability will not convey any information" (65). Eco employs the encoder's intention in a manner not unlike Foucault's depiction of the author-function (or what I referred to earlier as the author-system). Eco contends that "the disorder of the signs. the decoder has to gracefully agree to adhere to the relevant. while writing. this responsibility falls upon the 117 . "Only after his sensibility has been thus directed does he feel ready to move on to unchecked associations prompted by the presence of signs which. was well aware of all the associations that an uncommon juxtaposition would provoke in the mind of the reader. "The original gesture. Like the insertion of finite semiosis into the sign-vehicle. could enforce this restriction (via a Model Author). characteristic of the poetics of openness. underlining its crudeness while at the same time defining it as a field of possibilities. And even more importantly. the painting. the disintegration of the outlines. constraint remains. intrinsic to the configuration itself" (Open 99). this takes place "in perfect accordance with the intention of the poet who. even before becoming a field of actualizable choices. in fact. "must be understood as a tendency toward controlled disorder. perhaps) the decoder. as opposed to what the decoder brings to semiosis. in this case.. is already a field of actualized choices" (101). (In fact." To return to the disorder/dis-order distinction. fixed by and in the sign." he adds. toward a circumscribed potential.

"The author of a message with aesthetic aspirations will intentionally structure it in as ambiguous a fashion as possible precisely in order to violate that system of laws and determinations which makes up the code.to which it refers. Eco argues.order as system of probability -. at least. And. selects a message and endows it with a probability that is certainly already there but only one probability among many. Surprisingly. quite frankly. Virgil. In order for the encoder to viably produce the desired open effect. Eco portrays this calculation as a form of mental projection like that explained by Edgar Allan Poe's Dupin in "The Purloined Letter. unable to control his rampaging creation. which will help his listeners find their way through noise that they will automatically interpret as a signal because they know it has been chosen and. As with explanations of the system of fate and prophecy in classical literature (Homer. for example. "to give a direction to the freedom" of the decoder (99). not very plausible. Unfortunately." But. Pretending that it is. the possibility of controlling semiosis in some fashion has considerable attraction to many participants in the discussion of semiotics. a voluntary acceptance of a semiotically civilized confinement. "tries to retain the freedom of nature. questions that very system." "organization." Eco adds (Open 66). like the nature of medieval metaphysics. If the new musician. (Open 70) This "free will" commentary is extended further. based on conventional values. accordingly in Eco's view. Even action painting. is a constant reminder of the original act of Creation" (102). if the encoder wants to produce aesthetic openness." etc. but of a nature whose signs still reveal the hand of a creator. however. a pictorial nature that. While grudgingly accepting this minor obeisance to the decoder by the encoder. provides numerous participants in the IG discussion of semiotics with the material to erect an enormous edifice of sign theory and practice. of his own free will. It is necessary. he will have to sacrifice some of his freedom and introduce a few modules of order into his work. than the situation faced by God in John Milton's Paradise Lost who knows exactly what choices his race of "free" humans will make in their decoding practices. Model Readers) have to be taken into account and likewise serve as a restraint. Although the transmission of signs conceived according to a rigorous code. organized" (Open 65). can be explained without having to depend on the interpretive intervention of the receiver. "aims at both maximum dis-order and maximum information.). to some extent. "We then confront a message that deliberately violates or. Eco asserts. Sophocles. the likely responses of competent decoders (again. this analysis of encoder and anticipation of the decoder's likely selection amid an array of "open" choices is. despite his extensive efforts to make a convincing argument for the encoder-as-deity. But Eco cloaks this sacrifice in terms suggesting autonomy based on rationality ("free choice.). it becomes apparent that real encoders face a semiosic co-option of their "intentions" (wherever they might reside) that puts them more in the situation of Mary Shelley's Victor Frankenstein. rather than configuring the encoder as a master abductor. Eco describes him in terms of Godlike generation. the transmission of a sequence of signals with little redundancy and a high ratio of improbability demands that we take into consideration both the attitudes and the mental structures by which the receiver. the inherent relative impossibility of accomplishing this hasn't deterred its numerous adherents from 118 . etc. The Benefits of Control As the previous discussion has proposed. then a degree of closedness must be accepted as a necessary sacrifice to systemic indeterminacy." Nor is the encoder spared from this systemic incarceration.mechanics of intention. the very order -.

"The safeguarding of our assumptions against all incoherent mutations is one of the basic conditions of our existence as rational beings" (79). is the only one which can explain how language is produced and understood" (Limits 143). in other words.. that Eco bases the concomitant criteria on issues that betray his (nevertheless wholly understandable) leeriness over the alternative to semiosic restraint. as it has been actually interpreted in a given cultural framework. the encoder and decoder agree on the work's "acceptable". Like the concepts of unicorns. a simple agreement to suppose that it could will suffice.simply agreeing among themselves that something like this restraint has to be achievable if "semiotics" is to be portrayed as an organized undertaking. is "the format of a labyrinth" which functions as a "regulative hypothesis" (Philosophy of Language 2). Semiosis is culturally mutable. A good illustration of this is seen in Eco's criterion for according an entity the status of an "open work. a type of mental hygiene that allows for a comfortable coping with the otherwise threatening specter of endless signification. he suggests: it is "virtually infinite because it takes into account multiple interpretations realized by different cultures" (84). even from the standpoint of the "encyclopedia" of posited cultural knowledge.for experimental reasons. One way that this model can be visualized." he adds. But why is this necessary? Eco gives lip service to the openness of ongoing semiosis when he asserts: "the model of unlimited semiosis. "Any interpretation given of a certain portion of a text can be accepted if it is confirmed. and angels. Its significative tension is definable. "The stability of this world is what allows us to move rationally amid the constant provocations of the environment and to organize external events into a coherent ensemble of organic experiences. this is a "rational" move." he remarks. and must be rejected if it is 119 . "It is only on the basis of such a regulative idea that one is able actually to isolate a given portion of the social encyclopedia so far as it appears useful in order to interpret certain portions of actual discourses (and texts). we can ask if there exists "a possible agreement between the intention of the author and the viewer's response?" Note." he adds." he says (Open 78)." And. And. Eco maintains that in practice.. it could be construed as a semiotic tonic. The sole means of establishing this acceptability is "to check it upon the text as a coherent whole" (148-9). meaning (Limits 148). and in as many ways. flying saucers. Legibility is based on the assumption that we are able to "define the tension between the mass of information intentionally offered to the reader and the assurance of a minimal amount of comprehensibility" (87). Intention is present. he concludes. This legibility establishes comprehensibility and communicability that is guaranteed. on a related note. could be said to have been established among semioticians like those in what I have loosely defined as the Indiana Group. then. Look at Eco's rationalization of this: "Every human being lives within a determinate cultural pattern and interprets his or her experience according to a set of acquired forms. though. ghosts. A working agreement." However. semiosis can be "infinite because every discourse about the encyclopedia casts in doubts the previous structure of the encyclopedia itself. And." Is the entity in some way identifiably "legible"? "If so. "what are the conditions of their communicability and what are the guarantees that they will not suddenly lapse into either silence or chaos?" (Open 86-7). this concept of infinitude has to be "duly tamed and reduced to local manageable formats. as opposed to "right". Indeed." "Such a semantic encyclopedia is never accomplished and exists only as a regulative idea. finally. one that would be charitably understandable if it didn't create so many reductive blind alleys for semiotics." In many respects. This also can apply to a specific culture: "a given expression can be interpreted as many times. If semiosis can't be contained. a limitable semiosis is handily reified through an act of consensus. This labyrinth is "a network of interpretants" whose conceptual embodiments serve to viably limit semiosis in Eco's account (Limits 83).

from the unlimited discovery of contrasts and oppositions that keep multiplying with every new look. or none is) from becoming a nightmarish reality is to posit firm belief in the capacity of the encoder to guide and restrict the decoder of the sign-vehicle. this is exactly what he's condemning about Audiberti's reaction. Eco cites an example of a impressionistic response by Jacques Audiberti to Camille Bryen's paintings. significantly. without this constraining order. "To avoid unnecessary semantic dispersion. Eco concludes. And why? This really isn't reading the work." Eco imagines a scenario in which the dramatist Jean Racine was capable of doing this in his Phaedra.say nothing concrete about the signvehicle (silence) or say anything about it with equal validity (chaos). is anarchy for Eco.to Eco -. aberrant decoder running amuck with the encoder's sign-vehicle." Eco says. Audiberti engages in a form of "emotional panegyrics" that reveals "the enthusiasm with which it hails the new unexpected freedom that such an open field of stimuli has brought to our imagination" (90). the primary. He asks. If this is allowed to continue without some authority to appeal to. Eco cites an instance of just such an alternative that he posits as a semiotic horror story. including that of the author. "This would be quite easy if his proposition had a strictly denotative value. either every discerned meaning is valid.at once everything and nothing. and are merely personal divagations induced by the view of certain signs. He believes he can do whatever he wants while engaging in semiosis and in no way acknowledges the respect due to either the sign-vehicle or the encoder who created it. by another portion of the same text.e.challenged. so as to reiterate the desired stimulus by means of analogous references. For. Yet the happy community of decoders that he imagines undeniably carries with it an attractive. Within this scenario." he argues. if somewhat acquiescent. "the reader eventually escapes the control of the work" (Open 93). and starts blabbing away like a crazed computer. then. the very clear and calculated way in which it is suggested to me.. because. "Half of his reactions have nothing to do with an aesthetic effect. This is the work of an antic. if what we're presented with by a response of this nature isn't actually "a limitation of this particular 'reader'"? (93). or is it a limitation of the work that it should play a role similar to that of mescaline?" Either way." The result of this development. Nothing keeps him in check. he will have to put more emphasis on a certain kind of suggestion. "the work eventually escapes everybody's control. the more allusive speaker will have to give his audience a particular direction" (Open 32). the indeterminate at its wildest -. predictably. "But when it is meant to provoke a response that is at once undefined and yet circumscribed within a particular frame of reference. the decoder can -." It's important to note here Eco's denigration of a vitalistic response to a text. This results in a situation in which "I will be able to appreciate not just the indefinite reference but also the way in which this indefiniteness is produced. The consensual corroboration of allowable meaning that Eco proposes simplifies a far more complex situation than he is willing to admit here. "In this sense the internal textual coherence controls the otherwise uncontrollable drift of the reader" (149)." Eco charges (Open 93). Eco uses the genealogy of the titular character as an illustration of this suggestivity that Eco claims is the distinguishing characteristic of guidance capable through the use of "poetic" language. the very precision of the mechanism that charms me with 120 . placidity for those threatened by the alternative. Is Audiberti "more involved with the games of his own imagination than with the work. this decoder response "gives us a clear example of the kind of exultation that can be derived from conjectural freedom. "What remains then is no longer a field of possibilities but rather the indistinct." The only way to prevent this vision of semiotic meaninglessness (i.

The response of Racine's decoder follows a related path. confronted by "a message containing little information. the decoder would never be able to move out of the dark predicament Eco imagines as otherwise inevitable.imprecision" (Open 34). does not semiosically impoverish Racine's text. but the names of her parents are already enough to evoke the myth and create a halo of odiousness around her. better. but it does not limit itself to it. appears all the more fertile (in its own material constitution) and open to new readings as our understanding of it gets more and more complex. Without this guiding light. Furthermore. Racine's fields of "suggestions" by the reference to Minos and Pasiphaë are "intentional." Yet. One requirement for this posture entails purposeful withholding of interpretive power. "uttered in front of a theater audience." Still. Eco resorts to using the vague language of supernatural phenomena to describe the mechanics of this procedure: this stimulus is always kept in check through "a miracle of balance and economy" (34). "far from being exhausted by this process." In fact." "the mere mention of the two mythical characters opens up a whole new field of suggestions for the imagination. Prompted by the associations elicited by the characters' names. Eco suggests. It reveals. despite this whirl of open association. "At the beginning of the tragedy. above all. and explicitly reiterated. Racine is capable of generating "the suggestive effect he seeks" through indirect reference to Phaedra's parents (Open 33). he also outlines the limited pleasure that other similarly restrained decoders will have to adopt if they are to aquire this status. This oscillation "assumes a certain order and identifies with the form that has generated it and in which it rests. for Eco this guarantees that it could elicit any richness at all. to Eco.here understood as the articulated form of signifiers signifying." This restriction. Racine also is able to avoid falling prey to the "haphazard emotions that their suggestive power will evoke in the audience" (Open 34)." Racine accomplishes this richness in part by selecting Phaedra. as in an instance where. on the contrary. the daughter of Minos and Pasiphaë. Minos and Pasiphaë are two awful beings: their very names are enough to conjure up the reasons for their repulsiveness. but always within the limits fixed by the author. rendering a richly polysemous sign-vehicle into a thinly monosemous one. To the contrary. "uttered in front of a civil servant. by the aesthetic machine he has set in motion. their structural articulation. "it includes all the individual emotions it produces and directs as possible connotations of the line -.. it undergoes yet another "transaction" as the decoder utilizes a reservoir of cultural associations that yields a "new system of meanings" which somehow "enriches the meaning of the original message" (37). provoked." the decoder may accidently "read [it] in the light of an arbitrary code" which can result in making the text "appear much richer than it was meant to be" (Open 199). This is accomplished.. A contextual component also comes into play here for.. "This aesthetic machine does not ignore the audience's capacities for response. as a character who is known to be "evil because her race is damned" (Open 33). it brings them 121 . Eco argues." However. This original message. Phaedra is just a cipher. "the emotion (the simple pragmatic reaction that the sheer power of the two names would have provoked) now increases and defines itself" (35). the name "Phaedra" is further charged with significance which elicits numerous connotations beyond Racine's initial meaning." he contends (35). While Eco is portraying himself as a model decoder who cheerfully accepts his disempowerment in this scenario. or. because the auditor can always "return to the proposed expression as often as he wishes" and there possibly "find in it a stimulus for new suggestions" (34). her name." In Racine's spare description of Phaedra as "the daughter of Minos and of Parsiphaë.would have a strictly referential value. its effect will be much more powerful if undefined. The opposite situation applies to Racine's play. that following the initial point of contact.

a cloying that would dangerously totter on the brink of uncontainable sign flux. "at once process and result." This is not the case for the guidance-dependent Westerner.it's just that they don't have to entail the Pyrrhic victory acceptable to those in the IG discussion.to judge it as a means to an end. but we are also asked to evaluate our enjoyment." he argues." This economy of balance and miracles is merely symptomatic of the need for rationality that Eco contends is characteristic of Western cultures. this compromise really isn't necessary. Merrell undeniably has his own fears and ideological investments -. once the decoder has had a reasonable amount of this clearly mediated pleasure. Eco portrays this moment of semiosic satiation as akin to physical exhaustion.appear to offer possibilities for development a more responsive protrait of semiosis that isn't hampered by the fears and ideologies of those who propose them. Merrell's diction in Semiosis in the Postmodern Age reveals his stance toward semoisis. In other words. "This balance marks the limit between the undifferentiated realm of utter potential and a field of possibilities.. "Our civilization is still far from accepting the unconditional abandonment to vital forces advocated by the Zen sage..into play and turns them into the necessary condition for its subsistence and its success." Despite its prevalence in semiotics.. as he views it as "creative" and "evolutionary" (44)." 122 . In the West. at the very moment of its occurrence. In a strange conclusion to this scenario.And to him everything is a confirmation of the endless. polymorphous triumph of the All. (Of course. however.requires a delicate balance permitting the merest order within the maximum disorder.richest because most open -. he attempts to add them to an overall sense of it as a heterogeneously inclusive process. and its object.) The potentially fruitful element of Merrell's accommodating agenda is just that: rather than endeavoring to eliminate facets of semiosis that are contradictory or seemingly non-systematic.. Eco is suggesting through a peculiar form of Orientalism that those who can find forms of semiosic pleasure without the guidance of the Work are somehow undergoing an inferior form of experience. "our desire to abandon ourselves to the free pursuit of visual and imaginative associations must be artificially induced by means of an intentionally suggestive construct" (100). "Theoretically. To Merrell. he contends. semiosis "provides a fruitful vision of ongoing sign generativity. Alternative approaches -. Our conceptual recognition of pavement "is again evidence that the richest form of communication -." he remarks. This movement reaches "a sort of saturation point" after which our "overexercised sensibility can now rest. this reaction" by the decoder when confronting the sign-vehicle "is endless. "He can sit and blissfully contemplate the unchecked potential of the surrounding world." Finally. while directing them and controlling them. Eco insists on a judgmental drive which is responsible for registering this "superior" form of the pleasure of the work." Another way that Eco establishes the necessity of a recognizable formation for creating The Open Work is that of pavement. ceasing only when the form ceases to stimulate the aesthetic sensibility of the addressee" (Open 37). "For the only criterion I can use in my evaluation of the work derives from the degree of coincidence between my capacity for aesthetic pleasure and the intentions to which the artist has implicitly given form in his work. "Not only do we have to be pushed to enjoy our freedom to enjoy.like the "Eastern" one fostered by Floyd Merrell in Signs Grow: Semiosis and Life Processes -." he argues (Open 98). the fulfillment or the frustration of certain expectations and certain goals" (Open 100). signification stops to prevent an embarrassment of overabundance.

in all its plenitude. While Merrell acknowledges the decided human desire for closure and epistemological security. as well as its uncontrollability. in spite of their feeble and futile efforts to bring permanence to the hustle-bustle of signs incessantly becoming other signs. I could point as well to the emotionally charged. The same thing happens with criticism about Finnegans Wake. but in another sense it is unlimited. For. Finnegans Wake in Captivity Indeed. mediacy and immediacy.. doesn't have to be as extreme and as desperate as it usually is. Merrell argues that we need "somehow to cope with these Peircean infinite regress tactics" (27). each word stands in a series of possible relations with all the others in the text." he admits (Signs Grow 6).. Furthermore. between chance and design. This maneuver can be found in Eco's explanation of how the semiosic field of FW is unlimited. he portrays this environment as potentially threatening and dangerous. as well as fructive and energetic. anarachy (or heterarchy) and hierarchy. "is still a rather frightening conclusion for those who continue to nurture modernity's dream of closure" (27). This coping. are thus deflated. an infinitely complex maelstrom" (6). "In spite of Peirce's notion that there is neither any original sign nor final sign. for us mere mortals at least. But he doesn't propose a naïvely nurturing sense of semiosis that would be just as limited as the alarmist perspective on it. disorder and order. Its lack. "They are swept along by the current. According to the semantic 123 . absence and presence. he remains unwilling to embrace the quietism that accompanies the employment of needless manacles in order to produce a plausibly rational model of semiosis. Remove these strident components from his contention and his argument comes across as not only far less convincing." This "eventually becomes the flow of signs Peirce dubbed semiosis -. "Neither signs nor consciousness can hope to arrest the semiosic flow within which they are caught. Instead. Merrell frequently uses nature-oriented depictions of sign movement when conceptualizing signification. but also as far more puritanical in his desire to deny the pleasure of a flexible engagement with semiosic play." he says (5). alarmed vocabulary that Eco uses to make his point sound compelling. which are occasionally employed even by the staunchest propagators of the postmodern perspective. many writers on FW have turned a remarkably engaging text into something akin to sad animals pacing neurotically back and forth in small zoo cages. Each occurrence. that we cannot know precisely where we are in the semiosic stream.which at times twists and turns into whitewater. lies in wait. however. it can be a hopeful assumption that embraces the indeterminacy of semiosis. assume the existence of some unfathomable sign somewhere.This vision aids in bridging the gap between postmodern free-wheeling play and modern purpose. and furthermore. significantly. We yearn for a semiosic "finish line where Truth. Rather. perhaps beyond repair. most often casting it in river concepts such as "the stream of semiosis" (Signs Grow 4). however.Those cherished dichotomies of reason. Since Eco talks about FW so frequently. as an informed acknowledgement of the limitations of the very mechanism the constitutes signification. and on occasion even appears chaotic. it also serves as a handy means of highlighting the use he has made of it to support his rendition of semiosis. a superb illustration of the negative impact of finite infinite semiosis can be found by exploring a tendency in literary criticism on Joyce's Finnegans Wake. as I have done repeatedly in this lecture. yet also finite: the work is finite in one sense. sometime" (27-28).

choice which we make in the case of one unit so goes the way we interpret all the other units in the text. for instance. He argues. "Those decoders who attempt to 'tame' such a work accordingly have to posit a schematization that in some manner appears to freeze the work's fluid signifying power. 'Hump cumps Ebblybally' (612). he constrasts it with that of a group of commentators he refers to as "deconstructionists" who deny the notion of semiosic finitude. Once more. And. Eco endeavors to use Joyce's novel as a means of attacking those who prefer a free-form version of semiosis (his sense of deconstructionists. As 124 . In part. 146). is a grand entity that is rule-governed and systemic. at the 'beginning' which conveniently begins in mid-sentence" (R 160-1). Eco maintains that FW is "more open to interconnections than are many other texts" as it consists of "a world of infinite semiosis" (Limits 142.) Eco essentially uses FW as a means for achieving this effect. one of the main characters appears throughout under the guise of words containing his initials: HCE. A good example is found in the ways that the characters' names change like identities do in dreams. Thus. it melts into new variations in a virtually infinite chain of manifestations. never stops. perhaps. it focuses our attention specifically on semantic values" (70). Consistent with his belief in calculatable semiosic controllability. in English -. emphasis added). at the same time. stopping its flow in order to obtain a static object to analyze" (R 161). In both cases. "the whole Joycean opus is a living example of a cultural universe ruled by the laws of Unlimited Semiosis" (142). for example). For this reason. Clearly. (Role 54-55) The "key" is deployed in the same way that "codes" are. "If unlimited semiosis needed a model. he adds. But this particular 'sense' has all the richness of the cosmos itself. with significant consequences. that "Finnegans Wake is itself a metaphor for the process of unlimited semiosis" (Role 69-70). look a the way he phrases this. for instance. If Joyce does introduce some keys into the text. he suggests through this strategy. Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker's identity (if this is the correct version of his name) is reinscribed in manifestations such as 'Here Comes Everybody' (32). 'He'll Cheat E'erawan' (46). In fact. in proposing itself as a model of language in general. The laws of unlimited semiosis. then. in effect. it may help to briefly outline how Eco could make such a claim. these concepts delimit a given arena and domesticate it in the process. (Lecture 5 outlines why this would be such a useful move for his purposes in attempting to promote and legitimate a closed sense of semiosis. For those unfamiliar with the novel. Finnegans Wake would indeed be it" (R 161). it is precisely because he wants the work to be read in a certain sense. the novel "offers a very good example of the shortcomings of literary semiotics since it has spawned a Joyce industry geared toward providing a type of control or mastery over a decidedly slippery text" (R 161). he makes it Unlimited Semiosis. and 'Howth Castle and Environs' (3).I.curiously. This inclination can be seen in Eco's avowed belief that FW is "more open to interconnections than are many other texts and thus [it is] more fit for experimentation" (Role 76. In the course of discussing what could be called a moderate view of the novel. This does not mean that the book lacks specific sense. "The permutations of the characters' names illustrate the novel's constantly shifting nature as. and -. His name. inviting the reader to begin again. God. 'Hunkalus Childared Easterheld' (480). It "produces sufficiently violent metaphors without interruption or reservation.an effect heightened when the reader reaches the 'conclusion' of the novel only to find that the 'final' sentence breaks off. using the same monumentalizing typography that is demonstrated in capitalizing words like Nature. it is easy to recognize its parallel to the serialization of significations which constitutes any sign activity -. Unlimited Semiosis. In a novel whose characters consistently shift forms of identity.

The novel. by way of finite 125 . but the passages are controlled by rules of connection that our cultural history has in some way legitimated. However. Eco imagines that this reader is perpetually frustrated by a lack of certifiable. Anyone who has read even a small portion of FW should be amazed at Eco's use of it in this way. Joyce created a textual field that "demanded the aesthetic organization of a complex of signifiers that were already. rather. "An open text. It sanctions only a rule-governed form of activity. As opposed to these outlaw decoders. Significantly. Its orchestrated polysemy demonstrates. and intentionally organized. open and ambiguous" (Open 40).. Eco characterizes FW as an open work precisely because of its containment. Eco offers an approach to FW that is respectful and textdependent. an infinite series of original re-creations. for its economy of play is monitored. For. The consequences of this reading process are predictably dire in Eco's eyes.can elicit infinite readings without allowing any possible reading. this is clearly a playground in the strict sense. slides. and rigidly pre-established. when understood. "In the process of unlimited semiosis it is certainly possible to go from any one node to every other node. The sandboxes. he argues. in themselves. prescribed." he claims. that finite semiosis in no way depletes the semiosic reserve of a sign-vehicle. if perhaps solemnly so. the same schemes of intelligence.unrestrained and disrespectful decoders. the novel draws upon approximately 100 languages for incredibly complex and challenging puns and portmanteau neologisms.. It is regimented. he says in an especially revealing observation. "some interpretations of Finnegans Wake risk being more interesting. any unruly children are vulnerable to ejection if they don't adhere to the institutional rules that the good children gladly play by. seesaws." Eco asserts that "it seems that the ideal Joycean reader affected by an ideal insomnia is a paramount model of a deconstructionist reader for whom any text is an inexhaustible nightmare" (Limits 148). can release the same imaginative mechanisms. While he extends his commentary on Joyce to his "whole opus" which he depicts as "a paramount playground for semiotic research" (Open 138). concrete meaning." This creativity is an undisciplined. In fact. Yet. informative. Eco is. every reading of a text cannot but be a truly creative one." In a predictable move. deconstructionists merely play with the text without adding to a collective understanding of its "nature" as a sign-vehicle. attempting to render Joyce's challenging novel in a way that is consistent with his view of controllable semiosis. Given a decoder's capacity to work in accordance with the complex arrangement of moderated plurality. And. "For such a reader any true interpretation is a creative misprision. Its "entire structural design can itself be enjoyed as a complex and well-calibrated organism. In his commentary on "The Temptation of Deconstruction. for this reader "there will be no critical interpretation of Finnegans Wake but." he concludes with an embracing acknowledgement of those who share this common assumption. that presided over the contemplation of the harmonic forms of a Greek temple" (Open 176).) After all. a playground is the perfect model for the arena of contained semiosis semioticians like Eco prefer. Eco continues to portray this enjoyment only in terms suggestive of austerity. abusive handling of the text that is in no way restricted by textual control. and swings have all been designed by someone to direct play in very specific ways. in fact. In FW." Accordingly. (Although they would not be surprised if they were familiar with the larger body of criticism that typically espouses the same view. the text can be rendered "understandable" in a manner that Eco likens to a viewer's response to classical architecture. and entertaining than the work itself" (171). "As we all know. The importance of "satisfactory" in this passage bears further scrutiny. is "a satisfactory image of the universe of unlimited semiosis" (Limits 148). which. boundaried.

Eliot's "objective correlative." Furthermore. and Scheherazade) . (This is essentially what has happened in FW criticism. "All the puns of Finnegans Wake are metaplasm with a metasememic effect. What Eco has discovered through this procedure is something distinctly similar to notions like T. 126 . This alteration "produces a word which did not previously exist in the English lexicon" (140)." As this extensive citation demonstrates. which must terminate in sensory experience." he argues. actually furnishes the metonymic chains that justify it" (Limits 40). a situation." Joyce's pun create "analogous effects" through two processes. armed with this procedure. if other similarly trained decoders come up with the same results." Accordingly. He points out that although Neanderthal is "not found as such in the text" (Limits 140). consists of "subjacent chains of metonymies. And.of either a phonetic or a semantic type" can be justified because "all the lexemes [he identifies] are only those which are to be found in the text" (141). in a sort of lexical monstruum (metaplasm). This systemic approach can also be illuminated by Eco's commentary on "meandertale" discussed earlier in Lecture 4. One modification procedure entails changing "the very structure of the expression" (Limits 139). charade.. This metaphorical system. this is how FW is designed to signify and." (Eliot proposes that "the only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an "objective correlative. this procedure also "obliges us to see similarities and semantic connections between the joke (scherzo) . it can reveal very convincing explanations of the operations of select sign-vehicles. but unites three preexisting words (scherzo. In other words." As a point of illustration Eco cites scherzarade. "A metaphor substitutes one expression for another in order to produce an expansion (or a 'condensation') of knowledge at the semantic level. "But at the same time it is the text itself which. read in different directions." "Such a chain of metonymies is presupposed by the text as a form of background knowledge based on a network of previously posited cultural contiguities or psychological associations. For instance. similar to those which operate in metaphors. What Eco says about "scherzarade" makes a lot of sense. a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion" [766]. The other procedure "produces a metaphor in praesentia because it does not annul one term. "Each metaphor" generated by FW is "comprehensible because the entire book. S. the emotion is immediately evoked. in other words. are given. It's just that this approach carries with it a tendency to tout such an explanation as the explanation. it supposes that a decoder can somehow verify or justify his practice based on intentionally constructed evidence in the sign-vehicle. by a network of interconnected puns. Eco's mechanistic and simplistic view of semiosis is clearly inadequate as a means of accounting for the workings of semiosis.semiosis. given a skillful decoder's application of this decoding model. then something like empirical confirmation through this "test" is established as a result of this consensus. A given meaning is thus confirmed and confirmable by simply pointing to sign-vehicle corroboration.. a set of objects. the decoder can correctly discern the meaning that Joyce has somehow planted into the text. The mechanism behind this phenomenon is "such that when the external facts. he argues." he contends (Limits 139). Eco views FW as "a contracted model of the global semantic field. substituting it with another.") But.) But. where the structure of the linguistic expression is acted upon in order to produce alterations also at the level of content. "associations. makes the cultural background recognizable. Eco has found a means for systemically reducing FW. the enigma (charade) . it is undeniable that Eco's analysis of this one word does a great deal to help readers grasp a sense of how FW could be said to "work". and the narrative activity (Scheherazade) .

in another subject. because the reader who finds himself confronted with unexpected and unconventional uses of words must try and reconstruct the imaginative or associative process by which. not how it is read). But. again. Uwe Multhaup reflects this position by asserting that The danger imminent [in Finnegans Wake] is the breakdown of communication. finally. "In A Portrait and Ulysses. "It may seem that Ulysses violates the techniques of the novel beyond all limit. "that it is the reader who achieves the quest. to the extent that he masters [Finnegans Wake]. is constituted. because the reader of FW.. communicatively -.that is. through Joyce's blending of the particular uses to which he has put words with their conventional meaning." Eco says (Aesthetics 61). even Frye. As I mentioned earlier. the reader who. it does point to the necessity for obtainment that accompanies this belief. to return to Eco's distinction. for it highlights the concern here for stability in a semiotic universe that otherwise seems alarmingly chaotic. and for the same apparent goals. Eco is hardly alone in this endeavor to keep FW under wraps. controlled by the text.. a new meaning potential of these same words is created. Again. In other words. "the reader is carefully prepared or conditioned to understand the meaning of Joyce's poetic or linguistic adventures. nevertheless resorts to mastery metaphors in the process. other equally plausible responses." he maintains.e. who recognizes the contribution that the decoder makes to semiosis. but Finnegans Wake passes even this limit. A faith that the sign. Here we have limited ourselves to this type of response. but Finnegans Wake takes language beyond any boundary of communicability." It is necessary to note here that Multhaup relies upon the same communication emphasis that Eco employs. not only because it is the Joycean one (in which case the experiment would seek to understand only how the pun is born. it takes limited unlimited semiosis to turn semiosis into something "more than" the noise of unsystemically colliding signifiers. in other words. is in fact led into a game of associations that were previously suggested by the co-text (which means that every text. not as the place of all possibilities. (141-142) Eco's reference to orientation is hardly insignificant. and see its form as something more than rotation" (323-4). is capable of being possessed in some fashion by the astute decoder. in addition.The same psycholinguistic test might have generated. is able to look down on its rotation. or can only do so with the aid of industriously compiled concordances of all kinds.by using proper framing devices. however 'open' it is. "Joyce gets dangerously close to the esoteric point where his readers are taken out of their depth and can no longer follow his acts of sense constitution. he adds that Joyce had been capable earlier of avoiding this potential crisis. a recognizable dis-order. Consistent with the belief in the possibility of encoding semiosic control." Although it's apparent that Eco isn't emphasizing the last word in this observation. but also for reasons of economy and. communication). the disorder of FW becomes. "It may seem that Ulysses demonstrates all the possibilities of language. 127 . "Eventually it dawns on us" in the course of reading the novel." Multhaup asserts. but rather as a field of oriented possibilities). [FW] constitutes the most terrifying document of formal instability and semantic ambiguity that we possess. this "rotation" is not unlike the infinite view of unlimited semiosis. the need for believing in semiosic limitation appears to be motivated by a frightening alternative. (68) Multhaup resorts to the same alarmist vocabulary that Eco uses so frequently to portray various elements of unlimited semiosis as a threat to the possibility of meaningful signification (i.. Thus. This can be seen as well in Northrop Frye's depiction of the novel as a global field of whirling signifiers that can be perceived intelligibly -.

at least inexhaustible. Such a technique offers considerable allure. Joseph Buttigieg reveals this development when he proclaims that "Joyce's texts have themselves become familiar [to even the semi-initiate. but simultaneously promoting a much larger domestication that is characteristic of prevalent orientations in literary semiotics. Since this systemic urge is patently flawed." he argues. "Obviously words cannot be bound in this type of 'traditional service' due to the uncontrollable factors that influence decoding practices. and develops the potentialities that have always been inherent in words for conveying multiple ideas and forming elaborate. Joyce's use of language "emancipates the word from its traditional service to a focused. closed heuristic" (R 165). the critic must be habitualized ." By now. Weir claims to be engaging in a counteroffensive to subvert the critical 'domestication' of Joyce's work through her own emphasis on its system" (R 165).'" on this point. Weir provides a mechanism for imposing constraint on all literary texts. Korg illustrates a final element of the anxiety regarding unlimited semiosis when he qualifies his closing assertion by offering 'inexhaustible' in place of 'unlimited' and thereby reveals an underlying fear of infinitude in signification" (R 164).) In a revealing development. grasped. Ulysses.] they have been tamed and neutralized to a very significant degree" (117). "i.e. "A work has to be managed. if not unlimited. ." Despite his awareness of this tendency. many-tiered structures. as was mentioned earlier. it should be evident that these paradoxical formulations of finite infinitude evidently are thought to gain increasing credibility simply through repetition. she is admittedly eschewing the domesticating force so prevalent in FW criticism.A useful instance of belief in controllability can also be found in Jacob Korg's assertion that "Joyce's idiom in Finnegans Wake impinges upon conventional language" (221). "Once the Joyce text has been domesticated.not the world teeming with difference and characterized by change. Like a semiotic version of "the big lie. Weir's strategy for accomplishing this goal simply involves denying the decoder/reader and privileging the text as an autotelic. to get a grasp on semiosis is to agree that it is graspable in nature." this conventionalized assumption carries with it a vestige of authority simply because few can allow themselves to seriously question it. she contends. localized meaning. Weir's approach involves a heavy emphasis on systemics. on the other hand. "'The Infinite Game. "In processing the system. a sender in a textual transmission is no more capable of 'emancipating' a text than 'enslaving' it. Through this form of analysis. By endeavoring to comprehend the entire system of literary semiosis." he notes. possessed. Because 128 . "it serves the purpose of a guidebook through which one can look at the world -. perhaps nobody writing on semiotics and FW takes the desire to constrain semiosis as far as Lorraine Weir does in Writing Joyce: A Semiotics of the Joyce System.) With the exception of Eco. "It shows that the possibilities of verbal expression are far greater than they seem. Buttigieg embraces a position repeatedly found in the concerted efforts among semioticians to agree upon certain key systemic constraints. but the world as a centered text apprehended safely and indifferently from the vantage point of aesthetic distance. in following its encoded programs according to text-directives. "we learn to configure the system by achieving facility in its maneuvers" (6). however. Moreover. doesn't possess this capacity for manageability to Buttigieg. The only way." she suggests. "Ironically. in other words. and for the very goal that Buttigieg desires. Weir constantly endeavors to arrest semiosis in Joyce's work in order to produce a simulacrum of stasis for her analysis. (The earlier discussion regarding Eco's use of Peirce's "habit" also applies here. not just FW. a desire of this nature can be fulfilled only through consensual discussion that treats certain presuppositions as given. (See Simpkins. that they are. we acquire competence in its operation/s." From the emphasis on 'system' in her title onward. Buttigieg displays his own complicity in this development when he identifies as Joyce's "last manageable work" his novel." he contends. . FW. In this way. to it before he can 'place' it and determine its position in the literary canon" (147).

noise merely adds to the overall skein of intersecting messages. Theorists of "noise" -. On the one hand. In accordance with "laws of political economy. like unlimited semiosis.of messages. the control of noise. but rather the opposite. semiotics could instead focus on the boundless resources of semiosic play at its disposal. the control -. furthermore. It makes possible the creation of a new order on another level of organization. and the institutionalization of the silence of others assure the durability of power" (8). "Interference" would certainly be in keeping with the control-oriented stance in semiotics. Like an interruptive participant in a dialogue. a construction outside meaning. signifies censorship and rarity." Attali observes.this inclination is so widespread. "Everywhere we look. "the interruption of a message signifies the interdiction of the transmitted meaning. Nevertheless. this pretense comes at a significant cost. except that here it is seen merely as a competitive force. Attali asserts that "noise does in fact create a meaning. absolute ambiguity. prompted by similar motives. of a new code in another network. this sacrifice will not have to be made and semiotics will actually derive much greater benefit in the process" (R 154-5). he contends.have shown one alternative way of conceptualizing this phenomenon in a positive sense. it should clearly be celebrated rather than lamented" (R 154-5). then one way to avoid the impediment of this situation is to pretend it doesn't exist. "power reduces the noise made by others and adds sound prevention to its arsenal" (122). makes meaning. such a concession denies the very mechanism which activates semiosis. because the very absence of meaning in pure noise or in the meaningless repetition of a message.I'll use Jacques Attali as a convenient example -. frees the listener's imagination. Perhaps the only passage out of this dilemma involves another rearticulation of "unlimited" and "infinite" that doesn't focus on the downside of it. it may be fruitful to undertake the opposite strategy to see what that might yield. By abandoning the premise of a progressive accumulation of epistemological capital.or "channelization" -. though. by unchanneling auditory sensations. Semiosis Unbound This overview of Joyce criticism. "The monologue of power" that Attali sees as resulting from this regimentation 129 . The presence of noise makes sense. by considering unlimited semiosis from the perspective of its potential advantages.) Attali defines "noise" as "a resonance that interferes with the audition of a message in the process of emission" (26). the monopolization of the broadcast of messages. The absence of meaning is in this case the presence of all meanings. fluid vortex of differential values" (R 153). Yet. And. This is precisely what worries those who favor harnessing semiosis because they seem to be motivated by power when they promote this cause. "Considering the imaginative potential for this phenomenon." and in two ways (33). Additionally." On the other hand. "Semioticians who accept this single retreat essentially eliminate consideration of an obvious and necessary component of sign functions. art. In this sense. should help to illuminate some of the catalysts behind this development in semiotics. (Remember Eco's representative depiction of "noise" as an instance of communication breakdown. and the theoretical apparatus that enables it. and noise is a basic component of social hegemony. If "signs systematically operate as an unsystematic. The IG conceptualization of semiosis consists of a similar channelization effect. noise can be seen as a rich site of meaning exchanges. as opposed to the source of a "crisis of proliferation" (Attali 130).

could be altered to fit the present discussion as the "monosemy of power" (9). there existed no legislation for the suppression of noise and commotion.) One critic proposes a reading that identifies an intriguingly prophetic association in one of Joyce's puns that he could not have known about because it was connected with a future historical event.in the sense of "polysemy" as a limited. Echoing Peirce. He says. Eco reflects this when he notes that one of his motives for qualifying Peirce's commentary on infinite semiosis is to "protect the reading of Peirce. Eco (and most of the other commentators on FW is not always reductive in his characterization of the novel's polysemy. "it is not necessary that the reader understand the exact meaning of every word and phrase" of it (Aesthetics 67)." This sounds like a different rendition of FW altogether. "sound prevention" in semiotics has experienced a comparable form of widespread efforts to tame semiosis. "The right to make noise was a natural right. an affirmation of each individual's autonomy" (122-3). 130 . In an indirectly related account. Yet. Attali posits this relationship as a criterion for assessing the degree of hegemony within a given social system. except that Eco's reliance upon exact meaning and semiosic permission reveals his desire for relative restraint. Eco recalls that "in many recent studies I have remarked a general tendency to take unlimited semiosis in the sense of a free reading in which the will of the interpreters. "Before the Industrial Revolution." he notes. a better illustration of Eco's stance on controlling the novel can be found in his peculiar description of a critical exchange between several Joyce critics who concocted what came across to him as far-fetched. this could be rendered: the polysemy of power -. unchecked growth of messages which seemingly necessitates the establishment of semiosic "norms" and "the stockpiling of signs" (131). normative agreements along these lines have been established as well (like the "basics" of semiotics discussed in Lecture 1).as opposed to an unbinding of semiosis -. he allows that while "symbols grow. "If it is difficult to decide if a given interpretation is a good one. but at least what it is not and cannot be" (19). (Actually." this by no means has to suggest that "they never remain empty. to use [Richard] Rorty's metaphor. This leads to Eco's efforts at "beating (respectfully)" Peirce's concept. instead of opening it too much" ("Unlimited" 13). manageable -." In order to curb the cancer of unlimited semiosis.polyvalence. Indeed. Attali traces the historical development of socially organized noise control. Then came the "campaign against noise" under the guise of doing so "for the protection of the public peace" (123). for instance. beats the texts into a shape which will serve their own purposes" (18).and managed -. readings of several puns. "Thus my purpose was not so much to say what unlimited semiosis is. This also parallels what Attali describes as the reactionary response to wild. it's not his description of the dialogue that is peculiar so much as is his emotional response to it. Attali relates the first appearance of such an undertaking in France which was sponsored by a group whose motto was: "The silence of each assures rest for all. "It is possible to judge the strength of political power by its legislation on noise and the effectiveness of its control over it" (122). In fact. Or. in keeping with Eco's peculiar use of terms like "openness"." he observes. "The force of the text resides in its permanent ambiguity and the continuous resounding of numerous meanings which seem to permit selection but in fact eliminate nothing. The widespread paternalism apparent in the discussion of semiotics suggests that this -. it is easier to recognize the bad ones." While recounting the etiology of this yearning.is more likely to continue as long as current preferences remain firmly entrenched. and indeed impossible.

"Interpretation and Overinterpretation: The Rights of Texts. Trans.s Howard C. 1964: 382-400.in the end. and according to this explanation each such part has some other part as its Object" (cited in Theory. John. Capozzi. finally. 69). From the standpoint of specifically literary semiotics.A year later." De-Structuring the Novel: Essays in Applied Postmodern Hermeneutics. Ed. Predictably. Ed. can be reduced to a semiotic morality. he follows up this assertion with a stream metaphor for semiosis that is strategically the opposite of those Merrell employs positively. Jacques. because it is based on credible "context" (Limits 150). "Joyce Redivivus: An Interested Meditation. Eco suggests. Indiana: University of Indiana Press." Reading Eco: 217-234 131 . Eco applauds this as "an example of respect of the text as a system ruled by an internal coherence" (151). ultimately reach a Sign of itself."the notion of unlimited semiosis does not lead to the conclusion that interpretation has no criteria" -assumes a well-worn contour (Limits 6).. Noise: The Political Economy of Music. Boler." Readers unfamiliar with Eco's subject in this instance would probably not realize the significance of his choice of "riverrun" in relation to this contention and his overall perspective on semiosis. Yet. Eco recounts that Peirce declared "we shall. Brian Massumi. and Implied Authors. Robin." Reading Eco: An Anthology. "Unlimited semiosis" is typical of the handful of such concepts that Eco attempts to reconfigure to create the illusion of a dynamic. fluid view of semiotics. it could be argued that Peirce's own qualification reveals the sleight of hand necessary in order to convincingly portray semiotics in this light. Buczynska-Garewicz. But. he consistently stresses a conservative perspective that sacrifices organicity for systemicity. Amherst." Studies in the Philosophy of Charles Sanders Peirce. Leonard Orr. containing its own explanation and those of all its significant parts." he maintains. Hanna. Readers. were prudent enough to recognize that their brilliant innuendoes were not supported by the context. or should. progress for play. "To say that interpretation (as the basic feature of semiosis) is potentially unlimited does not mean that interpretation has no object and that it 'riverruns' for the mere sake of itself. Moore and Richard S. By first suggesting we "shall" accomplish this concretization. "I love that discussion" between these critics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Buttigieg. "All the participants proved to be smart enough to invent acrobatic interpretations. Peirce dramatizes an awareness of the desperate juggling of concepts that is going here. As this sententious observation suggests. the ambit he introduces with assertions like -. 1985. Ed. an orientation along these lines.. Rocco Capozzi. and then changing it to "should". References Attali. as is seen throughout his considerable and influential work on sign theory and practice. Troy. 1982: 113-154. 1997: 163-72. "Habits of Thought. University of Massachusetts Press. "Semiotics and Deconstruction. Joseph A. NY: Whitston Publishing Co. a second critic found a defendable and historically plausible explanation for the pun which is granted legitimacy.. Eco confesses in an uncharacteristically emotional moment. 2nd series. It is the first word of Finnegans Wake. but. Rocco. "To say that a text potentially has no end does not mean that every act of interpretation can have a happy ending. They won the game because they let Finnegans Wake win" (150-151).

Jacob. 1990. Signs Grow: Semiosis and Life Processes. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Weir. Albany: State University Press of New York. "Towards Interpretation Semiotics. 1979." Reading Eco: 147-162. S. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. The Aesthetics of Chaosmos: The Middle Ages of James Joyce. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Pub. 1976. Language In Modern Literature: Innovation And Experiment. Lorraine. Tejera. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.s. Frye. Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays. Semiotic Foundations: Steps toward an Epistemology of Written Texts.s I-VI. Ed. The Role of the Reader: Explorations in the Semiotics of Texts. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. David.. Swann. Vol. Trans. 1982. Riffaterre. ---. Multhaup. Smith. Albany: State University of New York Press. Ed.Colapietro. Eco. IN: Purdue University Press." Reading Eco: 121-136. Ellen Esrock. 1979. A Theory of Semiotics." Reading Eco: 73-81. The Limits of Interpretation. Indeterminate Events: Lyotard on Sophists and Semiotics. Merrell. ---. Trans. Northrop. The Open Work. ---. Princeton. Anna. Floyd. 1957. 1980: 65-74. Bonn: Bouvier Verlag Herbert Grundmann. Scott. Uwe." Reading Eco: 210-216." The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association 23." Reading Eco: 111-120. "Eco. "Simple Signs. Vincent. T. ---. ---. West Lafayette.'" C. Umberto. Eliot." Critical Theory Since Plato. 1996. 1995. New York: Barnes And Nobel. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.s Roland HabenbŸchle and Joseph T. 1992: 764-6. Seed. ---. 1990: 1-21. "Esoteric Conspiracies and the Interpretative Strategy. Ed. "The Interpretant in Literary Semiotics. Peirce's Approach to the Self: A Semiotic Perspective on Human Subjectivity. 1989. 1982. "The Open Work in Theory and Practice. 1931. Bloomington: Indiana University Press." Poetic Knowledge: Circumference and Centre. Albany: State University Press of New York. 1990): 61-74. Semiosis in the Postmodern Age. Charles Sanders. Writing Joyce: A Semiotics of the Joyce System. 132 . Peirce and the Necessity of Interpretation. Hazard Adams. "'The Infinite Game': Cortˆzar's Hopscotch . Korg. Charles. On Monosemy: A Study in Linguistic Semantics. Michael. John Stewart. Collected Papers. "James Joyce and Language as Heuristic Process. ---. 1984. Ruhl. Ed. S. "Hamlet and His Problems. Dolezel. Longoni." Umberto Eco. 1996: 201-234.Bloomington: Indiana University Press.1 (Spring. Tulsa: University of Tulsa Monograph Series." Reading Eco: 173-184. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Peirce Sesquicentennial Congress lecture. 1989: VII-XXXII. David. Andrew R. "The Themata of Eco's Semiotics of Literature. "Unlimited Semiosis and Drift: Pragmaticism vs 'Pragmatism. Simpkins.Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Victorino. Peirce. Petrilli. "Introduction." Beyond the Symbol Model: Reflections on the Representational Nature of Language. NJ:Princeton University Press. Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss. 1989. 1989. Anna Cancogni. Susan. Lubomir. Robey.

ungrounded. Barbara Harlow (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Libidinal Economy. Finite and Infinite Games Voluntary Finitude Although in this assertion about finite games. 1993). Jacques Derrida." characterized by "the existence of repetitive cycles of moves [or loops ] or an infinitude of positions" [46]. initiating components for a semiotics geared toward what Carse identifies as infinite games. Throughout these lectures I have argued that the Indiana Group's discussion of semiotics tends to promote a finite version of semiosis that will be configured here as a form of "play". Overview Voluntary Finitude Signs of Play The Problem of Vertigo Infinite Rules Infinite Play Vulnerable Play Serious Play Limited Infinite Play A New Semiosic Order Vertiginous Play Horizonal Semiotics A Thousand Semiotics "There is no finite game unless the players freely choose to play it. and Play Assigned Readings: Roland Barthes. Carse is making a point about the necessity of being able to choose to play or not. "The Death of the Author. to be more precise -.Lecture Seven: Semiotics Based on Radical Polysemy. one can also choose the type of game one plays and. another implication exists here as well.James Carse. Structuration. In this lecture. trans.'" Spurs: Nietzsche's Styles. Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang. Iain Hamilton Grant (Bloomington: Indiana University Press.on an approach to signification that celebrates the potentially energizing effects of radical polysemy." Image-Music-Text. 1977): 142-8. however. Jean-Fran&ccedilois Lyotard." -. In the 133 . trans. For. "'I have forgotten my umbrella. 1979): 122-143. an alternative concern will be pursued to outline some provisional. Carse is talking specifically about finite games.) This activity will be grounded -. (Or what James Flanigan calls "loopy games. here. trans. It attempts to frame some components of an a-systemic model briefly sketched out in Lecture 5 as "semiosystemics" and conceptually based on Barthes's concept of "structuration".

ceremony/rite. The "play-concept" (Huizinga 2) is variously configured as catharsis. In part. accounts for the resistance to accepting play as a serious or constructive social semiotic practice. the alarmist perspective on unlimited semiosis views it as meaningless. it's more like the compulsory play that Carse repeatedly associates with non-play. "playing" with oneself). it is granted this only because it has a structure independent of the players who are thus constrained by its order. The same is true for those who cannot comprehend the possibility of a social value of play. finite and infinite. "No one can play who is forced to play." he contends (4). "A characteristic of play. Typically. Play is an occasion of pure waste: waste of time. Of course. In fact. like infinite play. the non-real.e. lack of economy. this "indivisibility". "Unlike infinite play. all the limitations of finite play are self-limitations" (12). even those who choose to play a limited game demonstrate autonomous agency by doing so. cannot play . 134 . else all competitive effort will desert them" (12). no capital has accrued.) Signs of Play Theorists have partitioned the phenomenon of play in numerously divergent ways that.. those limitations must be chosen by the player since no one is under any necessity to play a finite game. Or. This position frames play and games as undertakings that fail to yield a constructive form of knowledge qua capital. playing a role/pretending. flexibility (intentional slackness allowing for multiple movement). Given this connection. epistemologically progressive version of play. are thought to be somehow immature. that whoever plays. a close analysis of some of the contested issues regarding play may illuminate related problems in semiotics." he observes.. the freedom for those who opt for infinite play is far more substantial -." One of the more attractive components of Carse's commentary on these two contrasting game orientations is the immense empowerment characteristic of each. in fact. energy. though. skill.and. no masterpiece has been created. as Huizinga calls it (175). plays freely. There are many parallels between the situation of play in play theory and that of semiosis in sign theory. "Fields of play simply do not impose themselves on us. Such a limitation necessitates at least partially forgetting the impulse behind play. Those who choose to continue engaging in play. resulting in a phenomenon Carse casts negatively as "veiling". the IG portrays semiosis as the ground for an ethical. when play is thought to possess a redeeming purpose. Whoever must play." (5-6). different in kind.is that it creates no wealth or goods.. Nothing has been harvested or manufactured. This kind of play is not much fun. finite play is limited from without. training. As he suggests. if play is seen as having some social worth.. Therefore. thus differing from work or art.process. For example. Roger Caillois provides an illuminating account of this perspective. "At the end of the game. all can and must start over again at the same point. "Players must intentionally forget the inherently voluntary nature of their play. It often is viewed as figuratively akin to an aberrant onanism (i. (This would parallel Johan Huizinga's earlier assertion that "all play is a voluntary activity" [7]. exercise. noise. "It is an invariable principle of all play. basically reveal only the individual preferences of each investigator. "Some selfveiling is present in all finite games. ingenuity. "human" needs that are difficult to quantify concretely." Carse suggests. entertainment. and even eroticism/intimacy. performance. something an adult purportedly leaves behind in the process of maturation. accordingly. symbolic fulfillment. relaxation. or simply silence." he notes. in the end.. this worth is expressed in fuzzy.

(For example. and outside the sphere of necessity or material utility. a devotion that passes into rapture and. in a visible order. presumably one seeks to avoid these sensations. Again." which describes an exhibit on anthropologists's efforts to gather photographic documentation of North Pacific people at the turn of the century. Huizinga observes that play is often site-specific. and "unproductive" [9-10]. according to rules freely accepted. a development that has substantially revised the epistemological and ontological status of the constructed non-real. one's entire being itself changes when moving from the "real". Several play theorists -. aligned with "uncertainty" and "chanciness". "unproductive"."Play is superfluous. for example. The play-mood is one of rapture and enthusiasm. "separate". however. however. "The need for it is only urgent to the extent that the enjoyment of it makes it a need" (8). with designated grounds delimiting an arena where one is authorized to play. and here play theory provides a host of illuminating observations for semiotics.try to gauge the merit of play through the way it is conducted by a given player. "governed by rules". Moreover." Huizinga claims. Huizinga [ca. for the player joins a larger "playcommunity" (12) consisting of other players involved at the time. as one is suddenly transformed. This is not to imply.) One's sense of being within these spheres is altered as a "tension". and is sacred or festive in accordance with the occasion. Total concentration and sobriety. indicate play that qualifies for inclusion as a respected undertaking within the human sciences. temporarily at least. a number of play issues can be clearly identified. Homo Ludens. "uncertain". "does not by any means prevent it from proceeding with the utmost seriousness. (Whereas. Rexer points out that the relatively primitive photographic technology at the time proved difficult to use under actual circumstances so that photographs had to be staged under better conditions to show how things actually looked. this is circa 1897-1902. in non-play. completely abolishes that troublesome 'only' feeling" (8). (Admittedly. 1955] didn't have the postmodern theoretical commentary that valorizes the simulacrum to draw upon regarding this issue. A feeling of exaltation and tension accompanies the action. is not only cultivated. which is often defined antithetically as the "non-serious". (132) (This would be similar to Caillois's sense of play as something that is "free". insofar as he privileges the one thing that arguably threatens the entire practice of play. Witness Lyle Rexer's recent article in The New York Times. a calling-into-being within a world whose modality is grounded by play. A photograph from the exhibit of anthropologist Franz Boas with a big grin on his face while he's helping to fabricate such a photograph dramatizes the delight that can accompany a less-than-serious form of this "play". but savored as integral to the experience of play (10). Huizinga sums this up with his rather simplistic conceptualization of play as an activity which proceeds within certain limits of time and space. the "play-ground" [10] or "play-sphere" [31]. with an absorption. Martin Heidegger might cast this as an interpellative act. "Doctoring Reality to Document What's True. mirth and relaxation that follow.) Huizinga's emphasis on seriousness is surely ironic. "in-play" in the "play-world" (Huizinga 11). Despite the difficulties involved in anatomizing play. as a convenient illustration -. this isn't an isolated form of consciousness." Huizinga argues.I'll use Huizinga's prominent study.) In fact. "The consciousness of play being 'only a pretend'. that this orientation is specifically postmodern in nature.) 135 .

which piece to move or which card to put down. and therefore pleasant disturbance of perception and equilibrium" (169). a civilizing quality can be attributed. this emphasis on rules and play may be more prescriptive than descriptive. but they can be employed in finite ways that preclude the element of "surprise" in play that seems especially important to maintain itself as play. which is to provoke a slight.and playing by the rules -. "They determine what 'holds' in the temporary world circumscribed by play. "Rules are inseparable from play as soon as the latter becomes institutionalized. These analytical orientations are. vertiginous play. without exaggeration.The Problem of Vertigo Rules are almost universally cited as a criterion for distinguishing between play and non-play." Huizinga declares. unexceptionable rules that must be accepted as such and that govern the correct playing of the game. insofar as the resulting "meaning" provides a "logical" (i. Caillois makes a similar restrictive point when he asserts that a possible implication of this rulebinding is instrumentally theological in nature. "Mathematical theories that seek to determine with certainty.. 45). then. However. valorized) motive for engaging in play. to really merit being called games." Caillois asserts (7). while "play is free activity. as Caillois suggests. Caillois suggests that these games (and their accompanying types of "play") "reflect the moral and intellectual values of a culture. and the same can be said for differentiating between intelligible and unintelligible signs." Caillois remarks. are not promoting the spirit of the game but rather are destroying its reason for being" (174). play would become domesticated like the finite scenarios that I've contended are promoted by those among the IG. "An outcome known in advance. which is characterized by Caillois within the larger category of this class of play as "the taste for gratuitous difficulty. Caillois observes. This is not unlike what Eco proposes in his distinction between a Work and noise. In this respect. the very element which constitutes play is a requisite inability to calculate its movements with absolute certainty. arbitrary. "it is also uncertain activity" (7). this latter form of "constructive" play "give[s] the fundamental categories of play their purity and excellence" (33) that is aligned with Huizinga's contention regarding the aesthetic capacity of play (8. as well as contribute to their refinement and development" (27). he concludes. "From this moment on they become part of its nature. is incompatible with the nature of play. with no possibility of error or surprise." In fact. however. "The confused and intricate laws of ordinary life are replaced. "All play has its rules."wild" ones that apparently resist restraining orders -seem to deserve their lower position within the hierarchy of play." Caillois points out. It may well be. that "rules themselves create fictions" (8). clearly leading to an inescapable result. vertigo is considered a risky pursuit 136 . a "play attitude" toward rules typically is viewed as essential to constitute play of a socially recognized order. In other words. This distinction also holds for the extensive and often explicit rule-bound nature of all social intercourse." This observation helps to explain while a totalizing structuralistic analysis of play as a form of semiotic determinacy is counter to the concept of play itself. For. must be more precise and determinate and better adapted to their proper goal. temporary. Politeness strategies (as Brown and Levinson and Janet Holmes among others have demonstrated) are just one of many illustrations of this. They transform it into an instrument of fecund and decisive culture" (27)." is distinguished from the play aligned with games "to which. Like Eco's dictum about the ruled condition of openness. For instance. an attempt to impose a limitation on the truly generative and creative potential of play." Nonetheless. Rules -. The rules of a game are absolutely binding and allow no doubt" (11). by precise. "as destructive as they are perfect.e. in all possible situations.are central concerns within this perspective on play. He notes that this explains why certain types of games -. in this fixed space [of the game] and for this given time. Caillois observes that "games of vertigo.

for instance. this is a hopelessly self-legitimating.. a safe locale for keeping potentially threatening behavior from infecting the prescribed gravitas of "mature". play in moderation seems to be legitimated. and decidedly finite. and quantity (4). "the agreement of the players to the applicable rules constitutes the ultimate validation of those rules" (Carse 8). a form of playing where a player either wins or loses at the end.a range of limitations on the players" (8). then play could pose a threat to cultural stability. that enable the designation of who "wins" such games.. space. "extensive playful behavior might result in the dissolution or destruction of culture rather than in the gradual change or development of culture. Play is thus civilized.not unlike Samuel Taylor Coleridge's notion of voluntarily embracing a "willing suspension of disbelief" in order to 137 . or becomes a commonly engaged mode of play. Accordingly. however. If vertigo is taken to an extreme." Harris adds that this may account for the widespread enforcement of "normative controls upon playful behavior" (33). This. For. Louis Stewart and Charles Stewart maintain that "play generates an internal tension of disequilibrium polarized around dimensions of success and failure. which inevitably evokes emotional reactions in the players" (43).. allowing considerable room for choice within those restraints" (8). and are characterized by consensually acknowledged perimeters consisting of time. (With the exception of the "tie". Yet. but only restrain the freedom of the players. that "the desire to freely respect an agreedupon rule is essential" (168) to constructive play. "This latitude of the player. but the larger social order may be threatened. this margin accorded to his action is essential to the game and partly explains the pleasure which it excites" (8). These limitations determine when someone can be said to be playing a given game in order to establish whether one is playing or not to begin with." This desire for control appears in Carse's observation that finite games have concretely delineated "rules of play" that effectively "establish. can "incubate an emotional seizure" which leads either to a transformative effect or destroys the play in motion. And. A specific. The phenomenon of the "game" provides a type of reserve for play. this validity of these rules is established "only if and when players freely play by them" (8). game-oriented frame of mind is also essential -." Carse says. nevertheless. by knowing what the rules are that we know what the game is" (8).) "Winning" is an entirely different matter for the infinite player. "they do not mandate specific behavior. in turn. he adds. Caillois observes." Harris notes. "It is. This alarm is evidently based on the assumption that one could sacrifice the transformative element of play in order to generate greater personal pleasure as a consequence. it is important to note here that Carse is talking about finite games in this assertion. These rules are also necessary prerequisites. "While play may be necessary for cultural change which arises from creative behavior. unlimited play within culture might even result in the destruction of culture" (30). In a manner quite similar to Eco's version of openness.in play theory. acceptance and rejection. "The game consists of the need to find or continue at once a response which is free within the limits set by the rules. But. not only play itself. again." he says. of course. but neither is play permitted to go unchecked and uncontrolled. Still. such rules can identify conditions of entry and exit. form of establishing an economy of play. Caillois maintains that the condition of entry for the game system presupposes selfimposed limitation. Janet Harris observes that "if play involves behavior which may be varied according to the whims of the players. etc. "Play does not appear to be completely eliminated by norms. in fact. and consequently it contributes to an enablement and even refinement of the human character. everyday life. "in the narrowest sense rules are not laws.

or at least squelching. this individual model of advancement is effected on a larger.) "The desire to overcome an obstacle can only emerge to combat vertigo and prevent it from becoming transformed into disorder or panic. therefore.. etc. and conservative. if not clandestine and guilty. certain forms of play that would otherwise threaten this progress. transcendence. This is the type of leadership espoused (albeit in radically different ways) by both Eco (as was seen in previous lectures) and Derrida (as will be seen later here). and accomplishment (28-9). a severe and mechanical assurance of norms. "It is. or are relegated to the limited and regulated domain of games and fiction where they afford men the same eternal satisfactions. progression versus regression). Caillois proposes a process of maturation whereby the individual begins life in a vertiginous mode and eventually progresses to increasingly refined and productive forms of play characterized by an emphasis on skill. Caillois's alternative emphasis may be of greater use for constructing an energizing model for a future semiotics.freely. therefore. To Caillois.and. rules. discipline. One involves control by a "rational" leader who strives to maintain advancement at the expense of infinite play. cultural scale in the social process of "transition to civilization" (97) when a group tries to transcend "the vicious circle of simulation and vertigo" (141).to the rules of play may justify its social value for some theorists.finds sure footing on this ground -. consecration.). an arduous effort to preserve calm and equilibrium" (31). serving merely as an escape from boredom or work and entailing neither madness nor delirium. His arguments are irrefutable. who refuses to play because the game is meaningless. laws. (169) As an alternative. whether on the list in single combat and equal arms or in the praetorium interpreting the law impartially. While adhering -. This kind of play "provides the discipline needed to neutralize the dangerous effects" associated with vertigo (the "emotional seizure" identified by Stewart and Stewart. this advancement comes at the cost of necessarily banning. and regularity. training in self-control. I will argue later. is that Caillois allows for the transformative potential -. As Caillois suggests. One of the obvious attractions to this play leader is that it presumes an attendant certainty. whose actions are bound to the necessarily predictable and conventional forms of agon. exact. by choice -. The player following this lead is always grounded -. ponderous. They lose their traditional dominance. This sense of progress is aligned with "winning" the finite game. Caillois conjectures that Huizinga ignored vertiginous games because it seems impossible to attribute a cultural or educational value to games of vertigo. but in sublimated form.e.even to a limited degree -. However. (101-2). are pushed to the periphery of public life.marks of some obscure and contagious malediction. reduced to roles that become more and more modern and intermittent." he says. The game has no other but an intrinsic meaning" (7).of vertigo. (97) Caillois describes two forms of social regimentation based on these competing models of play (i. This figure operates as a sovereign god presiding over contracts.if not fatal -. to argue otherwise is to misunderstand the ostensive point of play: "The game is ruined by the nihilist who denounces the rules as absurd and conventional. The ethical creativity of limited and regulated conflict and the cultural creativity of magical games are doubted by no one. never risks entering into a 138 . (What is important about this point. the pursuit of vertigo and chance is of ill repute. These games seem sterile -. Yet. meticulous. Caillois adds: Each time that an advanced culture succeeds in emerging from the chaotic original. a palpable repression of the powers of vertigo and simulation is verified.experience a specific type of imaginative play.

esctatic [sic]. By common agreement. Vertigo is banned from this republic of play because if it is experienced.checkers. by a rapid whirling or falling movement. not with frenzy. hence its main deviation from infinitude.) The other form of direction is based on the control of a "charismatic" leader (the early JeanFran&ccedilois Lyotard. by prohibiting vertiginous play. nor appear as the time or sign of fortune. (A maddening example of this would be an adult trying to teach an impatient. natural "dis-order".. an impulsive and easy recreation. which sets the dynamic of finite play (i. Caillois suggests that another threatening aspect of infinite play is its potentially unchecked proliferation. The "game". the player has necessarily passed through a condition of exit out of play.. Moreover. The child may play along for awhile -. Vertiginous play "present[s] the disadvantages of overabundance" such as "confusion" (27). As Caillois remarks. win or lose) into motion when they interact. By practicing vertigo. but somewhat efficient..) Arguably. (Lyotard's contiguous opposition to a widespread structuralistic inclination in Libidinal Economy illustrates well the unfortunate limitation of just such a defensive response.e. in which a complacent.. for instance. so to speak -. sudden. the player "gratifies the desire to 139 .The madman is no longer regarded as the medium of a god by whom he is possessed. With civilization.instead of mutually supporting and integrative -. unpredictable and paralyzing. but dangerous. the emphasis on dominating hierarchy among the play inspired remains. magical." In an observation similar to Eco's pleas for semiosic economy. as such. civilized "order" is contrasted with an energizing.and thus is playing the game as a form of training. frequently patron and inspiration of a troop of masked men running wild" (102). men could pass from the illusory.forces. excesses or paroxysms could no longer be the rule. both a physical and psychological stimulation that "one produces in oneself. (127) Essentially. as will be seen later) who is "also a sovereign god.For this price the city could be born and grow. This highlights the potentially threatening aspect of infinte play that has to be defused in order to posit a hierarchically progressive social model for play. infinite play also could transform the controlled dis-order proffered by Eco (as discussed in Lecture 6) into a genuine disorder. but [it is] readily carried to excess. short-attentionspanned child how to play an entirely rule-bound game -. moreover. It is. master of illusion and metamorphosis. These oppositions can be illuminated by comparison with the competing orders seen in postcolonial texts such as Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness or Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart. is then over. "heritage replaces obsession. whose impromptu and unruly character remains its essential if not unique reason for being" (28). as an expected and revered explosion. authority is allied with calm and reason. a powerful magician. Caillois observes. He is not viewed as a prophet or healer.but inevitably the constraints are too much and child will be no longer tolerate playing by the rules. both of these orders function as opposing -. vertigo appears "in every happy exuberance which effects an immediate and disorderly agitation. Countenancing the infinite player would be tantamount to effecting the potential dissolution of this "progress".presumably undesirable vertigo. Related to its carcinogenically unstoppable generation. total. the key component of Caillois's assertion about these leader orientations is revealed by his stress on the construction and maintenance of authority. Clearly. but inspired and terrible.. this orientation would undermine the efforts of those who try to portray semiotics as an orderly/ordered discipline (such as those in the IG). and vain mastery of the universe to the slow but effective technical control of natural resources. While the charismatic leader seems more in keeping with the paradigm of infinite play. a state of dizziness and disorder" (12).

he says. calculated. progress involves "the development of grace. In addition to purportedly degrading and ultimately harming the vertiginous subject. Caillois pairs vertigo's threat to this sense of progress with the loss of a potential accumulation of the capital of progress.") For Caillois. Significantly. and organization" (157). Caillois contends. It would have to have to entail. Without this allowance progress cannot be posited. and invention. (Similarly. "They are regulated or even tolerated if kept within permitted limits. Like Gulliver. intermittent. vertigo is an unsustainable. "Physical vertigo. is "the decisive and difficult leap. Caillois expresses considerable fear about this transition. and chance are all threats to "a world dedicated to the accumulation of wealth." Caillois insists. in which Gulliver fails to consider the benefits of irrational. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi discusses the common conception of play as "a moratorium from reality" [16]) This myopic yearning to correct a skewed development in a body of social practices can be found in part 4 of Jonathan Swift's satirical novel. life-threatening condition that can only safely and reasonably be experienced through very controlled and moderate forms of play. and banished our Fears. is as difficult to attain as it is dangerous to experience. Gulliver's Travels.temporarily destroy his bodily equilibrium. and as discrete as games or successive encounters." Only controlled competition is beneficial within this arena. school degrees. they are viewed as fatal passions. On the other hand. raised our Hopes. detachment. should consist of "brief. (Play. vices. rule. This displacement of vertigo. artificially inducing vertigo through drugs and so on. "That is why the search for unconsciousness and distortion of perception. he reveals his own incipient seduction into a narrow rationalism as he negatively frames the consumption of wine: "it was a Sort of Liquid which made us merry." Caillois adds. simulation. vertigo. (The same sort of acquisition Lyotard disdains. diverted all melancholy Thoughts. "The others are dreaded." (230). and other "trophies") if vertiginous play is allowed. his alliance with Gulliver. this form of play also runs in opposition to the goals of progress associated with the human sciences. by putting us out of our Senses.. Caillois argues. and irony and not toward the pursuit of an implacable and perhaps. This also manifests itself in the nomenclature used in semiotics to establish concrete evidence of systemic order (another form of capital) and the designation of competence for those who agree to a consensual view (with "acceptable" variation) of that order. (Hence. begat wild extravagant Imaginations in the Brain. Caillois asserts. in its turns. arguing that it essentially violates the principal intentions behind play. speed.. suspended every Office of Reason for a Time. If they spread throughout society or no longer submit to isolation and neutralizing rules. Caillois focuses primarily on the potential shortcomings that would result if one were to "adapt vertigo to daily life" (50). liberty. he contends. "useless" pleasures.) One cannot acquire the "wealth" derived from winning finite games (status symbols. a vertiginous domination" (142). and deprived us of the Use of our Limbs... an extreme condition depriving the patient of protection. escape the tyranny of his ordinary perception.) To Caillois. "Vertigo and simulation are in principle and by nature in rebellion against every type of code. as will be seen later. in order to spread into daily life. then. and provoke the abdication of conscience" (44). or propel and which were devised to stimulate vertigo in the closed and protected world of play" (50). 140 . fall. always oriented toward equilibrium. which would distance the player from the defining criteria Caillois prescribes for play. As Gulliver tries to explain the human use of alcohol for intoxication to a member of a race of beings who are rationalists. or the narrow door that gives access to civilization and history (to progress and to a future)" (141). must assume forms very different from those observed on contraptions that gyrate. or manias" (157-8).

who sees it ultimately as an abandonment of an ostensive self-possession. or shock which destroys reality with sovereign brusquesness" (23). seizure. one has to wonder if this is negatively cast (like Csikszentmihalyi's sense of a hiatus from the "real"). it is a question of surrendering to a kind of spasm. Significantly. "In all cases.described so aptly by Caillois and others -. vertigo presupposes fear or. His contention that play requires an audience before the player can receive the greatest amount of pleasure from playing as a social act additionally certifies the communal aspect of this activity (against the presumably onanistic solitude of the infinite player mentioned earlier) (40). Yet.. thrills. "The pursuit of vertigo.cannot override its undesirable connotation. for Caillois. vertigo can also engender negative outgrowths that could easily become dysfunctional or disruptive. For the reasons surveyed superficially so far. to Caillois. feelings of panic. In finite games. Even when he describes one of its manifestations as "a pure state of transport" (31). Caillois's depiction of its effect serve well to illustrate this. 141 . He proposes that vertigo is an experience "common to diversion.more to a spasm than entertainment" (26)." he observes. then evidently it appears without purpose. the positive side of vertigo -. Moreover.could offer precisely the kind of rejuvenating and electrifying catalyst to semiotics that it so often lacks. free improvisation. and shock that causes a momentary loss of self-control" (169). It is "uncontrolled fantasy" and "frolicsome and impulsive exuberance. "we cannot play alone. turbulence. it is pleasurable. and carefree gaiety" (13). in the end. this panic -. Another threat to the progressive goal of finite play is the presumed goalessness aligned with infinite play. "It is not so much a question of triumphing over fear as of the voluptuous experience of fear. and is therefore an empty undertaking. on the other hand." Caillois says.. in order to make it more uncertain of attaining its desired effect" (13). runs exactly contrary to the presumed goals of play. "To be sure. and purposely tedious conventions. to oppose it still more by ceaselessly practicing the most embarrassing chicanery upon it. finite play entails "a growing tendency to bind [play] with arbitrary. but the latter attracts and fascinates one. Still. by its very nature. Caillois emphasizes the necessary presence and participation of other players as conditional for play itself. However. "corresponding. Thus. "the disturbance that provokes vertigo is commonly sought for its own sake" (23). or even "special disorder or sudden panic" (26).despite its attractions -. like Derrida's "sure" play (to be discussed later). it is not difficult to understand how and why vertigo has achieved its bad reputation. and undoubtedly for this reason. Caillois contends that it issues from an "elementary need for disturbance and tumult" and a "primitive joy in destruction and upset" which "readily can become a taste for destruction and breaking things" (28). Finite play. imperative. Consider.consist[s] of an attempt to momentarily destroy the stability of perception and inflict a kind of voluptuous panic upon an otherwise lucid mind. more precisely. who are willing to join in play with us" (5)." It can be "pleasurable torture". In fact. the alternative (and competing) orientation away from vertiginous play is nevertheless tainted by its zealous attempt to avoid all vestiges of it. If this play has no desired end. though.The membership within "civilization" thereby transforms those who will play along with this agreement into teamplayers. the relatively widespread denigration of his contribution to semiotics (several scholars have told me that. Roland Barthes offers a flamboyant example of someone who undeniably sensed the need for an enlivening impetus for semiotics along these lines... "In every case. as I will argue here. we must find an opponent. and in most cases teammates. But. As Caillois maintains. they couldn't take him "seriously") demonstrates the risk one takes when opening semiotic theory and practice to methodologies generally incompatible with institutionalization." he says. Caillois is hardly unaware of the considerable allure of vertigo.

Barthes's idea would thus be.) In his reflection on the significative parallels within pedagogy. One way to guarantee this development lies in the ceaseless potential for new rules. Barthes envisions a type of "signifiosis" in textual analysis (and its discussions) and conjectures about a critical orientation that "dismisses all meaning of the support text. as decoders-in-training (another form of play itself). Barthes's teacher could be considered as the encoder. Teachers. (Lecture 3 develops a facet of this at length. "The rules of an infinite game must change in the course of play" whenever the players "agree that the play is imperiled by a finite outcome" (9)." Barthes proposeds that "the problem is not to abolish the distinction in functions. this discussion can also extend to semiotics. he imagines a condition "in which the efflorescence of the signifier would not be at the cost of any idealist counterpart." This text then would "lend itself only to a signifying efflorescence" in which "one associates. often serve as a means of cementing one's authority as a teacher. as it were. These new rules have the advantage of sharing a common system between them. and the students.. the teacher. Additionally. "Writers. Intellectuals. the text can be considered as the product of an encoder. as opposed to acting as a levelling device for drawing students equally into the classroom dialogue about language. Obviously. The rules for infinite play are "like the grammar of a living language. the giddying whirl of the positions of speech" (205-6). infinite players play with boundaries" (10). Carse notes that while rules for finite games cannot change if one is playing that specific type of game. thereby privileging none.what Barthes provides for the potential future growth of semiotics. Barthes's hermeneutic would operate only as a means of extending semiosis. Accordingly. Such an outcome is aligned with the poverty of 142 . and the students as decoders. Or. thereby making them intelligible to other players despite their originality. to position all the elements involved equally. this player can then build upon them.but to protect the instability and. the situation is the reverse for infinite games. and with what basis. the infinite player can then create new rules based on the paradigmatic and syntagmatic orders of the existing ones. Infinite play would thereby be invoked as a semiotic model for this form of criticism which allows for the right of the signifier to spread out where it will (where it can?): what law. and what meaning. The identification and manipulation of textual "functions". it does mean that the play response is nonetheless generated in relation to them. In effect. Carse says. in that all the players sharing this inclination are mutually inspired to maintain ongoing play. would restrain it? Once the philological (monological) law has been relaxed and the text eased open to plurality. the infinite player considers rules as opportunities for creative responses. constrained only by the bounds of her creativity. While this doesn't mean the infinite player is free to ignore given rules.. "Finite players play within boundaries. of any closure of the person" (208). as the master decoder. in this last instance. Barthes notes." Carse contends. while finite rules "are like the rules of debate" (9). one does not decipher" (207). Accordingly. why stop? Why refuse to push polysemy as far as asemy? In the name of what? ("Writers" 207) Unlike the threat posed by the vertiginous riot of infinite play. alternately. Infinite Rules The common emphasis on rules in play/game theory serves as a useful beginning for orienting play toward its infinite register. This ongoing generativity is also necessitated by the constitutive impetus of infinite play. Knowing what the rules delimit.

they just do not forget that rules are an expression of agreement and not a requirement for agreement" (56). etc."winning" characteristic of finite play." This contention is illuminating when juxtaposed with Eco's comment about the text "winning" the game with its decoders in his conception of controlled semiosis (as discussed at the end of Lecture 6)." Therefore. the infinite player always uses rules as means for play continuation." Carse argues. this truth is an illusion that the sign user has forgotten is an illusion. A prediction is but an explanation in advance. neglects the obviously inherent metaphoricity of signification in which a sign stands for something to someone. "are not concerned to find how much freedom is available within the given realities -. are not abandoned in infinite play. serving not as communally accepted. if one knows the initial events and the laws covering their succession. Friedrich Nietzsche illustrates this well his his essay. he can still actually believe that the overall analysis of a sign operation he has constructed somehow actually explains or reveals a truth. there is a discoverable necessity in future events.. the play itself cannot be limited" (10). rather. then seeks and finds it there. (100) Belief in the viability of explanatory play. What can be explained can also be predicted. "Since limits are taken into play [i. "the rules of an infinite game are changed to prevent anyone from winning the game and to bring as many persons as possible into the play. infinite play is not competitive. Carse adds. "No limitation may be imposed against infinite play. But. then. because not just "any rule will do" (10). however. One rationale for accepting the restrictive agency of rules in finite play is that it leads to the illusion of masterful apprehension. they stand solely as provisional directives that can always (and must ) be discarded when play might otherwise be forced to conclude. Infinite play thus uses player input to generate ongoing cycles of play. Infinite players. "On Truth and Lying in an Extra-Moral Sense. "Infinite players have rules. even essentialistically determined. "Infinite players use the rules to regulate the way they will take the boundaries of limits being forced against their play into the game itself. From this perspective. with obvious exceptions. Nietzsche's point is that an explanatory apparatus can readily be fabricated to create the illusion of having thereby revealed a truth. the players' energy.]. there's no reason that infinite play should ever have to cease. as opposed to allowing them to constrict her play." he says (251). It is implicit in all explanatory discourse that just as there is a discoverable necessity in the outcome of past events. This type of "winning" thus assumes the guise of something epistemologically akin to "explanatory discourse. codes for behavior." "All laws made use of in explanation look backward in time from the conclusion or the completion of a sequence. that seeking and finding is not very laudable: but that is the way it is with the seeking and finding of 'truth' within the rational sphere. "The rules are always designed to deal with specific threats to the continuation of play.new avenues of play pursuit.for this is freedom only in the trivial sense of playing at -but are concerned to show how freely we have decided to place these particular boundaries around our finite play" (39). Rules. Rather than implying that this play is chaotic and undesirably subject to the idiosyncratic whimsy of each player. To borrow an idea from Carse." Carse asserts. 143 . to paraphrase Nietzsche.e. it is "play that affirms itself as play" (54).if not actually generating -. In the end. time." he says. this player freedom merely ensures that they are always pursuing -. this "self-veiling" can be so convincing that despite the complicity of the sign user involved. But. Carse notes that there is a rule-based order for this rule changing. the concept of "rules" is given a markedly distinct sense in infinite play. Consequently." "If someone hides an object behind a bush.

would be consonant with Barthes's commentary on the limitlessness of the Text (as opposed to the needless circumscription of the Work). its field is that of the signifier and the signifier must not be conceived of as 'the first stage of meaning'. It is irreducible without restricting access to the decoder. in the sense of consuming. but to an explosion. the thinking that sent us forth. but that it accomplishes the very plural of meaning: an irreducible (and not merely an acceptable) plural. in complete opposition to this.g. the Text -. thus it answers not to an interpretation. "Reading. its material vestibule. overlappings. that is. such a moderately "open" sense of signification is rich only in the poorest of senses. as opposed to a true explanation. In order to maintain this form of thought. is pure story" (139). To identify the "plural" mode of the text is "not simply to say that it has several meanings. rather than engaging in the stultifying finitude of merely repeating it (142-3)." with "explanation" (104). Those who yearn for an explanatory yield are basing their desires on just such a finite desire. it is this same resistance to calculation that lends Barthes's preferred notion of play its luxurious infinitude. Barthes contrasts the accumulation goal of finite play with the avoidance of accumulation in infinite play as indicative of the latter's desire to merely play on..in the field of the text. as its deferred action " ("Work"158). limited only by the decoder's semiosic agility. It "practises the infinite deferment of the signified. like a machine with 'play') and the reader plays twice over. Carse proposes resonating in a story. which operates under "no general law.. variation. "narrative invites us to rethink what we thought we knew" (105). Carse opposes "narrative". is dilatory.." he declares ("Work"162). "Knowledge is what successful explanation has led to. the infinity of the signifier refers not some idea of the ineffable (the unnameable signified) but to that of a playing. For Barthes. Similarly. Eco as the champion of semoisic openness). Carse suggests. 144 .is realized not according to an organic progress of maturation or a hermeneutic course of deepening investigation.Carse employs a dichotomy that is especially apt to buttress this point.prompts endless permutations of signification. But infinite play constantly endeavors to keep narratives in movement because of the invigorating stimuli that they generate. is far from playing with the text. For Barthes. according to a serial movement of disconnections.story versus explanation -. playing the Text as one plays a game. In fact. He adds: Similarly. in this case) semiosis is diffuse and explosive. rather. The Text is not a co-existence of meanings but a passage. an overcrossing. While "explanation sets the need for further inquiry aside. but. This resistance is not impenetrable. Barthes additionally reconfigures play not in its "trivial" association. a dissemination. Barthes's rendition of (literary. not on the ambiguity of its contents but on what might be called the stereographic plurality of its weave of signifiers.. 'Playing' must be understood here in all its polysemy: the text itself plays (like a door." Barthes says ("Work"159). even a liberal one. hardly the controlled sense of polysemy advocated as a timid radicalism by some semioticians (e.. but." Carse argues. in its suggestion of incalculable movement. however. Nietzsche would have it that this ŇdiscoveryÓ narrative is a type of myth. in effect. but rather. the generation of the perpetual signifier. Stories. The plural of the Text depends.like rules for the infinite game player -. Infinite Play This sense of infinite play -.

activity. to close the writing. as a liberating impetus for expanding play by overruling the presumed "director" of signification (what Deleuze and Guattari call the "General"). restitution of the inter-text paradoxically abolishing any legacy" ("Work"161). This play expands temporally as new texts appear. since it is." The view that stresses the Text and infinite play. practice" ("Work"162). (Lecture 5 addresses in greater depth some implications associated with consideration of the encoder. However. Hence. The Text is seen in this light as an infinte skein of echoes with other texts. Barthes speaks of "manhandling the text. however." he insists. Despite Barthes's musing on an equal distribution of weight among everyone/-thing involved in semiosis. in order that that practice not be reduced to a passive. it may be recalled that in S/Z. In this respect. the only participant who can win such an interpretive game is the one who plays finitely according to the rules it dictates." Barthes argues ("Death" 147. the reign of the Author has also been that of the Critic. "There is no surprise in the fact that..looking for a practice which re-produces it. it is needlessly limited.) This "death" may come across as gratuitously strident and needlessly restrictive -. infinite play has seemingly dire consequences for the encoder. emphasis added). (Similarly. "It can be broken... the encoder as sign originator). the author functions like the originator of a game (e. To Barthes.victory to the critic. it can be read without the guarantee of its father. for example) would appear to hamper one's decoding of a given message. In other words. can lead to importation of semiotic ethics. The infinite play model of semiosis thus refuses to limit sign production to a restrictive playground monitored by a powerful supervisor (i. but. in turn. also playing the Text in the musical sense of the term. "To give a text an Author is to impose a limit on that text. a respectful attitude toward the sign-vehicle countenances the establishment of play that is anything but infinite.from its consumption and gathers it up as play. Barthes provides license that frees this undertaking from an arguably undue reliance upon an encoder.. who is never allowed to move significantly beyond the encoder's dominion. This. 145 . this occurs as a counterbalancing response to a long-standing privileging of the sender as a presumably authoritative means for grounding significative certainty. James Naismith as the inventor of basketball). on the other hand. Barthes.g. the text is 'explained' -. A form of intertextuality also appears in Barthes's conception of play. "No vital 'respect' is due to the Text. functioning perfectly without there being any need for it to be filled with the the person of the interlocutor" ("Death"145).e. though.. the rationale behind Barthes's stress on the message's autonomy. resists this semiotic hegemony. as is demonstrated in the call by Eco and others for decoders to show polite deference to a reasonable array of authorial "intentions" (or authorially directed text-intentions) when interacting with texts. allowing for only a small portion of creative input by the decoder. It does serve. "once the Author is removed. production." Barthes suggests a compelling correlation that hinges on this form of gameplay. In part. the Text "decants the work. historically. emphatically condemns this obeisance as needless. interrupting it" [15]. ceaselessly broadening the semiosic activity of the initiating Text. to furnish it with a final signified. This point of origin supposedly provides a key for unlocking the transcendental signified and. may appear to reduce the perimeters of allowable play to those authorized by the encoder. by implication.and for good reason.) But.. Such a conception suits criticism very well. while the lack of an encoder (as with an "anonymous" text. inner mimesis (the Text is precisely that which resists such a reduction). To the contrary... Barthes contends that linguistics has taught us that "the whole of the enunciation is an empty process.when the Author has been found.... the claim to decipher a text becomes quite futile. From a gameplay standpoint.

nothing but pure storytelling. savor their ironies. in other words..which does not mean in its ineffable individuality. but only to serve instead as the instigation of a vast semiotic polytheism of variegated "stories". This sense of structure is actually a multiple structuration in which a given framework is posited in solely a provisional and nonprivileged sense. it conceives the text as taken up in an open network which is the very infinity of language. outside. the decoder takes the place of a god in this schema Barthes has outlined..) That way." she writes. He promotes a form of decoding that endeavours to 'see' each particular text in its difference -. Barthes contends that "the total existence of writing" is based on the assumption that "a text is made of multiple writings. Barthes suggests. nothing deciphered. confesssor. (This would unseat both of the play "leaders" Caillois identifies. everything is to be disentangled. contestation" ("Death" 148). analyze their mechanisms. "That the most popular women writers [from 1670-1820] openly link their authorship to the flickering ontological effect of signification suggests that the linking is a strategy for capitalizing on their femaleness. not pierced. He adds that "there is one place where this multiplicity is focused and that place is the reader" who functions as "the space on which all the quotations that make up a writing are inscribed without any of them being lost. An especially revealing dramatization of this approach is seen in the closing paragraph of Susan Gallagher's introduction to her study. Barthes scandalously takes this too far and insists that such a reorientation necessitates the figurative "death" of the individual traditionally privileged in the dynamic of signification: "to give writing its future. science. drawn from many cultures and entering into mutual relations of dialogue. every player has the maximum amount of agency available. and discern their complex exigencies. it is necessary to overthrow the myth: the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the Author. nor any subject of the enunciation in position as judge." he observes. blend and clash" ("Death" 146). in which she frames her analyses in this fashion. Barthes likewise posits a sense of "writing" that "liberates what may be called an anti-theological activity. replacing it with a spatial model patterned as an infinite field of players with no designated status above or below the other players. Barthes views a text as "a multi-dimensional space in which a variety of writings. Barthes extends his view of openness in this fashion by not only denying the overweening power of the encoder." It is always to remain. thereby insuring the greatest potential for openly engaged play by all the players involved. law" ("Death" 147). decoder" ("Work" 164). the originator (the "God" of the trandscendental signified) may be rendered dead. "the structure can be followed. an activity that is truly revolutionary since to refuse to fix meaning is. master. in the end. none of them original. nor even how it is made (structural 146 . I do not recommend believing in them as universal truths" (xxiv).For instance. "In the multiplicity of writing." Of course. "The Text is that social space which leaves no language safe. to refuse God and his hypostases -reason. analyst. "I invite the reader to enjoy these constructions. but there is nothing beneath: the space of writing is to be ranged over. for this difference is 'woven' in familiar codes. itself structured without close. parody. it tries to say no longer from where the text comes (historical criticism). 'run' (like the thread of a stocking) at every point and at every level. Nobody's Story. Actually. functioning as a creator limited only by her capacities as a sign user. but also that of system and structure as well." Perhaps a more fruitful way to rearrange this relationship could be found through a dismantling of semiotic hierarchicalization altogether. In effect.

by what coded paths it goes off. declares that he is striving in that study "not to give [the text] a (more or less justified.which is not its 'determination'" (129). Barthes's Text is "structured but off-centred. Barthes defines "signifiance" as "meaning in its potential voluptuousness" ["Grain" 184]. This. is a focus solely on process. the Text -. And. Barthes. An approach like this could yield." he says. approaches that consent to remain metaphorical" (156). Barthes offers "reading the text not in its 'truth' but in its 'production' [or elsewhere -.) Vulnerable Play A semiotics inclined toward multiplicty could also find a suitable model inS/Z (as discussed in Lecture 3) which is vulnerable precisely because of Barthes's unwillingness to "play" the game of conventional semiotic scholarship. 'touches'. "No doubt the theologian would grieve at this indecision while the exegete would acknowledge it.) "The text cannot stop. For such a player. avoids giving it that additional structure which would come from a dissertation and would close it" (13)." He argues that he is trying to produce in this essay "not a 'result' nor even a 'method' (which would be too ambitious and would imply a 'scientific' view of the text that I do not hold). more or less free) meaning. how it explodes. the semiotician-as-flaneur will never do. this computation would be acceptable only if the process can be carried on indefinitely. for the infinite player. Barthes demonstrates the mindset that has to accompany a method of this design when he discusses a point of undecidability in his reading of a certain element of "cultural ambiguity" in Genesis. but merely a 'way of proceeding'" (127). once it "stops". But. instead of assembling it. which acknowledges them as barriers without allowing them any effective sway as such. cited in Lecture 6. This orientation was discussed in Lecture 3 regarding Barthes's depiction of his method of analysis in "The Struggle with the Angel. What remains. without closure". ("Struggle" 126-7) In this way. would similarly align with the infinite play stance toward rules. Yet. the problem at least posed for me. also like the game. with "neither close nor centre" ("Work" 159). Manfred Frank identifies the infinite play component ofS/Z quite 147 . a walk in the park. this approach to signification would strive for an endless tracing of decoding potentials without resorting to a missionary purpose bent on uncovering the transcendental signified. about the unlimited rendition of semiosis "blabbing away like a crazed computer". "The problem. Try to imagine the response of a finite player to this stance. an open system. Barthes. This "friction" is like the "tension" cited in infinite play theory as the desired outcome of engagement. but how it is unmade.in Barthes's conception -.in its "dissemination" ("Struggle" 141)] -. but on the contrary to appreciate what plural constitutes it" (S/Z 5). "the textual analyst. hoping for some element of fact or argument that would enable him to put an end to it. The analyses that this method generates "are not argumentations but enunciations. "it stars the text. is exactly to manage not to reduce the Text to a signified. whatever it may be (historical. "Its constitutive movement is that of cutting across" ("Work" 157) -or. "the Text is not to be thought of as an object that can be computed" (156). a condition of exit has taken place. disseminates . (This would be consistent with Eco's fear. Or. folkloristic or kerygmatic).analysis). it will be recalled. (Elsewhere. savours such friction between two intelligibilities" (131). of course. economic. he suggests. in other words. then. As he asserts. then. but to hold its signifiance fully open" (141).has to remain always unpredictable and never liable to analytical "consumption". Touches? A way of proceeding? It sounds as though Barthes is suggesting a leisurely ramble. would understandably seek additional ways to cultivate this otherwise seemingly undesirable effect. Barthes argues that his method "avoids structuring [his analysis of] the text excessively. "vision without barriers of meanings" (134). like the game. In effect." he observes." he insists. judging by my own impression.

" He views this as a manifestation of "sure play." he argues. "it is an easy matter to find passages. but without being delegated to a great final ensemble. "until it exposes its own hollowness and contradicts its own desire for solid and stable signs. Polysemy is viewed. for instance. in the course of analyzing codings of a single literary text. in creating an infinite commentary. indeed.by regarding the text as the intersection of codes often crossing and communicating with each other" (156). or rather a perpetual commentary" ("Interview" 140). It may be useful to recall (from the discussion in Lecture 3) Elizabeth Bruss's contention that. Barthes establishes his reading as rule-based. unimpoverished by any constraint of representation (or imitation)" (5). The cultivation of affirmative play was Barthes's goal. a chaotic plurality of signifiers without. for Barthes projects this "end" of meaning undesirably as the ossification of a monosemous meaning.. but instead "to produce a structuration" (20) that does not limit itself to thematic reductions. and without origin which is offered to an active interpretation. without truth. a view of polysemy associated with that stance characterizes semiosis as a progress-less void of infinite sign slippage and deferred signification.. "If we want to remain attentive to the plural of a text (however limited it may be). He offers. the "hollowness" and contradiction of desire Bruss laments are wholly of her own making. "no construction of the text" (12). to an ultimate structure. InS/Z . He declares. even timidly." The main preoccupation of this orientation is a fear of semiotic loss. in Barthes's work. as a lack of determinate/determinable meaning. Moreover. present. From this angle. but by no means ruleconstrained. On the other hand. This recalls the commentary on Derrida's identification of the "structuralist thematic of broken immediacy" ("Structure" 292). guilty. that seem to celebrate the end of certainty. fromS/Z on. but this is exactly what he is "celebrating". the kind of lamentation that would find little to hope for in the unlimited semiosis of infinite play. "Everything signifies ceaselessly and several times. is also the dynamic of infinite play. Rousseauistic side of the thinking of play. then. I'd argue. of meaning itself" (419). Barthes's analysis assumes that "the one text is not an (inductive) access to a Model. nostalgic. Derrida argues. Barthes views this strategy as imperative for maintaining infinitude. essentially. the affirmation of a world of signs without fault. pieces. "their basically open interaction is not determined by any rule that has been taken out of play." In this way. there is play that embraces a "Nietzschean affirmation. as he reveals when he contends that the response toS/Z "showed that I had succeeded.. correspondingly. it simply highlights an "entrance into a network with a thousand entrances." This." she declares." It seems as though Bruss is citing this as a fault of Barthes's study. that he was endeavoring "not to manifest a structure" inS/Z . Unlike analysis by narratologists and typologists.accurately. Barthes is simply tracing some potential reading responses without "interested" order and unnecessary privileging of any in particular. Derrida identifies this orientation as "the saddened. that is the joyous affirmation of the play of the world and of the innocence of becoming. "Barthes manipulates the language of the text." Accordingly. To return to this point raised earlier. Barthes's discussion of a "loosening method" ("Inaugural" 476) behind his analysis seems consistent with this undertaking as well. (Many of my 148 . corresponding signifieds.. He notes (in an observation cited earlier) that Barthes endeavors to persuasively conceptualize the Text as "a form of multiple meanings. evidently. negative." which is "limited to the substitution of given and existing. From this position. "we must renounce structuring this text in large masses." This principle of keeping all rules in play would be crucial for the hyper-inclusivity of infinite play. as was done by classical rhetoric and by secondary-school explication" (11-12)." Rather. instead. Barthes attempts to dramatize the analytical potential of an approach that is careful to always leave in its wake "a triumphant plural.

Some play theorists. Carse characterizes this sobriety as a form of false consciousness that violates what could be called the spirit of play. serious (albeit serious play).) However. or even should be avoided. not a structure of signifieds. can lead to the illusion of "explanation" mentioned earlier. since the trainee is not necessarily performing her task in a genuine fashion. thematically reductive analysis. they are indeterminable. ("Training" would be a good illustration of this mode of play. "we cannot stop this plural at the gates of reading: the reading must also be plural. (This would involve what Erving Goffman calls "in-deeper-ism" [83] in which the semiotician who invests his identity as such. This deliberate openness ensures additional play (like the end of Alfred Hitchcock's film. "For those of us who are trying to establish a plural." Carse notes that "some persons may veil themselves so assiduously that they make their performance believable even to themselves" (13). he adds.) But it is clear that this charge derives from a preference for a type of behavior that is presumably explanatory in effect." or Julio Cortázar's novel. This non-ordered. try to forestall this claim by casting intensely focused play as. "the issue here is not whether self-veiling can be avoided. that is exactly what Barthes apparently was trying to achieve. "In the proper exercise of such roles we positively believe we are the persons those roles portray. "The Birds. that we have freely chosen to face the world through a mask" (13). it has no beginning. obviously this "play" leaves its practitioners open to stinging criticism for not producing the expected "yield" of finite. this text is a galaxy of signifiers. without any one of them being able to surpass the rest. group agreement on terms and concepts. "there cannot be a narrative structure. for example.cited by its detractors. the codes it mobilizes extend as far as the eye can reach. a-thematic analysis thus ensures ongoing semiosic play." he concludes. Carse aligns this activity with finitude and all of its concomitant implications. but their number is never closed. the constraint of this manifestation is surely consistent with the tame play that Derrida justly derides. Consistent with this plurality." he observes. an infinite structuration. Indeed. as discussed earlier. etc. or a logic" (6)." Barthes announces inS/Z . since this is exactly the opposite strategy employed by many members of the IG. And.students have remarked upon finishingS/Z : "That's how it ends!?") Still.. indeed. that is. as the case of the IG discussion of semiotics attests. (S/Z 5-6) "For the plural text. Even more: we make those roles believable to others" (12). There can only be. Hopscotch). This creates a moral dilemma that becomes increasingly difficult to break free from precisely because of the considerable benefit that goes along with investing in it at increasing levels of dependence. based as it is on the infinity of language. To return to his conception of "self-veiling.the systems of meaning can take over this absolutely plural text. it is reversible. (In semiotics: the play of musement..is that it isn't serious. a grammar. The issue is whether we are ever willing to drop the veil and openly acknowledge. without order of entrance" (15). Serious Play Perhaps the most frequently cited shortcoming of play -. Carse identifies a crucial component of the consensual development of discipline-specific assumptions here. none of which can be authoritatively declared to be the main one. in the end. refusing to close it off a given arena in exchange for the pathetic dividend of a decoding "victory". Barthes posits the "ideal text" (to return to a point from Lecture 3) in which the networks are many and interact. no finite play is possible without it. "From the outset of finite play each part or position must be taken up with a certain seriousness. but is learning how to do it later under actual conditions. if only to ourselves. As he remarks. And. based on finite 149 . anyway -. we can gain access to it by several entrances.

" This activity. In fact. that by taking this stance toward veil recognition. "Infinite players. the only victory to be achieved in infinite play is to play on. This play is never completely transformative -. and how far we will go to have others act in complicity with us" (14). for seriousness is a dread of the unpredictable outcome of open possibility. To be playful is to allow for possibility whatever the cost to oneself. It's not as though. risks losing it if he challenges the very conditions that produce this status." In fact. "To be serious is to press for a specified conclusion. Finite play thus always sacrifices spontaneous generativity for the certain worth that accompanies "serious" activity. but they do so without the seriousness of finite players. an ordering of affairs completed somewhere outside the range of our influence" (15). Infinite play 150 . "Seriousness always has to do with an established script. the infinite player constantly maintains uncertainty -. "It is not an openness as in candor. "Because the purpose of a finite game is to bring play to an end with the victory of one of the players.. "A finite player is trained not only to anticipate every future possibility. It is seen as a frivolous expenditure compared with acquiring solid. they enter into finite games with all the appropriate energy and self-veiling. recall the commentary cited in Lecture 6 about unlimited semiosis as goal-driven despite its infinitude. its laughter. "It is.. It's just that infinite players approach play with arguably greater awareness of the compromises that attend their preferences. continue their play in the expectation of being surprised. on the other hand. and as transformatively as possible. Carse argues." To the contrary. "When we are playful with each other we relate as free persons. yet at least equally important. but playfully. substantial "worth" from a game whose end is to achieve a victory. lies in learning to start something we cannot finish" (26). and the relationship is open to surprise." he contends.) Additionally. Carse argues that serious play eliminates the prospects of generating this outcome. by no means implies that "nothing of consequence will happen.) As Carse suggests. Carse suggests. As Carse maintains: Since finite games can be played within an infinite game. it is the embrace of disorder that guarantees non-contingent infinite play. draws out consequences of simply a different. (On this issue." While this would come across to the finite player as an uncontrolled environment. this element serves as the energizing force behind surprising play." he says.not unlike the "vulnerability" discussed earlier -. Carse observes.play paradigms. but to control the future. "Vulnerability".while attempting to extend play. This is the finite player in the mode of seriousness with its dread of unpredictable consequence" (18). to prevent it from altering the past. To play. the issue is how far we will go in our seriousness at self-veiling. "if no amount of veiling can conceal the veiling itself. infinite players are morally superior to those who embrace their play with serious finitude. they play in complete openness. nature. however. it's merely performative in nature. infinite players do not eschew the performed roles of finite play. each finite game is played to end itself. "The contradiction is precisely that all finite play is play against itself. "Because infinite players prepare themselves to be surprised by the future. "The joyfulness of infinite play. One particularly stultifying aspect of finite play is that its explanatory investment restricts its players from what could be called genuine creativity. On the contrary. is not necessarily a safe form of this condition for the infinite player. They embrace the abstractness of finite games as abstractness. in this sense. Carse identifies the emphasis on winning as a particularly detrimental characteristic of finite play." This "cost" is always too dear for the finite player. and therefore take them up not seriously. but an openness as in vulnerability" (18).instead. everything that happens is of consequence." he says (23).seriousness that closes itself to consequence.

Consequently. It offers. Carse points to a facet of infinite play that is more commonly discussed play theorists who study the instructional value of "educational" play among children (e. "The infinite player does not expect only to be amused by surprise. he argues.g. "seriousness will creep back into this kind of play. by no means mediated as finite competition. (Huizinga also notes that "the play-mood is labile in its very nature. which interrupts the game. "'I have forgotten my umbrella.. but to be transformed by it. While this exchange among players is agonistic (as is also the case in finite play). but initiate actions of their own in such a way that others will respond by initiating their own" (31). He notes that it might be a quote from someone or some other text. that is how to keep all our finite games in infinite play" (38). a disenchantment" [21]. This type of play actually parallels the neoclassical dictum of art serving the dual purposes of both pleasing and instructing.perhaps what is meant in the conventional sense of playing with no goal or progress. not to a victory in which the past will achieve a timeless meaning. Derrida appears mired in finitude here in the end." Carse claims (18-19). "the need to find room for playfulness within finite games" is the incorrect way to approach this need. Derrida shows how a form of the infinite play like the one Carse outlines could be applied (in the vulgar sense of applying theory). for surprise does not alter some abstract past. or else from within. Carse aligns this inclination toward interactive play with the "essential fluidity of our humanness" which." Anyone who has seen an entertaining game suddenly turn serious knows what this is like. This creates a difficult situation: "how to contain the serious within the truly playful. or may have functioned as a personal reminder for something Nietzsche wanted to recall later. engages in the equivalent of driving carnival bumper cars within a secured rink for a set amount of time. the potential for group experience which cannot be achieved alone by the individual player. roleplaying). But. infinite play is not geared toward eliminating players through accepted stages of competition with an eye toward victory. for it produces "a kind of play that has no consequence" -. It strives ceaselessly to draw upon whatever transformative contribution each player can give to the others. on the other hand. he does so in a way that perhaps is not fully open to infinitude by virtue of its residual investment in the "theology" of finite play. At any moment 'ordinary life' may reassert its rights either by an impact from without. some real accidents would take place to alleviate the tedium of surety. Derrida's point of entry into the system of Nietzsche's fragment consists of speculations about the sentence's uncertain ontological status. by a collapse of the play spirit. Part of the transformative impetus of infinite play is generated by the necessity of group interaction. Although Carse claims that infinite players can play with finite games." Carse says. But. The finite player. just once. while maintaining play at all costs." Carse suggests. And always under the half-hearted supervision of a bored carnival employee who secretly harbors the wish that. is "irreconciliable with the seriousness of finite play" (38).exposes the player to the same kind of potential threat that an automobile driver faces in the thrilling tumult of rush-hour traffic in a large metropolitan city. Significantly. or by an offence against the rules. in contrast.'" In his readings of a sentence from an unpublished text by Friedrich Nietzsche (consisting merely of: "I have forgotten my umbrella"). "Infinite players look forward. but toward ongoing play in which the past will require constant reinterpretation. "Inevitably. but one's own personal past. "There is no infallible way of knowing the occasion of this sample or what it could 151 . "Infinite players do not oppose the actions of others.) Limited Infinite Play A suitable illustration of this irrepressible creeping seriousness appears in Derrida's essay. a sobering.

again. however." It appears here that Derrida is playing into the editors' hands with this observation. Derrida turns it into new play mode potentials. however. or at least not much of anything.) The same is true. (The perfect forgery thus signifies its falseness through its perfection..since its fracturedness is itself an appeal to some totalizing complement. nor even that he actually wanted anything" (123).have been later grafted onto." he adds. Even the authenticity of assessing the origin of this sentence is questionable. He immediately notes. For the infinite semiotician.." This observation leads Derrida to speculate on the authenticity of handwriting as well which. In effect. Without this possibility. furthermore. This belief. After all. is vulnerable to forgery. he is also playing a finite game in an infinite fashion. While acknowledging this outcome. locating these elements would bring semiosis to a halt. for it holds considerable potential for a playful form of a progressive semiotic analysis. "We never will know for sure what Nietzsche wanted to say or do when he noted these words. or anything whatever?". Derrida asks." The pursuit of a grounding context and origin is motivated by a finite semiotics. and verifiable ironically only through the presence of the usual amount of variation in one's penmanship.does not alter the fact of that other possibility which is marked in the fragment's very structure. this possibility of worthlessness is accepted as simply one mode of play. One consists of the editors of a specific volume of Nietzsche's work who. or explanation. Derrida notes.) This imposition of degrees of philosophical "worth" appears to stand as the first move in this game (with the editors attributing value only to those fragments that appear to them as "overwrought"). and the alternative to this deadening project is to consider elements that are "in principle" perpetually "inaccessible". since the proposition of anchoring this "possession" or discerning its authenticity is undeniably questionable. (The other opponent will be discussed later. "every word" of these editors "obscures so well a veritable beehive of critical questions that only the minutest scrutiny could possibly recover there those questions which preoccupy us here. is nurtured by a need for an end. At the same time. belief in context and origin is essentially aligned with limited semiosis. is no longer sufficient here. "It is possible that it is not Nietzsche's sentence." he concludes (at the beginning of his essay!). "what if Nietzsche was only pretending to say something?" (125-7). as he argues elsewhere (in "Signature Event Context"). though." While Derrida adopts the stance of accepting that one can determine the "internal and external context" (125) of Nietzsche's sentence. through a footnote. has to be attainable.. "In blithest complacency. "What if Nietzsche himself meant to say nothing. and this notwithstanding any confident certainty that it is indeed written in his hand. for the possibility that a semblance of comprehension. that "the concept of the fragment. it could also harbor "some hidden secret" or stand only as "an inconsistency" on Neitzsche's part (125). Derrida's introductory ambit can be seen as an attempt to rule out the possibility of his essay leading to the outcome associated with a finite game.manuscripts).or at least some unpublished -. This is revealed when he notes that he engages two opponents in the "game" of his essay. about the status and authority of the autograph. (It also could be 152 . for he utilizes a term generically complicit with that of over-wroughtness. attempt to classify the differing values of his unpublished texts. "Such a factual possibility. Although there could be "no significance at all" to the sentence. Derrida's counterplay is to characterize this gesture as "a monument to hermeneutic somnambulism" (125). even that outcome would not serve to end the game. it would seem to the finite semiotician that one could not generate something of value through signification (similar to the concept of the low "worth" of unpublished -. Let's pause to reflect on this argument as an opening strategy. Or..

Derrida argues that the intentional context of a given sign-vehicle cannot reliably be implanted within it. (127) The process of reading is problematized and simultaneously each foothold becomes a compromise. this identification would not necessarily give the decoder a firm grounding for decoding. they rehearse the indeterminate spirit of his approach to Nietzsche's sentence. it is hardly necessary to recall the fact that this sentence appears in quotation marks in Nietzsche's text" (127). in this respect. at least on the surface. would have made sense of this statement? We will never know. especially in this case where quotation marks draw attention to such a condition. etc. "Assured that it must mean something. I remember my umbrella. I must have forgotten it somewhere.. or why. but also shouldn't receive privilege merely by virtue of its obviousness. At least it is possible that we will never know and that powerlessness (impouvoir) must somehow be taken into account.a provisional playing model (as opposed to a more serious. one must have forgotten that it is a text that is in question. Derrida adds. "As far as the unpublished piece goes. for him or for some unknown accomplice of his. But I forgot it. In fact. (129) Contrary to Foucault's employment of the author system. it is indeed still a matter of reading it. however. The one thing this play resists. "If one is going to suppose that this sentence is not 'his' through and through. Could Nietzsche have disposed of some more or less secret code. 153 . they look for it to come from the most intimate reaches of this author's thought.. No fold. "It is even possible that it is not Nietzsche's sentence" (127). I have. Nevertheless. the remains of a text. commonsense assessment of language. indeed a forgotten text.) Still. like "an umbrella perhaps.it passes itself off for what it passes itself off for" (127). It is mine. I can describe it.) Unlike Barthes. But in order to be so assured. It can function.argued that Derrida's use of rhetorical questions here emphasizes the open engagement of play he's ostensibly promoting.can be bandied about fruitfully. who denies the sway of the encoder over the decoder. its what for. which. But now I don't have it anymore.an umbrella. an infinite play form of intelligibility -. For... "working" model) -." Derrida "plays" on this notion by returning to systemic resonances of Nietzsche's sentence. one could draw upon Foucault's strategy in "What is an Author?" [discussed in Lecture 5] and simply designate an author function without worrying about its legitimacy. At hand. Everyone knows what 'I have forgotten my umbrella' means. Much as a trace which has been marked in what remains of this nonfragment. Those who share a "common belief that this unpublished piece is an aphorism of some signifiance" would look for a difficult to find meaning (131).. Derrida takes this speculation on significative scenarios a step further by questioning whether the encoder here (although this could extend to all encoders) could be identified satisfactorily to begin with. Derrida offers examples of a systemic approach that recalls Geoffrey Hartman's analysis of a Wordsworth poem discussed in Lecture 5. such an account would withdraw it from any assured horizon of a hermeneutic question. The citational plurality entailed in the release of a sign-vehicle is a similar problem. or identified with certainty once it is released into the whorl of semiosis. is obeisance to the tyranny of the "obvious" reading. a poor form of play that can't be denied. That one no longer has in hand" (131). in which simple intelligibility is not a matter of literary competence. (Of course. its content gives the appearance of a more than flat intelligibility. This is true even for a so-called literal. no reserve appears to mark its transparent display.

familiar as it is with forgetting and phallic objects. thus opens it up to itself. however." These views do not restrict the text to any set. It knows of no proper itinerary which would lead from its beginning to its end and back again. Through a personal assessment regarding potential psychoanalytical connotations. they would one day be able to satisfy their interpretative expectations" (131). Derrida offers a wholly subjective play connection with the sentence.. he adds. or supposedly so" (129). a horizonal boundary that never successfully imposes itself in a totalizing fashion. must be carried to the furthest lengths possible." And. Instead. these systemic grids readily lend themselves to the abuses of finite play. Thus. an organ which is at once aggressive and apotropaic. because this limit is not of the sort that circumscribes a certain knowledge even as it proclaims a beyond.that any knowledge of [its inscrutable play] should be abandoned. for instance. if the structural limit and the remainder of the simulacrum which has been left in writing are going to be taken into account. whose very condition. "The remainder that is [this sentence] is not caught up in any circular trajectory." Or. To where the limit runs through and divides a scientific work. one could reflect on the myriad human paradoxes related to the inevitability of needing precisely what one has neglected to bring. "Because it is structurally liberated from any living meaning. "If Nietzsche had indeed meant to say 154 . the umbrella can be entertained as "the metaphor of a metapsychological concept. Derrida argues. given that "the umbrella's symbolic figure is wellknown. "And psychoanalysis. "An umbrella is that sort of thing that. just when it is really needed. On the contrary. This form of semiosic play nevertheless does not careen off into a meaningless universe." Derrida says. As a result. In addition. like the famous Reizschutz of the perception-consciousness system" (131).. this limit. it instigates an infinite play of semiosis that attempts only to perpetuate the pleasurable transformation that its operations yield (that is. if this can be configured as a "yield" of some kind)." However. this form of recollection is based on a dual operation of absence and presence. might yet aspire to a hermeneutic mastery of these remains.. threatening and/or threatened. "It is not only the umbrella that is recalled but also its having been forgotten." Derrida notes. Moreover.Or. "can still continue to suspect that.. the vulnerability imposed by the weather is consistent with Carse's notion of the constant variabilities of infinite play. it can be construed as "the hermaphroditic spur (éperon ) of a phallus which is modestly enfolded in its veils. time and/or weather). they unshackle the decoding process so that it can move beyond wholly vestigial boundaries. Simply a question of the weather at the time (of temps. Rather. Psychoanalysts. as it is typically characterized by those who fear the apparent emptiness of unlimited semiosis. it is always possible that it means nothing at all or that it has no decidable meaning" (131-3). the uncertainty. One must not conclude. moreover. presumably traidic movement of semiosis. nor does its movement admit of any center. he observes: "I remind myself of my umbrella" (129). Nietzsche's sentence remains free from the confines of a concrete and logical etiology of signification. the sentence could be played from a psychoanalytical standpoint somehow grounded plausibly on Nietzsche's "idiom". one might either have or not have any more (n'avoir plus). (133) Derrida views this "limit" as nevertheless unlimiting.. Or else one still has it when it is no longer needed. Furthermore. And.. the process of decoding. the surprise. the direction implicit for this reasoning could be justified on the assumption that "one doesn't just happen onto an unwonted object of this sort. if these generalities were to be articulated and narrowed and the context itself thus prudently completed.

"the text will remain indefinitely open. folded/unfolded (ployé/déployé).. is the date: 1.. The second one comes into play after the conclusion of his essay (or. cryptic and parodying. significantly. I mentioned that Derrida identifies two "opponents' within his self-reflective discussion.. this contention also instigates Derrida's own frame surrounding Nietzsche's sentence. that no single encoder or decoder can possess the overall capacity to designate a specific code in relation to a given sign-vehicle. even parodying graft. one might be tempted to side with Saussure and suggest that "one person does not make a code" (137). in disagreement with a certain hermeneut who in passing had presumed to ridicule the publication of Nietzsche's unpublished manuscripts" (139). one that carries with it the putative "authority" of the encoder. what Derrida is doing is framing what Gérard Genette refers to as a "paratext" 155 . might it not be just that limit to the will to mean. Obviously. (That Derrida is using the day-month-year form of dating is suggested by the date of his second postscript: 17. which." This conclusion leads Derrida to posit that "I have forgotten my umbrella" may have a synecdochic relationship to the "totality" of Nietzsche's work.1973." Derrida replies.1973. he recounts a story that he revisited when it was brought up five years after it took place.. others who were present could attest that it had indeed taken place. "my discourse." This contract is further problematized by Derrida's own mortal limit." Playing again on the umbrella parallels. Nevertheless I have no recollection of the incident. "To which. Despite his claim. In this situation. "During this encounter. is forever divided. to the thunder and lightning of an enormous clap of laughter. to complicate an easy sense of his conclusion). which entertains the possibility of a parodic valence for it. according to a contract where I am more than just one. "Suppose.something. as well as the authenticity of the facts which otherwise I have no reason to doubt..which establishes his shift toward play that is as dangerous as it is exhilarating. "we found ourselves.. But suppose anyway that it is cryptic. What if this totality should eventually be of the same sort as an 'I have forgotten my umbrella'?" In keeping with this possibility." he notes. or each in turn.'" he had complained.. "Which is tantamount to saying.' not even a fragmentary or aphoristic one" (135). He cites a fragment from Nietzsche's Joyful Wisdom -.that in some way the totality which I (so to speak) have presented is also an erratic." one Derrida says he can't recall. You might just as soon forget it. Or.4. "You might even agree that it contained a certain ballast of rhetorical. the text remains closed. at once open and closed. folded and manifolded. The story involves a conversation with Roger Laporte."for we dwell ever closer to the lightning!" (135) -." he maintains. "'They will end up. "I could just as easily retort that the key to this text is between me and myself." Earlier. "that there is no 'totality to Nietzsche's text." yet this assertion doesn't deplete its signifying reserve.. In the first of two postscripts. furthermore. Derrida asserts that his own text is "really cryptic and parodying. Derrida claims that when discussing this encounter later. Even today. Derrida proposes an oddly playful encoding upon the fragment. "Thus I am assured of the story's veracity.has been every bit as clear as that" of Nietzsche's sentence.publishing his laundry notes and scraps like "I have forgotten my umbrella". he concludes: "In other words. "There is evidence here. But. roofless and unprotected by a lightning rod as he is. rather." Additionally." What follows. he declares. "to expose one.5. much as a necessarily differential will to power." Derrida goes on to explore the ramifications of his contention regarding his potential possession of a secret code in his essay -or possibly that he himself is unaware of its actual code. it is just an umbrella that you couldn't use (dont vous n'auriez pas l'emploi). for other reasons. The same would apply if a limited interpretive community of "accomplices" shared his secret. pedagogical and persuasive qualities.

or he speaks in sheer forbidden metaphors and unheard of conceptual compounds. scattering it. In effect. possibly. man falls silent when he sees them. One does so "by managing to meet his main needs with foresight. the intellect. After extensive commentary on the metaphorical nature of language. more skillful and bold. is free and released from its usual servile tasks." The other accomplishes this mastery "as an 'overjoyous' hero. no less. disguised as illusion and beauty. Derrida's essay is a joke (as my students consistently point out with disdain). who stands in "mockery for abstraction"? ("The latter being just as unreasonable as the former is unartistic" [256]. the one who stands "in fear of intuition. "has an unconquerable tendency to let himself be deceived" and will remain "enchanted with happiness" while he can sustain the illusion (255).(Palimpsestes 9) as part of a much larger joke: an April Fool's joke. and then ironically puts it together again. joining the most remote and separating what is closest. "Man." The intellect does not harbor any false assumptions about the truth behind this undertaking. Derrida chooses an impoverished form of play like the finite game or the leading question. richer. He establishes this dynamic by positing the oppositions of monistic views grounded either in intellect or intuition. Nietzsche closes his discussion by comparing two representative approaches to engaging this metaphoricity. and that he is now guided not by concepts but by intuitions. "That enormous structure of beams and boards of the concepts. and seems quite satisfied with it. a semiotic construct with a simplistic punchline of an ending that neatly wraps up his play in the very manner that has contributed to play's low status in recent years." he claims. by not seeing those needs and considering only life. The world is not made for these intuitions." find solace over the man of intuition." Nietzsche asserts. The intellect "copies human life. that by selecting and characterizing the modality of a specific passage from Nietzsche the way he does. itself. The intellect perspective happily accepts the belief that "everything contains dissimulation" because this stance seems superior to the joyless life of a transcendental idealism in which everything perspectival "contained distortion" (255). then. This will demonstrate. that master of deception. neither of which is privileged. With creative nonchalance it scrambles the metaphors and shifts the boundary-stones of abstraction. taking it for a good thing." he adds." Nietzsche then turns this project into a venture that fails by virtue of its necessary limitations of conceptual investment: From these intuitions no regular road leads to the land of ghostly schemata.) I would like to turn from Derrida's emphasis on the lightning passage from Joyful Wisdom (which diminishes the range of play one can propose for Nietzsche's sentence) to explore another scenario also from Nietzsche that might be more consistent with his other commentary on the will to power. is a form of decidedly finite play. never is it more luxuriant. (255-6) Does the man of intellect. (Which. he reveals that he does not need the emergency aid of poverty. prouder. The passage I have in mind appears at the end of Nietzsche's essay mentioned earlier ("On Truth and Lying in an Extra-Moral Sense"). and that is when it celebrates its Saturnalia." 156 . in order at least by smashing and scorning the old conceptual barricades to correspond creatively to the impressions of the mighty present intuition. to be real. reliability. of abstractions. to which the poor man clings for dear life. prudence. is for the liberated intellect just a scaffolding and plaything for his boldest artifices. "When he smashes" this structure "apart.) "Both desire to master life. As long as it can deceive without harm.

the world has to exist as an ideal manifestation separate from what is only insufficiently perceived.was entirely under his control and as a result of his forgetfulness alone (disregard the role of nature here) he will suffer as a result. The man of intellect. But enough parallels between the earlier discussion and the latter one suggest he is still comparing the intellectual man with the intuitive man who is condemned to repeat his mistakes. The parallel here with Nietzsche's "I have forgotten my umbrella" should be clear at this point. Derrida hovers about these perspectives of the forgotten umbrella scenario. this forgetting is the instigation of a rehearsal of woe.like his overall perceptual apparatus -. in times of strife. but then resorts to a dodge that encompasses both the intuitive and the intellectual perspective. he cries out loudly and cannot be consoled. "standing in the midst of culture. since they are an integral part of his ontology." Accordingly. a mask with dignified harmony of features. "the man guided by concepts and abstractions merely wards off misfortune by means of them. Either way -.by which Nietzsche evidently means the man of intellect -. all the while neglecting to use his intuitive powers to frame this negative situation somehow positively. because he does not know how to learn from experience and he falls again and again into the same pit into which he fell before. he resigns himself to remaining unable to change it in any substantial way (significantly. His well-being -.that is. however. he merely suffers it to remain as it is -. truth. it is his own fault. so whatever "real" that attempts to impose itself upon his consciousness has to be treated as something wholly at the disposal of his perceptions. as it were. and protection from enthralling seizures." when he falls upon hard times. finding no means for transcending it perspectivally. simply bears down on his suffering. in times of happiness as well) (256). he decides he has to choose both of these losing propositions to return the "game" of his decoding back to a type of originary. he does not scream and does not even raise his voice. redemption. he wraps himself in his overcoat and walks away under the rain with slow strides" (256-7). indeed. "Of course. Through repeated -. As a result.problematizes the status of a device like an umbrella as well as the situation of the subject who announces that it has been forgotten. he also suffers more often. he suffers more violently when he does suffer.beyond his agency. on the contrary. For the intuitive man.testing of his world around him. solid ground. "When a real storm cloud pours down upon him. reaps from his intuitions a continuously streaming clarification. instead of playing Nietzsche's text infinitely. While the man of intellect typically "seeks only honesty. Thus. in addition to warding off harm. he engages in a strategy remarkably similar to that of the intuitive man. Not only is he getting wet. and not materially present itself." Nietzsche shifts terms here. both of these figures fail in a sense because they refuse to acknowledge the benefits of a mediated rendition of their views of reality. The intuitive man." Nietzsche asserts. and thus any perception always has to be warily gauged by the extent to which this action may alter his apprehension of the actual world. so it is difficult to discern whether he is continuing this comparison (which seems to be the case) or is introducing a third figure. Either 157 . including changing his perception of it). This man."has learned from experience and controls himself by reason" (256). the intuitive man is "just as unreasonable in sorrow as in happiness. "He does not wear a quivering and mobile human face but. He "produces a masterpiece of dissimulation" himself (as he did. freedom from delusions. Nietzsche notes." Nietzsche contends. views the world as only the result of perception. "the stoic person" -. cheerfulness. either the intuitive or the intellectual approach -. without extracting happiness for himself from them as he seeks the greatest freedom from pain" (256). and endeavors to move beyond its range.and repeatedly frustrated -.For Nietzsche. However. In the case of the man of intellect. In other words.

as designated by the date of Derrida's first postscript. perhaps. refusing to make it either needlessly stoic or needlessly ironic.empty-handed. One has to imagine the infinite player smiling as she walks away from the clouds. Floyd Merrell may offer a path that leads to a greater freedom for analyzing semiosic movement. resolutely ignore the fact that its materiality is able to impinge itself upon her in a manner that is temporarily beyond her control. Forgetfulness not necessarily being an error she can learn from as much as an occasional lapse in her diligence. that might lead to a different form of play the next time it rains. 158 . though well aware that she's getting wet and could have prevented it. this other flow can be seen as "a new form of order" (Signs 22). What earlier might look like an orderly flow alters with this increase. but she doesn't do so to intensify her martyrdom.) A New Semiosic Order While Derrida outlines (ironically) a less-than-open form of infinite play. As "a dynamic. I inevitably run into former students who have read this essay and make a point of reporting -. This general class of structures. neither does she. To contextualize the potential desirability of a "true" openness." Merrell's water tap model would function as a chora-like perimeter of ineffability (as Julia Kristeva describes it). figurative scenarios. even though this transformation is by no means the straightforward conditioning that binds the man of intellect's future behavior. one of the main difficulties entailed in grasping this formulation resides in the challenge to articulate it. however. She can cathect onto the "real storm" an array of joyous. Rather. need not resort to either of these refuges. despite her best efforts. yet also usually smiling -. like the man of intellect. and thus Derrida can say all sorts of wild things about it. wet. Kristeva's depiction of the chora is an apt illustration as she employs as an example an individual going through psychological constitution. (Whenever it rains. like Eco's "model reader.") The infinite player of this text. which if maintained. Merrell uses an example of the change in flow from a water tap as the volume is increased. after all. as well as enjoyable. learning a lesson. Yet. or rigid. Signs 22). she doesn't deny that the storm is materially real. but rather than destroying that earlier order. as he does. component of infinite play. however. consists of "dynamic interconnectedness and nonlinearity. Consider's Nietzsche's sentence again from this approach. (Thereby allowing the decoder who also understands this joke to become a member of the winning team within this game. (Like that of the man of intellect who will become obsessed with never forgetting his umbrella again. leads to a sour restraint on her consciousness. ever-changing regime regulating the varying levels of flow. or it is a joke that can be revealed monosemously and thus decoded with "success". But. Merrell conceptualizes this form of structure as "not schematic." Clearly. determinable.Nietzsche's text is beyond the decoder's control. she plays with the unfortunate situation (it's raining and I've forgotten my umbrella). She can walk slowly from beneath the storm clouds." which. She doesn't have to necessarily suffer its reality. The infinite player borrows from both orientations (to keep this example simple). In fact. as does the man of intellect. like the intuitive man.) This response to umbrella forgetting would be consistent with Carse's commentary on the transformative. is consonant with Barthes's structuration. Other useful models to draw upon for this schematization could be found in Ilya Prigogine's concept of "dissipative structures" or Erich Jantsch's "process structure" (cited in Merrell. of course.that they've once again forgotten their umbrellas. the infinite player will accept the likelihood that this forgetting will probably happen again. at the same time. Merrell contends.

" Merrell says. Significantly. out of desperation." Moreover. Signs 23). I would contend. it exists as both "rupture and articulations (rhythm)" (26) and since it is "neither model nor copy. in other words. Moreover. and. not static product" (Semiosis 180). infallible semiosis (Merrell. "Ultimately. but at the same time. Yet. he suggests that semiosis operates separate from our conceptualization of it. the decoder can easily lose the ability to more actively engage in a transformative 159 . no map to see how we arrived at this point or where we are headed" (Signs 240). someone who esteems high-level order may privilege similar orders -. semiosis is neither continuous nor discontinuous for us. Merrell proposes several ways around the challenges offered by some of the troubling aspects of this confrontation with an uncontainable semiosis. they more compellingly serve. she is in the process invariably altered" (260)." it "precedes and underlies figuration and thus specularization. or "a non-expressive totality formed by the drives and their stases in a motility that is as full of movement as it is regulated" (25). we should constantly be aware of the impact of that desire on the shaping of our paradigms. fallible human semiotic agents" with idealistic drives for infinite. "We have no semiotic sonar mechanism with which to gauge the depth of the stream [of semiosis]. to help theorize an infinite-play rendition of semiosis. and is analogous only to vocal or kinetic rhythm. "The agent." Sleepwalking through a narcotized haze of significative familiarity. An important consideration here is that the individual preferences of the conceptualizer of semiosis serve to further account for the emphases within that model. that any attempt to grasp the mechanics of semiosis is always undermined by the limitations of that attempt." Merrell argues. can lead to a variation of Derrida's own "hermeneutical somnambulism. a sign among signs. this is a frustrating situation for human sign users to admit that they are. ultimately. no anchor we can drop to halt our movement within the flow. Peirce's idea of sign "generacy" can be viewed (like Eco's disorder/dis-order) as stimulating an ongoing dynamic of "de-generacy" which would stand as a less terrifying version of the degeneracy feared by many semioticians among the IG (Merrell.) It is perfectly understandable that we would yearn for a concept that fits the thing described (like Nietzsche's man of intellect). The problematic issue of sign origin only complicates this scenario. It is. no sextant to determine where we are. is part of the very process she strives to alter." Merrell's conception of semiosic modeling likewise emphasizes "process. as a sign. our categorization tends to make it so.The individual eventually is constructed as a chora. comes across as even remotely objective. no periscope so as to bring its banks into focus. While these may in some respects smack of avoidance strategies characteristic of Nietzsche's man of intuition. These perspectives could supplant the security aligned with the stasis that supposedly results from the construction of the "habit" which. "Categories. (For example. then.in his rendition of semiosis. This would mean. "Given the disconcerting irretrievability of a first sign and the impossibility of reaching a final sign. The lack of a sign origin (as Barthes noted with the absent encoder) by no means signals a consequent inability to hazard provisional frames for decoding nevertheless.and subsequently denigrate levellow orders -. historically contextualized. "there can be no interpretant without a predecessor and a successor" (Semiosis 177). can be no more than hazy topologies of the mind" (Signs 223). Merrell posits a gloomy metaphorical depiction of the human dilemma when it comes to grounding this desire on something that. "finite. Clearly. "an essentially mobile and extremely provisional articulation constituted by movements and their ephemeral stases. unfortunately. Signs 275).

Should this stabilization occur. automatized). Infinite play could. Merrell's linking of Derrida with Nietzsche in this way can be questioned. and.semiosic experience. soporifically generated signs sooner or later risk losing face. inevitably a new flux can arise to disrupt its illusory totality. (Signs 232) Of course. While being lulled into a torporous state of bliss in this manner may indeed have its benefits. with the other of one's community. a "natural" symmetry of its own making). By suggesting that "mere happenstance generation may be the dominant fact in the process of evolution" (Signs 220). this familiarity carries with it considerable allure since it undeniably provides a stable simulacrum of semiosis. Indeed. tends to favor symbolicity: generacy rather than de-generacy. "Habitually. sign processes following habitual pathways tend to become relatively stable" (Signs 229). thus compelling their makers and interpreters to process them in rather mindless fashion. Nevertheless. Merrell posits this distributional settling into positions as a phenomenon related to the Romantic preference for organic structures (asymmetries -. though. even if the dialogic energy of infinite play is not allowed to intercede. dissipation can erupt.wheeling signifiers. Peirce's habit taking). he proposes. even Merrell's emphasis (through repetition) of selforganization as a consequence of this stance entails a regressive shift in the modality of this idea. one can somberly engage in finite play or play essentially the same game. In other words. "In this sense. for Merrell. Their use becomes habituated (embedded. but infinitely so. if not exactly to a Nietzschean-Derridean joyous play of free. by convention and repetition (for example. the habituation alternative to the infinite coping strategies that Merrell raises is hardly positive. Within this semiosic economy. engaged in the process of its own self-organizing project. given that it is based solely on the drive to carry on active exchanges. and stability. deprived of equilibrium. life rather than death. Merrell does emphasize the one virtue it produces. so channelled in general sign use that they function as if they were signs of lesser complexity." Merrell's commentary on the impact of one's perspective on infinite semiosis is quite similar to Carse's view of the individual game player's attitude. so also they can become. like all life-forms given their capacity for self-organization through fluctuations leading to dissipative structures. oceans of ambiguity. the apparently chaotic eruptions of semiosis lead only to new potential structurations. asymmetry rather than symmetry. "according to its own style of ordering" (Signs 221). Merrell serves as an especially useful guide in this instance as he demonstrates the vital embrace of openness that is available for those amenable to the very real vulnerabilities that attend it. it opens the door. serve as the catalyst for this development. breeds nightmares of uncertainty. most certainly to a vision of open. "If the yield" of Peirce's semiotic. Merrell suggests. I would contend. As he notes. Still. "By and large the growth and decay of signs.like gnarled trees -nonetheless constituting an overall "whole". and with the other of nature at large. harmony. creative. "Semiosis is ordered. (Signs 24) While this characterization of habitualized signification sounds predominantly negative." he argues. and an apparent promiscuity of paradoxes threatening to dissolve all dreams of reason. Merrell may be merely accommodating those who need a sense of progress undergirding their conception of semiosis. "Their balance may become precarious. by extension." he contends. an "entire system is poised and ready for the possibility of eruption into semiosic chaos via dissipative structures from whence can arise 160 . self-organizing dialogue with one's self. I see no call for despair. For. at the same time." But. it is hardly a viable means for creating and maintaining a forceful future semiotics. Rather. just as signs can develop from relative simplicity at the pole of iconicity to relative complexity at the pole of symbolicity. as I have done in the previous discussion. In fact. which then makes them likely candidates for a new form of order.

as if understanding were the unique faculty qualified to approach forms" (Peregrinations 10). Iain Hamilton accurately assesses 161 . which is actually neither tragic nor vicious" (54). An "indefinite semiosis" (Signs 42) like this would essentially. To Lyotard. Nietzsche and Merrell. For semioticians inclined toward a closed. in Peirce's rendition of the mutual and ongoing interplay of the interpreter and interpretants. appropriate what is conventionally viewed as negative (through a stress on definitude) so that it becomes a site of inexhaustible wealth (in a positive sense. it is The Gold-Bug " (45). In the early 1970s.. Lyotard called this book "a piece of. "the model of all semiology is not The Purloined Letter. since they are incapable of dictating the course of concrete. Vertiginous Play A less cheerful perspective on this issue may help to balance what might otherwise come across as a bit too negligent of the real need for semiosic security that all signs users seem to share. in the manner of Carse. "eruption". himself in possession of this code. and this opening has to be effected by the insurgent power of vertiginous provocation. "There is no sign or thought of the sign which is not about power and for power" for these semioticians. of retrieving the information that the sender meant him to receive" (43). chorastic venues of possibility. Yet. Lyotard's proposal involved an active "cutting across semiotics. Lyotard was disgusted with the ways in which a structuralistically inclined semiotics was turning the study of signs into a purely "informational" (48) venture. into a "business trip" (45) whose practitioners were sorely hampered by their alliance as "men of the concept" (211). as a medium enriched with a sequence of coded elements." as Marc Eli Blanchard describes it (24). one that instigates potentially energizing sign linkages as a consequence. it sounds as though Lyotard is using this expression negatively (and since he subsequently apologized for writing the book. The characterization of signification as a routine "trip" outlines what Lyotard will subsequently oppose. But. through decoding the message. Merrell thus concludes that. too. and "dissipation". By rearticulating "chaos". is capable. Merrell takes precisely the consequences that finite players wring their hands over in despair. Historically. again.. a "thing is posited as a message. To Lyotard. as opposed to the "waste" perspective on uneconomical semiosis). In contrast. Merrell finds that this infinitude is sanctioned there. In effect. this is precisely where a future semiotics may be destined to go. he insists. this provocation would be a wholly desirable condition. combined with the positive stress on infinitude seen in Merrell's work. incorporating ambiguities and paradoxes" (Peregrinations 10). predictable sense of semiosis.. "semiosis becomes circular. so that one could "tap sign-systems for the intensity. Perhaps no better tonic for such a counterbalancing can be found than Jean-Fran&ccedilois Lyotard's Libidinal Economy. In an apparent nod to the reliance on Peircean models within the IG discussion of semiotics. and turns them into limitlessly fructive. For them.must be opened by force" (43). this would make sense). "Peirce learned to live quite comfortably with [the] apparent logical antinomies taunting us from the swamp of infinite regresses. what Lyotard saw happening as a result of what he calls "structuralist enthusiasm" often resulted in "the simple reduction of sensuous forms to conceptual structures. Lyotard promoted an alternative form of semiotic "analysis [that] could be flexible. and that its addressee.. everyday existence" (60).provocation" (14). Admittedly. not the structure of their communication" (21). Libidinal Economy in many respects serves as a significant appearance of a program like the one offered here under the rubric of critical semiotics." or even less heroically.ever-more-novel forms of order" (Signs 41). semiotics was developing into a "voyage of conquest. "the road towards libidinal currency . that is. In retrospect.

despair of lost. of the treasure of signs which are simply "experiences" happened upon. it escapes us. his soldiers and his businessmen collect organs. -. its vicious assaults. pieces of the film. produces no epistemological progress. Lyotard's proposal for taking advantage of this position in semiotics involves harvesting the energetic residue that can be generated by semiosis. stockpile. but with a different emphasis.postponed meaning. seeking to 'conduct' new and unheard-of intensities" (xvii). not 162 . It "simply rejects. is Hamilton's qualification of Lyotard's stance as "fundamentally" positive.. . This shift is necessitated by the spiritual and physical paucity of "intelligence" that. largely due to the emptiness that seems to loom over the prospect of unlimited semiosis in which "there is nothing but signs" (44). Lyotard contends. Significant here. (47) For Lyotard. pulsions." Lyotard remarks. it transcends us. fleshy. Libidinal Economy "advertizes itself as some sort of impossibility." Marc Eli Blanchard notes. is fabricated in the double game of this despair and this hoarding. it teaches us our finitude and our death. serious only insofar as it is viewed as potentially transformative. . capitalize them. In this apparently senseless pursuit. while the edifying pastor tells us this. Lyotard's complaint is that their conception removes semiosis from the realm of the "real" altogether (like Nietzsche's intuitive man). "is to languish in religious melancholy and subordinate every intense emotion to a lack and every force to a finitude" (49). we never have meaning. run through. rhythmic flow that in and of itself is of no use. in relation to the decidedly chirpy humanism of Merrell's commentary. "if we have religious souls like Freud or Lacan. as well as its relentless resistance to structural closure. It's important to stress this nurturing side of Libidinal Economy because a prominent component of the argument against the effects of a genuinely unlimited semiosis also appears in Lyotard's critique. Lyotard's may well seem too negative without this consideration. that it carries on endlessly. in exactly the way that Merrell's emphasis seems too affirmative. for ever completely absent. leads to a type of relentless negativity. is portrayed as an endless rehearsal of listless bad faith. While the detractors of this view express fear that a nihilistic abyss will result from endless deferral of meaning. encapsulates Lyotard's vision of a semiotics that has entered wholeheartedly into vertiginous flux. there will be some hermeneut or pessimist who will say to us: look. we produce the image of a great signifier. Lyotard's commentary on what he refers to as the "tensor" outlines the element of most interest to semiotics here as he proposes the "tensor sign" (as opposed to the conventional "intelligent sign") as the vehicle for making such studies vertiginous. that we never have anything but references. accordingly. A non-intelligent. "To continue to remain in semiotic thought. A revealing element of Lyotard's conceptual model is found in its vehement denunciations. the analytical dividend of a semiotics inclined this way constitutes little more than "the zero of book-keeping" (164). that signification is always deferred. the constitution of meaning. For." he asserts (49). And the time we "know so well" ..Lyotard's strategy in response to this situation as designed to "exploit and accelerate the movements of generalized disruption in a fundamentally affirmative manner. He rejects the bloodless notion "that signification itself is constituted by signs alone. the Odyssey. . The cultivation of conflicting and directed tensions allows Lyotard to cast the outlines of an alternative to this vision of semiotics. "Semiotics is nihilism. whose only presence is absentification" (44). The endeavor of semiotics. then. and exists merely as a thrilling engagement with signs.so. meaning is never present in flesh and blood" (43). A form of play. This notion implies that.

"that no longer would the representation of errant feelings but their very presentation be performed in the flesh and blood of words. he characterizes 163 . you tell us. whenever you speak. a dramatized spectacle of semiosis itself. you make a sign of your action and reflection." Lyotard declares (50). the relationalization for which (now it was my turn to rationalize) was the pretension to make writing so bent and flexible." This style-as-attack appears in an especially virulent manner as he addressess semioticians. of course. While. Such a semiotics takes the sign and makes it "hollowed out into a two-faced thing. Lyotard recalled that "my prose tried to destroy or deconstruct the presentation of any theatrical representation whatsoever. In several respects. Lyotard was criticized for endorsing a semiotics that refuses to acknowledge the rules at all. Reminiscent of the criticism ofS/Z . later this seems somehow "immature" (not unlike the common adult perspective that banishes most play to the realm of the child while it wearily assumes the status of the play supervisor). To do justice" to Libidinal Economy. for instance. he argues. we will soon reclaim stupidity) which amounts to saying: we quit signs. Not surprisingly. Thus.). And. we are well aware that you are just waiting for us to do this. manifest/hidden. it is in no way a matter of determining a new domain. to be so "stupid" (but such an error does not warrant this name. years later." he argues. not at all. he had viewed this as one of its greatest strengths (to create new pulsions. Geoffrey Bennington similarly charges that "the book in general is violent and in a sense advocates violence in thought. in spite of itself. On the one hand. he adds. Lyotard himself falls prey to the security that attends the confines of finite play when. but also possibility itself as an expression of the will to structure with which we limit and shortchange our desire" (18). like those who play without discrete goals in mind." Not only is semiotics inclined toward structuralistic modeling that effortlessly strips semiosis of its life. it also invokes the prospect of perpetual opportunity. we've been through it and go through it all the time. he characterizes Libidinal Economy as "a little impulsive" (Peregrinations 13). it further rigidifies by drawing upon dichotomous renderings. meaningful/meaningless. we don't deny it. it suggests the "surprise" of infinite play that Carse describes. Both orientations clearly provide a great deal of growth potential for something like a vertiginous semiotics.." Years later. semioticians. we enter the extra-semiotic order of tensors. but employs them openly like the infinite player reworking the contours of finite play." Lyotard appropriates what he identifies as the theatrical "nihilism" of semiotics and attempts to rejuvenate it through a physicalized interaction.only the possibility of any metacritical position. this strident resistance to engaging semiotics at the time is not unlike the infinite player who refuses to countenance the self-imposed limitations (i. this is contradictory. it is precisely this dissonant agon that Lyotard evidently was endeavoring to dramatize. you excavate a theatre in things. though. In fact. Fair enough. you cannot do otherwise. etc. Alphonso Lingis. "Whatever you do or think. in front/behind. this observation reveals the risk one takes when engaging in play that will not limit itself gratuitously. due to the simple perspective it provides on the referential axis of your action-discourse. a beyond representation which would be immune to the effects of theatricality. Lyotard accepts the claims of what he conceives of as mainstream semiotics. "would be to insist that it is a theoretical piece only malgré soi. his emphasis on "chance" has at least two connotations. with the goal of inscribing the passage of intensities directly in the prose itself without any mediation at all" (Peregrinations 13). another field. Libidinal Economy "induced a manner of acting out. by the very celebration of intensity and force over theory and concept" (31). you tell us. While earlier. In this respect. intelligible/sensible. when Lyotard offers as his goal the pursuit of "the chance of new intensities" (210). contends that "for Lyotard the libidinous effect is without aim as it is without cause" (97). the rules) of the finite player.e. "We know your objection.

"not composed and notated. "To understand. semiologists. its timbre. and to say: in the last instance." The movement Lyotard depicts is conceptually akin to the boundlessness of infinite play which nevertheless creates this effect by playing with the bounds associated with finite play. one in which the body's gesture would be. intensity and duration. if you. and with the words (dancers are also singers). in this light. simultaneously. with representation and critique" (46). Of course. as Freud and Nietzsche said. dissimulated in signs and instances. this situation returns to the absurd "truth" Nietzsche describes in the constitution of a "finding" scenario of one's own making. he argues. Again." Lyotard reiterates his proposed manifestation of this analytical model as one based on processual soundings. This sense of "profit".. the vertiginous semoitician can similarly draw upon the current discussion of semiotics for materials without being limited to finite uses of them.. but on the contrary. "Signs are not only terms. set in relation and made explicit in a trail of conquest. he asserts.." he claims (51). and this given is indeed the intensification of a . it is in fact still too theoretical a book. have any cause to set up your nets of meaning. Vertiginous semiotics.. with the music. is doomed to a rapidly entropic 164 . forms of finite play) a higher value than others is something that specifically is imported into it arbitrarily so. Lyotard stresses that this project need not conceptualize "another kind of sign" to do this (50).. It is amusing. we are indifferent to priorities and causalities.Lyotard's method at the time in terms remarkably similar to those used by adults when describing active children at play. as such still embroiled with the theatre. And it is this latter concern in particular that interests Lyotard and can simultaneously help to stimulate the development of a vertiginous semiotics. As was mentioned earlier. these forms of guilt. Order matters little . they can also be. would pursue "intensity . "a sign which produces meaning through difference and opposition" as well as "a sign producing intensity through force and singularity. is not our overriding passion.. however. this infinite play stance dismantles that hierarchy entirely. region . which has become an intelligentintelligible sign! But we are not even saying this. at each point in a unique relation. Like the infinite player who appropriates the rules of finite play. a given. Libidinal intensity." This would manifest itself as a form of dance. it is primarily because there . it is precisely the acceptance of wholly arbitrary limitations that in many respects is usually considered constitutent of play itself." Lyotard's reorienation in semiotics immediately withdraws whatever self-privileging that usually attends such undertakings. to recognize. in short. "We hope rather to be set in motion. to the contrary." Against his notion of the tensor sign Lyotard juxtaposes the supposed "capital" that accrues from finite play-oriented semiotics... From this perspect. we are almost tempted (but we will not do this. This dance is thus. becoming at every moment an emotional event. "Despite [its] violent anti-theoreticism. viewing aggrandisement of this nature as simply the return to a finite position. its pitch. Libidinal Economy comes across. as "a perpetual running out of control of what was to have been a rational theoretical enterprise" (32). that the very element that is thought to accord certain forms of play (most often. singular and vain intensities in exodus. and thus only the twin goals of play extension and player transformation actually need to be considered. to be intelligent. stages. indissociably. we have become sly old foxes. it should be easy to grant Lyotard's project in Libidinal Economy based on "dissimulation" (52) of the sign the same status as other forms of "elevated" play. (54) Lytoard's impassioned descriptions of numerous manifestations of "incandescent vertigo" (60) are created in opposition to (in more than one sense of "opposition") to what he charges semiotics for pursuing: "intention rather than intensity" (63). then. is.. too often trapped) to give it a priority..

but would simply allow. yet despite its caricatural register it does accurately pinpoint the stifling "limit" of finite play. Saving of this kind "is in reality a matter of the introduction of new quantities of energy into the system. with the total quantity of the potential system not increasing at all" (221). "One cannot look at the horizon. and if one supposes a closed system of energies. Carse contrasts the "boundary" in finite play with the "horizon" in infinite play. in that Lyotard is identifying a form of accrual like that of the finite semiotician. "savings". As Carse suggests. it is simply the point beyond which we cannot see" (57). A good example of a parallel sitatuion can be found in the work of several contemporary feminists (Hélène Cixous. if it is enough to postpone the fulfilment of desire to free new energetic resources. This would be similar to Carse's commentary on playing with rules. whether this is through constraint or spontaneous" (222). in the process of "winning" (this is a finite game.. the horizon is particularly illuminating in that it captures the ineffable character of semiosis (like the chora ) without making this captivity unnecessarily reductive through a material articulation." he argues. for the horizon opens onto all that lies beyond itself. "What limits vision is rather the incompleteness of that vision. "A horizon is a phenomenon of vision. obtained by inhibition. 165 . similarly." Carse observes. through the game of interest and profit.) who propose that women reappropriate "hysteria" as a means to possibly regain the power that has been denied them through the social symbolic order. but the important thing is that when the system is not isolated. the horizon establishes a partition that is never actually manifested. (Or. to pass into the hands of the creditors. and not what we are viewing. Perhaps a less disturbing model may be found in the endless extension of the "horizon". both orientations consider the prospect of accumulation within a "commerce" of signs. Lyotard's response to this scenario consists of positing a means for rising above the constraints of this hermetic arena and investing it with a constant flow of.) However. Moreover. In this respect." This also would reiterate Merrell's point about the shortcomings of paradigms of semiosis that result from the perspective of the individual who constructs them. It is important to stress here that Lyotard is indeed emphasizing a movement-oriented approach to an already enclosed system.. but by external expansion. "capital would not be able to grow at all. In other words. after all).) Lyotard endeavors to take exactly the same situation invoked by a finite play-oriented semiotics and turn it into one whose containment provides sufficient circumstances to generate infinite non-containment. "If all interest is only an advance from an energetic remainder yet to come. then it is because these latter are due only to a saving. one merely ends up at the same place where one once began. (This connection would be similar to the shared common denominator of "play" between its infinite and finite modes.. paradoxically. energetic quantities ." Horizonal Semiotics Perhaps the main source of resistance to a vertigo model of semiosis is derived from the possibility of a resulting (figurative) nausea. by the seizure of 'external' energetic sources.that limits vision.undoing as a result of its closure-ridden economy. Semiosis is thus viewed as remotely similar to playing a board game in which. but he is doing so only to continue semiosic play. Juliet Mitchell. not by internal inhibition. "what will undo any boundary is the awareness that it is our vision. Lyotard's vision of sign play is hyperbolically "closed" here. etc. the ways in which other marginalized groups have rearticulated terms of invective used against them as an attempt to defuse the stigmatizing force of those terms." he argues. as opposed to playing by them.. A horizonal semiotics could clearly help to demonstrate that. Lyotard suggests that "if the supplement to be put into circulation is already there in some way. anybody who has ever been sickened by something like vertigo or psychologically unhinged by a bout with hysteria is well area of how genuinely unsettling those experiences can be. "There is nothing in the horizon itself. it finds its supplements of wealth.

in short: scientific" (473). maybe even yielding lively engagements with what Guattari refers to as a "transindividual subjectivity" (101). it's difficult to support the claim that sign users are complacently subordinate and predictable. To Barthes. hypertextual medium of the Internet)." he says. "The paradigms of techno-science place the emphasis on an objectal world of relations and functions." he says. In Chaosmosis.in the IG discussion that endeavors to eliminate the "taint" of individual perspective as a means of generating an "objective" explanatory discourse. another infinite series. the inadequacies of models of semiosis would by no means render them useless. where languages circulate (keeping the circular sense of the term)" ("Work" 164)." Or. Carse casts this as a "dynamic of open reciprocity" in which. On the contrary. And. Carse argues that it is solely through this hegemonic singularity that finite players can assert and effect their "victories". that is not based on the presumed authority of a monologic perspective (what Carse calls "magisterial speech"). Carse points out that examination of such faults can usefully assist us to "see the way we use limitations" (70). coincidentally. (This echoes Nietzsche's point in "On Truth and Lying. This is reflected -. but address. Consequently. "This does not mean that speech has come to nothing. if that's the case. "Metaphor does not point at something there. then. A future semiotics might establish a perimeter for its practice. This speech "bears no claim to truth. Mikhail Bakhtin. Lo. this situation confirms the metaphoricity that guarantees that "language is not about anything" [109. "apophatic" in nature as it "denies that it is possible to attribute to the sign traits that are positive. What you say originally I can hear only originally" (68).") A stress on subjective impact on semiotics is obvious here. It belongs entirely to the speakable" (108-9). As Carse argues. Barthes sees this happening in his sense of the Text.recall from Lecture 3 his commentary on developing what he called "my semiology" ("Inaugural" 471). and others on the unmediated exchange of perspectives distinct to dialogism (and. A Thousand Semiotics What Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari have to say about binary systemics ("this system of thought has never reached an understanding of multiplicity" [5]) is also true about the IG discussion of semiotics where one finds such "fake multiplicities" (16) as the open work." too. semiosis that engenders further semiosis. originating from nothing but the genius of the speaker. Félix Guattari contends that this is endemic to scientistic discourse and its investments. While some might find this leads to a chaotic dispersal of semiotics as a discipline. acorporeal." he suggests (100). the delimited and coordinatable. "the finite. For Carse. this is "infinite speech" which ceaselessly parades its ultimate "unspeakability" (108) in that it never posits an identifiable or discernible ground of denotation. always take precedence over the infinite and its virtual references. Semiotics might better benefit from the stress by Carse. From this perspective. it has become speech that invites speech.that is limited" (62). "Metaphor is horizonal. since it's solely the result of significative relation. which for him is a "space where no language has a hold over any other. I am the genius of what I hear you say. It is not command. emphasis added]. this was a desirably "negative semiology" (475). In fact. "if you are the genius of what you say to me. A science of signs. it is "not about anything.typically in a negative vein -." Figures like Barthes are historically significant for resisting this yearning for depersonalized analysis -. since each perspective would be accompanied by its own unique blind spots. In part. embodied in the unfettered. it is always to someone. ahistoric. then this "limitation" may well serve as a vitalizing advantage for working with the human practice of engaging in "messy" semiosis. 166 . systematically bracketing out subjective affects. fixed. As a result.

with the number of dimensions one already has available. nonhierarchical. (Again. it is this figure who needs to take the greatest initiative in exercising agency to ensure a larger sense of polysemy. We're tired of trees. on which "any point. they add. and radicles. from biology to linguistics. can we still 167 . (Especially in that it rules out that myth derived from finite play -intentionality. Perhaps the most useful notion that can be derived from play theory in general. "only when there is a power takeover in the multiplicity by the signifier or a corresponding subjectification proceeding" (8). to the contrary. especially since it would have to eminently plastic in nature if it is going to allow for a responsive engagement with semiosis through the decoder's activity. Deleuze and Guattari argue that.. They've made us suffer too much. Elsewhere. as an "acentered... To be rhizomorphous is to produce stems and filaments that seem to be roots. As Deleuze and Guattari point out in A Thousand Plateaus.. or better yet connect with them by penetrating the trunk. but put them to strange new uses. "The notion of unity (unité) appears. roots. In other words. All of aborescent culture is founded on them.this development is comprehensible for all the reasons Merrell cites about the vulnerabilities of human nature and our apparent needs for security. and these will be incorporated conceptually rather than instrumentally in the development and application of this model. anatomize -. Guattari asks: "But how. "The multiple must be made. "possessing no points or positions" (8).can be connected to anything.is that it always has multiple entryways" (12). again." (6). they argue. of course. alternative articulations of these needs could plausibly function as catalyzers for new constructions of models and applications in semiotics. is based on the rhizome. these models do not have to radically diverge in nature from those that already exist. since the decoder is typically relegated to the lowest position on the hierarchy of the IG discussion.) What critical semiotics can do is draw together the myriad concepts raised (and sometimes abused) here in order to forge a polymorphous model that doesn't attempt to represent -. Carse offers a manifesto for entry into a host of multiplicitous fields that can be relevantly extended to thought on signification as a whole. "the tree and root inspire a sad image of thought that is forever imitating the multiple on the basis of a centered or segmented higher unity" (16).. We should stop believing in trees.analyze. nonsignifying system without a General and without an organizing memory or central automaton." they suggest. "not always by adding a higher dimension. for instance. (15) Unlike rhizomic modeling. by dint of sobriety. and Carse in particular. defined solely by a circulation of states" (21). Carse also provides a number of beneficial tools through his observations regarding infinitude. The model they play with. Deleuze and Guattari encourage the creation and employment of "acentered systems" (17). it will follow Deleuze and Guattari's suggestion for making semiosis in the process of discussing its contours and operations. and must be" (7). Consisting of an open field of operation. and Lyotard stresses in Libidinal Economy. be extremely important. is that of active participation of all components and agents involved in semiosis..semiosis. They view the rhizome." Deleuze and Guattari emphasize. And. Rather. This program is hardly without consequences to some.) The rhizome is also resistant to systemic reduction since "one of [its] most important characteristics. hierarchies are imposed on these entrances only as a desperately finite move. the rhizome serves wonderfully as a paradigm for semiosic effects. but rather in the simplest of ways. for example. Through their alternative. The selection of a model that is amenable to this input would. But. Carse makes the same point about using the existent rules of finite play to generate infinite play. with this explosion of the individuation of the subject and this fragmentation of interfaces. "Follow the plants" (11).

" In the final installment of these critical semiotics lectures. Indeed.. Harris adds. vitalistic engagements with semiosis to come. moving thus from rules to turbulence. but at the same time it would never treat this yearning with anything other than a measured.in other words. Harris discusses this in play theory in terms of "concern for goalattainment" (28) and posits "a continuum between relatively weak and relatively strong commitment to goal attainment. It is difficult. there is nothing immanent to them.e." "You never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough. I'd like to propose an opposite operation. This is what play theory has suggested as well. It could even "play" at seriousness." etc. "Any given activity can be utterly earnest or entirely playful at the same time. indeed monosemous text. semiosis is merely a personal interaction with signs. and to end activities at will" (29). But. What this also means is that the moral stance assumed in the discussion of semiotics about explanatory discourse.) It would incline as well toward the boundlessness of horizonal engagement without leaving behind the blooded grappling with physicality that is a necessary. In other words. but instead can assume any structuration as needed (or as desired. groundedness. "audience"). it would seek to provide a supportive scaffolding for the human need for peace of mind. The resulting dialogic play of signs within this orientation among individuals serving alternately as encoders and decoders would thereby constitute a "creative reordering" similar to what Claire Farrar calls "contesting" (195). and community (i. but only in terms of an individual's stance towards reality" (20). no outcome in a finite sense. to assign an ethical status to something that is ultimately a matter of taste." Csikszentmihalyi argues (19). It would have no goal. In the same way (but beyond!) that Derrida demonstrates how an ostensibly thin. a Text) such as James Thurber's short story. to continue. though. more appropriately). those that are unpleasurable and nontransformative for the player. individuals may be rather free to shift from one activity to another as frequently as desired. Its trajectory would assume the shapeless "shape" of the rhizome -. is that the problematic blind alleys of both play theory and semiosic modeling are ultimately constructed by those who confuse a process with an object. and finitude. in keeping with the play orientation that views its "product" as pleasure/transformation. Perhaps this is the wrong question. depending on the perspective held by the viewer. "The Catbird Seat. 168 . they may have the option to begin. skepticism. then. there would be no "winning" involved. (William Blake: "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom. seriousness. without going too far in trusting that the figuratively speaking "metaphorical" results have anything like a substantial epistemological basis. is really nothing more than the result of individual preferences.which means that it has no predetermined structure. naturally. This would attempt to avoid only the unproductive realms of vertigo -. As Merrell suggested on a different point.speak of Universes of value?" (Chaosmosis 108). "Play cannot be understood with reference to structure or behavior. A subtitle within Caillois's "The Classification of Games" chapter suggests moving "From Turbulence to Rules. at searching for "explanation" and progress. yet amused." Those with a strong concern in this area are certainly free to pursue the finite games they require. it can take a text (actually. From the standpoint of a literary semiotics." and infinitely play with it. "underwrought". "within the cognitive context involving relatively weak concern for goals. This is parallel to Carse's notion of infinite play and points to numerous possibilities for more emphatic. can serve as the springboard for a genuinely unlimited array of pleasurable engagements. except insofar as the pleasure and transformation it engenders can continue on. this inquiry fails to consider the undeniably subjective aspect of signification. What this means. "human" counterbalance.

Sign. Flanigan." Play as Context. Linda Coverdale (New York: Hill and Wang. Gayle L. "Slow Joins of Loopy Games. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press." Image-Music-Text. Roger." Image-Music-Text. Gérard." Play as Context. Man. 1982). ---. Farrer. Genette. "Writers. Alyce Taylor Cheska (West Point. Play. Trans. "Some Paradoxes in the Definition of Play. Finite and Infinite Games (New York: The Free Press. Brown. Collège de France. After all. Catherine. 1977). Bennington. Schrift (Albany: State University of New York Press. ---.1978). "From Work to Text. Trans. 457-478. Jacques. Gilles and Félix Guattari. on the contrary. Penelope and Stephen Levinson. 1974).Diacritics." a review of Économie libidinale. Csikszentmihalyi. it is easy to see how a perpetually accretive. and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences. because positing a point of grounded entrance would run counter to the idea that such a ground does not exist. "Inaugural Lecture. 14-26. Richard Howard. Marc Eli. 278-294. 128-149.Without pursuing this too far ("Enough! or Too much. ---. Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 1982). Roland." Writing and Difference.190-215. "Contesting. References Barthes. Teachers. possibly. 1961). NY: Leisure Press.: MIT Press. Palimpsestes (Paris: Editions du Seuil. rhizomorphous agenda could generate a host of new entrances into conceptualizing signs and sign systems through an enterprise like James Bunn's "polydimensional semiotics" (cited in Merrell. Claire. Carse." Image-Music-Text. Deleuze. ---. Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang. Lyotard: Writing the Event (New York: Columbia University Press. ---. and Games. Elizabeth. 17-29. Trans. 1670-1820. Nobody's Story: The Vanishing Acts of Women Writers in the Marketplace. Susan Sontag (New York: Noonday Press. Mihaly. 1987). Trans. Trans. "The Grain of the Voice. A Thousand Plateaus. Beautiful Theories: The Spectacle of Discourse in Contemporary Criticism (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Richard Miller (New York: Hill and Wang. 34 (1983): 4659. "the middle is by no means an average. As Deleuze and Guattari conclude. Ormiston and Alan D. Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage (Cambridge. Trans. Manfred. Blanchard. Bruss. it is where things pick up speed" (25). "Interview: A Conversation with Roland Barthes. but it would hardly be an implicitly pointless procession (any more than infinite play is pointless in this sense). it is possible that a "logic of the AND" (25) could lead to the appearance of "an unexpected semiotic" (119)." Transforming the Hermeneutic Context: From Nietzsche to Nancy. Frank. Caillois." A Barthes Reader. 9. Signs 108). 1994). through the middle. ---. 1988). James P. 1981).2 (1979). 1990): 145-176. "The Interpretation of a Text. "The Struggle with the Angel. "Structure. coming and going rather than starting and finishing" (25). Ed. 1985). Meyer Barash (New York: The Free Press. Geoffrey. (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.125. Deleuze and Guattari contend. Ed." Journal of Combinatorial Theory. Mass. This method would entail "proceeding from the middle. 1986). 155-164. Derrida.141. "Never Say Why?. 1981). 195-209. Trans. 169 . Ed." The Grain of the Voice: Interviews 19621980." Image-Music-Text. Gallagher. Intellectuals. 179-189.S/Z : An Essay. 1987). This practice would be spatial by nature." Blake would say). James.

Holmes. 1984). AR25. Jean-Fran&ccedilois." Play as Context. 246-257. Revolution in Poetic Language. Lingis. Parent (New York: Oxford University Press. Harris. Chaosmosis: An Ethico-Aesthetic Paradigm. Erving. Rexer. 2636. Stewart. 1997). J. 87-97. Nietzsche. Huizinga. "A New Philosophical Interpretation of the Libido. Kristeva. 170 . Floyd. Iain. 1995). Lyotard. Louis and Charles Stewart. Hamilton. 1996). 1995). Merrell. 42-51. Gulliver's Travels. Trans. ---. Alphonso. xvii-xxxiv. Sander L. Inc. Lyle. Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture (Boston: The Beacon Press. Christopher Fox (Boston: St. Swift." a review of Économie libidinale. Friedrich. Form. Guattari. Margaret Waller (New York: Columbia University Press. 1995). Martin's Press.Peregrinations: Law. Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity (New York: Simon and Schuster. 1995). Janet. 25 (1980). "Beyond Huizinga: Relationships Between Play and Culture. "Introduction. Gilman. Félix. Semiosis in the Postmodern Age (West Lafayette. Julia. Ed. Janet. 1955). Signs Grow: Semiosis and Life Processes (Toronto: University of Toronto Press." Friedrich Nietzsche on Rhetoric and Language. 1963). and trans. Event (New York: Columbia University Press. Jonathan." Libidinal Economy. Men and Politeness (London: Longman. and David J. Women. 1989). 9. Paul Bains and Julian Pefanis (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. "Play." Play as Context. Carole Blair. Trans. Games and Affects: A Contribution Toward A Comprehensive Theory of Play. Ed." The New York Times (Nov. "Doctoring Reality to Document What's True. Sub-Stance. IN: Purdue University Press. 1988).Goffman. "On Truth and Lying in an Extra-Moral Sense..

the purpose has not been to discuss the probability of those meanings but rather to show how the structure "disseminates" contents -which each reading can make its own.. in order to produce an arguably "open" semiotic analysis." The Thurber Carnival (New York: Dell Publishing Co.) While this contention is irrefutable. for 171 . this denial of "obvious" decodings can nevertheless be entertained profitably. 1964).Lecture Eight: A Semiotic Reading of James Thurber's "The Catbird Seat" Assigned Reading: James Thurber. Figuratively Speaking The Trial The Plan The Unplanned Plan The Rub Out In The Catbird Seat Play Orientations No Conclusion "If I have chanced to mention certain possible meanings.Barthes ("Struggle" 136) "A Bizarre Analysis" In his commentary on metaphor. "The Catbird Seat.. along with the consideration of more obvious associations. Inc. Additionally. this individual text will be employed to make generalizations about textuality itself. Thus. (His example is an accounting of "ahead" that refuses to accept that the body "head" is a component of the metaphor. just such a "bizarre" method will be engaged here. In other words. 9-17. To borrow from Deleuze and Guattari's commentary on the rhizome (discussed in Lecture 7): an entity based on of the structureless model of the rhizome can nonetheless possess a provisionally immanent structure restricted to its specifically "local" manifestation." -. Overview: "A Bizarre Analysis" A "Poor" Example The Characters The Story The Plot Metonymy. despite its alliance with the "bizarre". even though this particular text has its own obvious unique qualities. a specific instance of something models itself both as itself as well as an example of its genre as a whole. George Lakoff argues that an explanation of the mechanics of a given metaphor that denies obvious inferential connections is clearly "a bizarre analysis" (215). A given sonnet.

A "Poor" Example Thurber's short story might seem an unlikely candidate for a semiotic reading based on play. (On the bibliographical code." "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. 1942 New Yorker. First published in the November 14. This analysis will follow no particular order (remaining rhizomorphous). structuration. and wholly idiosyncratically constitutes Thurber' s "The Catbird Seat. pursue what was discussed in Lecture 7 as play with a weak goal orientation. This reading will. additionally. see Jerome McGann and David Holdeman." "A Couple of Hamburgers. in Rabelais and His World )." "The War Between Men and Women. such stories and pieces in The Thurber Carnival as "The Unicorn in the Garden. Indeed. his works now are deemed far less substantial. the American writer Mark Twain. and radical polysemy. drawing upon work by figures such as Gilles Fauconnier on the concept of blended mental spaces and Lakoff on metaphorical mappings. is aligned with the economy of the Text. While during his lifetime Thurber was often compared with another carnivalizer. choosing merely a diachronic "tour" meandering through the story with numerous tangents running forward. structure belongs to the realm of the Work. Also. detailed ponderings of virtually arbitrary nodes on the textual rhizome that provisionally. consider the phenomenon of "carnivalization" popularized subsequently from work by Mikhail Bakhtin (for example." "The Breaking Up of the Winships.) Indeed. backward and even "outside" it." The reading offered here of James Thurber's short story. As discussed in Lecture 5. Thurber is 172 . It will sketch out some metaphorical overlappings that such readings can further generate. however." Regarding the epigraph above: Barthes might in another context of his work (one geared toward "structuration" as opposed to "structure") stress the impositional agency of the decoder. structuration. stands as an illustration of its own individually and as the overall category of "the sonnet. This would be reinforced both by the original venue where this story appeared and the later anthology. which additionally suggests a joyous subversion of normality that offers substantial revelations about the contours of that normality. as the catalytic force behind this reading. "movements" derived from more or less randomly selected sites of readings. which serves as a similar bibliographical code arena and establishes some context for the humorous register of this story. it is a fairly simplistic. Still. Moreover. closure-ridden story designed primarily to elicit amusement. It will offer only transformative "realizations" of readings. infinite play with no desired outcome other than to open new decoding possibilities to inspire future readings. This focus will lead. "The Catbird Seat. Thurber is typically ranked as a "light" humorist. as an author within the larger scheme of twentieth-century literature. presumably. The Thurber Carnival (1945). to the identification (if not the generation) of what Fauconnier refers to as "indefinite descriptions" which "set up new elements" in a given space (Mental 20).instance. Barthes (especially in his work on structural analyses) would also allow for a close assessment of these different structurations in relation to the decoder's particular engagement with a designated text (to subsequently become Text). ultimately." will merely piece together a haphazard skein of semiosic oscillations." and "The Curb in the Sky" provide substantial insight into "The Catbird Seat" in this regard. tentatively.

"For the hundredth time. highly habituated work environment is threatened when Mr." Moreover. Thurber himself found personal delight in using this type of discourse and exercised a career-long delight in what Ralph Waldo Emerson called "the language of the street. and quirky. quiet. Mr. Barrows to scrutinize the workings of F & S and recommend improvements in its efficiency. Derrida's play with Nietzsche's ostensibly unremarkable sentence (discussed in Lecture 7) certainly demonstrates that the choice of the text itself for a "semiotic" analysis (this activity is always under erasure here -. This is typical of someone who finds a modest thrill from engaging elements alien to his usual environment. Barrows. The Story Mr. Martin's cozy. This also explains how some games can be absolutely engrossing for some participants while others find them entirely without value.see Lecture 1) is less important than the way it is approached. Fitweiler. Mr. Anybody who has watched a child having more fun with the box a toy came in than the toy itself is well aware of this. (Thurber's "The Private Life of Mr. we' re told. painstaking hand. even meddlesome. Fitweiler. the mild-mannered. For instance." Mr.in this case an error of Mr." This inclination clearly manifests itself here 173 . The main tertiary character is Mr. Another element to bring to bear on this discussion is the author-code. "it was generally known that Mr. "special adviser" to Mr. head of the file department at a company known only as "F & S". much to his wife's annoyance. Martin has a reputation for leading a "clean". an impression that only grows with experience. Fitweiler hires Mrs.remembered primarily for a handful of short stories. In addition to having "a head for dates" (9). Martin's response to Mrs. evidently once married but now single. Fitweiler (the president and "F" of F & S) that "'Man is fallible but Martin isn't'. Martin worries that his department is about to fall prey to the same chaos that Mrs. secure. Ulgine Barrows. "The term 'rub out' pleased him because it suggested nothing more than the correction of an error -." Indeed. the margin of guesswork that entered into the business" (9) with the arrival of Mrs. For instance. Martin "resented the element of imprecision. After time. Play theory suggests that the specific endeavor constituting "play" has no intrinsic bearing on the amount of pleasure and transformation it can generate. Fitweiler" (9). it had been said of him by Mr. Martin' s character are established through the accumulation of detail. Martin did not smoke. who enters the story abruptly as an assertive. highly ordered life bereft of the unhealthy practices frequently associated with adulthood. Erwin Martin. Bidwell" is a good example: it describes a man who amuses himself by multiplying numbers in his head and seeing how long he can hold his breath. But. humorous semi-autobiographical "pieces". minimalistic drawings. revealing components of Mr. Barrows. and never had. metonymy-using Mrs. Mr. Barrows is immediately negative. Early in the story. Barrows had visited upon other departments in the course of implementing these "improvements" and decides to "rub out" Mrs.) The Characters The primary character (based on merely quantitative and perspectival information) of "The Catbird Seat" is Mr. meticulous." The main secondary character is the boisterous. He succeeds in a way he had not initially planned. Mr. Martin also is known as someone possessing a "cautious.

either. (See. and Lakoff and Turner. This open-ended potential of metonymy provides a wide array of significative reverberations in the case of "The Catbird Seat. "trans-linguistic" [Elements 11]) metonymies. Ruegg. She identifies either operation as "the substitution of a figurative expression for a literal or proper one" [205]. "Similarity in meaning connects the symbols of a metalanguage with the symbols of the language referred to. correct identification of a figurative catbird seat. instrument and user. it hinges on "relation or association other than that of similarity [cause and effect. or it refers to its use in sports discourse. the story also provides examples of non-linguistic (or. (Another way to look at these differences is provided by Barbara Johnson's paraphrase of Jakobson. Bernstein. Perhaps the best-known commentary on metonymy is associated with Jakobson's "Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances. and Holmes. As Jakobson himself acknowledges. Figuratively Speaking I'd like to pause here to consider the potential function of the title of Thurber's story. (All biographical observations are derived from the following inter-corroborating studies: Kinney. however. Martin's expression of his plan to "rub out" Mrs. neat exercise of an accounting that brings a balance back to zero. There can never be a literal catbird seat. the research possesses more homogeneous means to handle 174 ." In metonymy." for example). Note. consists of an operation of selection and substitution based on similarity (109). there can never be a single. place and event or institution. in Barthes's term. container and contained. This entails "projections from the line of a habitual context into the line of substitution and selection" (105). This substitution in metaphor is "based on resemblance or analogy. its impossibly figurative irreducibility. But. an absolutely irreducible figure of speech and thought resulting from an abstract contiguity and a low motivational bond between signifier and signified ("cold as hell. through semantic ambiguity that results in distinctions that are far from concrete. however. consider The New Yorker readership's response to the employment of this discourse in a relatively urbane bibliographical arena. upraised finger.) Also. that Mr.]. he appreciates it for its clean. Instead." In fact. One might say that it immediately signals a metonymy. by assessing possible correlatives (it refers to the common expression. Metaphor. etc. it's true. The metonymy of the title can be reduced. Metonymy derives from combination and contexture based on contiguous associations. In fact. for example. etc. proper name and qualities or works associated with it. Barrows." See also Lakoff and Johnson.). This can be schematized as: initial order --> vertiginous catalyst --> catalyst removed --> return to order Metonymy. Martin savors this language not for its metonymical richness. metonymy appears in numerous manifestations modeled after linguistic forms. "Trading Dialogue for Lodging. "when constructing a metalanguage to interpret tropes. this reduction always takes place only for the sake of discussion. Like the logic of the Zen parable in which a moment of illumination can be signified by a single." Jakobson distinguishes between figurative language based on either metaphor or metonymy. "Similarity connects a metaphorical term with the term for which it is substituted" (113)." he says.) These distinctions create immediate problems. he argues.in Mr.") Linguistic metonymy is worth investigating further insofar as it operates according to these translinguistic relations.

however. to simply use "metaphor" as a super category for figurative speech (or "figurative signs"). this is not an entirely accurate portrayal of Mr. Martin. Barrows. her metonymies indicate a character inclined toward radical. "but our thoughts. Martin. for the "productive". attitudes. For instance. Maria Ruegg asserts that "it is only on the most superficial level. In her analysis of the many blindspots that attend these two distinctions. To Fauconnier. either. Martin has grown as a language user (as well as a sign user in general) in this sense as a result of his exposure. For instance. metaphor is "a kind of anomaly of language" ("Generative Metaphor" 137). the grossly oversimplified caricatures to which it gives rise are so general as to be virtually meaningless" (143-144). a signified) that. and actions" (39). easily defies interpretation" ("Two" 113). Fauconnier and Mark Turner offer a useful approach to metaphor in this alternative way by conceiving it as "the projection of conceptual structure" ("Conceptual" 4). motion. based on a different principle. Barrows) so that he can return to his previous non-metonymical mindset. Connectors can "link mental spaces" (10) in the course of serving "a pragmatic reference function" (12). "sitting in the catbird seat" is a metonymy constituting what Lakoff calls an "event structure" ("Contemporary Theory" 220). whereas metonymy. For. Again. Martin) reveals substantial character information about her. he says. and force. But. As Fauconnier 175 . and place metonymy (along with other common forms such as synecdoche and simile) as sub-categories within metaphor. In this sense. through an appropriate "connected" (or a signifier). Barrows. It actually renders the expression "in other words" by re-conceptualizing a concept. "Metonymic concepts structure not just our language.. Fauconnier's commentary on blended spaces may provide a useful alternative model to conceptions of metonymy conventionally deployed (and linguistically modelled) in the discussion of semiotics. In the case of Mrs. Barrows or Mr. uses metonymies only to dismantle the power acquired by metonymy users (such as Mrs. systemic potential of this figure of speech (and its other trans-linguistic manifestations). (These spaces. Even though he disdains his contact with Mrs." ("A state is an attribute conceptualized as a location" in this sense. His increased use of metonymies reveals a growing appreciation. as a potentially illocutionary act if it felicitously meets performance criteria (98-132). as Donald Schön remarks." they observe. consequently.or himself in the process. or. elicits a "target" (a sign) (Mental 4). It may be more profitable. so that its literal signification is the one thing alone it does not refer to. are "constructs distinct from linguistic structures but built up in any discourse acording to guidelines provided by the linguistic expressions" [16]." Fauconnier notes. Austin refers to. metonymy is potentially translinguistic in actual sign use.) It's also what J.that such a distinction can function. it is clear that Mr. one could argue. "a description of the trigger may be used to identify the target" (Mental 5). Mr. (Or. This relates directly to Thurber's story: the person employing the trigger (either Mrs. dissociated linkages.) Metonymy. that concept of "states are locations" can be "characterized cognitively via metaphor in terms of space.. from a linguistic speech-act standpoint. metophor in general is constructed through a "trigger" (in semiotics. and even then. graphically dramatizes the semiotic principle of ceaseless referentiality through the inherent deferral of presence (to use the discourse of deconstruction).) In "a connected situation. he argues [225].metaphor. L. what Fauconnier calls "a mental representation of a mental representation" [Mental 15]. in this sense. what Lakoff identifies as something that "function[s] to map one conventional mental image onto another" ["Contemporary Theory" 229]. as Lakoff and Johnson observe.

Thurber came upon an alternative to this scenario that would be consistent with his primarily "humorous" register of his work. in this respect. it's mentioned as an indication of his thoroughness. Martin ponders the "rub out" for this same amount of time. plot is distinguished from the basic components of the story itself. given its flippant description here. Significantly. Mr. Mr. She functions. and the more familiar. Martin. Fitweiler has had his common sense dulled by interaction with Mrs. Thurber originally planned to have Mr." someone who is strong. Martin believes. though. (10-11) Note that it takes a week for Mr. On the other hand. Mr. The aging gentleman had jumped to the conclusion there and then that this was a woman of singular attainments. it's seen as comic.or. The Plot > To extend a distinction emphasized by the Russian Formalist critics. in keeping with Thurber's oeuvre. and domineering. linear progression. Martin actually kill Mrs. Barrows enters the story in a manner that is consistent with the Thurber author-system. there are several possible plot typologies: problem --> solution --> implementation of solution or order--> disruption--> solution --> return to order Thurber's emplotment initiates what Barthes (in S/Z -. This is evidently what dawns upon Mr. the more open it tends to be" (Mental 10). The story here is constructed according to a simple. But. Numerous commentators have noted that even though the head has clearly been severed. On that day confusion got its foot in the door. Fitweiler "had jumped to the conclusion. general. in Mr. Barrows -. A week later he had introduced her into F & S as his special adviser.") This signals a logical myopia on Mr. The creation of humor in this story hinges in part on what could be called the Thurber Code (based on common literary codification like the famous "Hemingway code"). This is exactly what happened. and thus not beyond plausibility within his author-system.. when Mr. and useful a connector becomes. Fitweiler to decide -. Mrs. In this case. In his case. self-assured. Typically.g. A good example of this would be his "Touché" cartoon in which a fencer cleanly beheads his opponent. (Her metonymies are alreading infecting him: e. 176 . Martin -. if not emasculated. where she had rescued him from the embraces of a powerfully built drunken man who had mistaken the president of F & S for a famous retired Middle Western football coach" (10).apparently a rash move.something at least one of his characters pulls off in another story. by these women. as what is usually referred to as the "Thurber Woman. as is common in the cartoon/comics genre. Martin's view at least. "speakers are typically able to learn new connectors (by setting up new ICMs [idealized cognitive models]).see Lecture 3) calls a hermeneutic code both through the title and through the introductory strategy of beginning in medias res .in terms of his strategic employment of metonymy. Barrows -. equipped to bring out the best in him and in the firm.suggests. Martin' s part. One would expect the opponent to somehow rejoin his head and carry on. like Mr. Barrows "at a party. so Mr. though. Fitweiler met Mrs. She had led him to a sofa and somehow worked upon him a monstrous magic. Thurber' s men find themselves symbolically overwhelmed.

" (The Library of America edition of Thurber's Writings and Drawings identifies Walter Lanier "Red" Barber [1908-92] as a radio and television baseball commentator [1000]. Martin dismissed all this with an effort. Barrows may be flirting with Mr. Mrs. the decoder assumes that this assumption "must be" correct. through a reversal of this dynamic. Martin.are you lifting the oxcart out of the ditch?'" (9).) More importantly. he squirmed slightly" (9-10).." he explained. Martin "instantly" when he met her. Martin's/the narrator's assertion that Mrs.picked 'em up down South'" (10). (In terms of the hermeneutical code." as Barthes says. Barrows and male speech." we're told by the narrator (10)..To conceal his initial dislike of Mrs. Barrows represents to Mr. Martin experiences here with Mrs. Martin. it had driven him near to distraction.) This explanation hardly inhabits a privileged position. when she is presented as such." The annoyance Mr. Barrows's speech situation is a process of abduction. Martin. Mrs. however. although this is already (at least) the third instance of metonymic presence (following the title and the "rub out")." constitutes an associative leap on his part similar to the one the decoder employs when accepting Mr. Barrows "appalled" Mr. This is obviously a potentially fruitful passage as it provides an ostensive "key" to the story.Red Barber announces the Dodger games over the radio and he uses those expressions -. (To see how it "goes off.. Martin refuses to engage metonymy on Mrs. a look of studious concentration. like a [baseball] batter with three balls and no strikes on him. experienced woman introduced to a predatory male. Nevertheless.) Joey Hart's assessment of Mrs. Mr. Barrows and her metonymies. this sounds more like a stereotypical response of a cautious. I am going to loosely develop just one as an illustration of where one might take a decoding inclination of this nature." Ironically.discussed in Lecture 3.) In response to Joey Hart's revelation. Presentation ). "It had been annoying. While glancing at the work on Mr. but not together as "the combination of words into higher units" (107). Barrows's metaphors seems plausibly related to what Roman Jakobson explores as a "contiguity disorder" ("Two" 106). Barrows is a threat to F & S. an assistant to Mr. "Mr. Barrows says to him is: "'Well. "but he hadn't shown it" (9). Moreover. The first association of Mrs. "explained what the gibberish meant": "'She must be a Dodger fan. "She must be." one also "must" exclude alternatives that would run contrary to the evident connection between Mrs. working through the "catbird seat" offers a convenient. "'Sitting in the catbird seat' meant sitting pretty. Martin recalled that moment. Thus. over his milk. (Not unlike the emphasis on logical grids as seen in some manifestations of code theory -. Mr. Martin engages in extensive image management (Goffman. Martin's desk (itself a metonymy for his mindset). Barrows's terms. In order to accept the "must be. this semiotic "occasion" (Hodge and Kress 73) of a first meeting introduces the metonymical disorder that Mrs. the first thing Mrs. and a faint smile. however.. Joey offers to "explain one or two" of the metonymies as Barber uses them.. The narrator notes: "As Mr. but he was too solid a man to be moved to murder by anything so childish. Barrows with metonymy takes place here. While these alternatives could provide equally interesting readings.. "He had given her his dry hand. metonymy 177 . This appears as a cognitive form of aphasia in which the words employed in metonymy are understood themselves as individual units.. even privileged. this could stand as foreshadowing related to the later apartment scene in which. Following his later recollection of Joey Hart's "explanation". "'Tearing up the pea patch' meant going on a rampage. Joey Hart.

uses its perch as a safe place to sound an alarm of warning. Brundage. especially after he has seen how Mrs. poking her nose haphazardly into things she apparently is incapable of understanding (Mr. Barrows's use of metonymy is gendered as well: she's employing "male" sports discourse (a form of cross-dressing). Martin's heart had jumped. Barrows. Martin tells himself as he begins the trial (10): After Miss Tyson. Trifles ). Munson's department had been "a little disrupted" and hadn't they perhaps better resume the old system there? Mr. if perhaps figuratively so. as is seen in the imposition of juridical paradigms he uses as he tries Mrs. Mr.to associate with her (also through metonymy). Martin's is "literalistic".) Mrs. "logical" order. it appears that they. Martin's perspective. or whose safety is assured by the perch's remove from a source of danger. Martin proceeds to survey "the important charges" against Mrs. Mr. then. Barrows's discourse at a strategic moment later in the story by telling her: "I'm sitting in the catbird seat" (14). (11) Typically in Thurber's rendition of the war between the sexes. Martin's sense of literal. but he's appropriating her appropriation in turn for "male" ends. Martin co-opts Mrs. Martin's self-elevation during the exposition early in the story is revealing in relation to this. "It was competent. Martin knew the exact date) when Mrs. but for "female" ends. Mrs. Fitweiler had said certainly not. Fitweiler. Mr. Thus. much in the same way that Mr. see Simpkins. Barrows careens about the company. Fitweiler. Barrows and Mr." and Susan Glaspell's play. taking it in with her great. "Menelaiad". the result of a visit one day (Mr. Martin hinges on semiotic orders. old Roberts had been emboldened to speak to Mr." Mr. the women triumph. it rearticulates the language of the threat to its existence. too. "They require a little seasoning. the parallel with Mrs. Martin's response is revealing: Mr. although also usually in a way that spoils or at least mediates that triumph. Martin's filing department is one example). Barrows has affected Mr. For.cats. Barrows's case in his apartment. In this regard. material. She had begun to wander about the office. Given the relative weak motivational link that generates the metonymy (they are often a "symbol" in Peirce's sense of this degree of motivation). of her use. (On this issue. Martin suspects is going to happen to his own department (a reverse synecdoche for his Self). A catbird is a songbird that. saying nothing. Martin's perspective. (Actually. and relevant to review [Mrs. among other things. "Do you really need all these filing cabinets?" she had demanded suddenly. The Trial Even when Mr. "Narrative Cross-Dressing. "Each of these 178 . The confirmation of this fear appeared a week before his plan was fully formed. Mr. This clearly clashes with Mr. popping eyes. He mentioned that Mr. He had the greatest faith in Mrs. Barrows's is metonmyic. at least from Mr. Roberts had given it up. of Red Barber's use of metonymy. Bartlett had been fired and Mr. a little seasoning. 'Are you scraping around the bottom of the pickle barrel?'" (11). its song can mimic presumably one of its greatest threats -. Significantly. from Mr. Barrows's] advent and rise to power. Mr. Barrows's influence on the management of F & S may become clearer." "'Boo!' she had yelled. Mrs. Barrows "had bounced into his office. Martin had looked at her from under his green eyeshade. A good illustration of an extended dramatization of intertextuality along these lines can be seen in John Barth's hyper-citational short story. and Mr. the clash between Mrs." he had added. mailing in his resignation later. the typography here should read: "I'm '"sitting in the catbird seat"'" to indicate his use. This is what Mr. Mr. Barrow's [sic] ideas. are metonymical in nature. is all. Munson had taken his hat and stalked out.

signifies careful evaluation. "Our most efficient worker neither drinks nor smokes. "The results speak for themselves. Martin "had never drunk anything stronger in his life -. though). Fitweiler uses to decide to employ Mrs. this time period is freighted with entirely opposite connotations. (This also is an engagement of the hermeneutic code through foreshadowing as it contributes to the likelihood that Mrs. this establishes Mr. Mr." he had said. as he had every night for seven nights. The narrator tells us that he "had spent each night of the past week working out his plan and examining it" (9)." She had brayed at him. still holding his milk glass. The exposition in the beginning of the story reiterates this planning: "Sitting in his apartment. restraint of Self). Fitweiler is "nodding" during this scene. it reinforces his tendency toward reductive abduction: while Mr. (Additionally. the S of F & S. Martin formally closes the case in a manner that reiterates the irony of his own stance. It may be useful to pause here and consider possible readings of Thurber's reiterative. "Well. The narrator relates that Mr. Martin's overall semiotic framework that allows him to justify "rubbing out" Mrs. His week. Considering Mr. Martin's extended reliance upon a form of mammilary nursing that is usually aligned with infancy. Martin esteems in his own character. "Mr. "plays an indispensable part in the system of F & S." we're told. Fitweiler had sat by. "there was no doubt" that a "blue memo from the enchanted Mr. Moreover. as a floating signifier (at least from his perspective.files. adult lactose intolerance can even make this consumption prohibitive. Martin. Martin.) Moreover. Martin recalls the past event in which he was praised in front of the other employees for this sobriety: The late Sam Schlosser.' he said to himself." Based on experience. nodding in approval. Martin at a staff meeting several years before for his temperate habits. Martin "could no longer doubt that the finger was on his beloved department. Martin's milk drinking is introduced here as adult consumption of a substance that elicits numerous metonymic connotations.unless you could count ginger ale" (12). is a meticulous planner. Fitweiler bearing nonsensical instructions deriving from the obscene woman" would be coming shortly. as Barthes suggests. in other words." Once more. But. Fitweiler's week signifies a "mere" week of hasty decision. it says a great deal about what Mr. Barrows's crimes. and how his own regard derives from pleasing others through self-restraint (or. keeping his voice even.Mr. Mr. drinking a glass of milk. Indeed." Mr. it is Mr. Ulgine Barrows. Mr. 'I demand the death penalty for this horrible person'" (11). Fitweiler's rather doddering behavior in the story. Mr. Martin who accords it the register of a sign of "approval". Barrows. don't tear up the pea patch!" and gone to the door. To employ a symbolic code. Barrows's later claim will sound implausible. Martin stood up in his living room. further yoking of milk with specifically a woman who troubles Mr. The Plan Mr." he had said. "'Gentlemen of the jury. Barrows. as was mentioned earlier. had praised Mr. his "nodding" could indicate 179 . From there she had bawled. Martin as a myopic decoder: his seven days are the same as the seven days Mr. Martin reviewed his case against Mrs. Mr. "But you sure have got a lot of fine scrap in here!" It was at this point that Mr. At the conclusion of this summation of Mrs. Martin "was still thinking about that red-letter day" as he walked toward his goal the evening that he put his plan into effect. This is an important distinction because it is this same tendency in Mr. would draw upon an obvious (albeit obviously reductive) indication of Mr.

) For this reading. In other words. an adult male who drinks milk to unwind at the end of a workday would be considered boring and immature.especially women and primarily his second wife -. this development was seen before in Thurber's subsequently best-known short story. though. adult behavior. as part of a symbolic code. milk drinking would hardly suffice as an impetus for vertiginous effects. (This is reinforced by The New Yorker at the time: it was loaded with advertisements for cigarettes. he could be merely nodding as a social nicety even though he has been only remotely paying attention to the events transpiring. Indeed.) In the 1940s in the United States. this yoking of milk and male anxiety clearly has connotative potential. Martin. Martin as someone who is unlikely to voluntarily induce tumultuous effects. it is worth entertaining the connection between milk and woman as threatening source of this infant nurishment. in fact. it could be argued. and alcohol.he's battling fatigue during a potentially boring staff meeting. even "normal".the title of one of his works." Each time that Mitty lapses into a fantasy. This would be especially pertinent in terms of effects that have no "useful" outcome. moreover. that Mr. Thurber's resentful dependence upon others -. all touted approvingly as tokens of appropriate. despite his clear relatively insignificance as a human being. who attributed the purity of his imagination in part to his practice of drinking solely water. (This would be ironically epitomized by Mr. in spite of entering an objection and sustaining it" (10). His self-aggrandizement as someone whose practices are well-known by others. The physiological recoil of the "squirm" dramatizes. Thurber establishes Mr. the reader is reminded of what is occurring here. certain markers are associated with his daydreams and his own real-world frustrations. Note here that Mr.see Lecture 7). one that has been cathected into a theological fetish by Mr. this decidedly indicates coherent approval." Martin's evident narcissism arises in this early development in the story. As also is his lifelong strife generated by what he perceived as gendered incompatibilities.following his increasing blindness is certainly plausibly connected with this anxiety. Or. Barrows. Martin is an infallible uebermensch. (From a biographical code standpoint. especially those related to women and accompanying male anxiety. Martin thinks to himself during the trial. Yet." Mr. Like the Romantic poet William Wordsworth. or even "The War Between Men and Women" -. Martin turns to the arguable male juridical model of ordering experience in order to render his response "intellectual" (in Nietzsche's sense -. Fitweiler's observation. To Mr. One reading of this scene could cast Mr. Barrows assaults everybody in her day-to-day contact 180 . his ostensive anxieties regarding women is the "squirming" that occurs upon his recollection of meeting Mrs. beer. Mr. and the milk is a catalyst for that recollection. not on her peccadillos as a personality. "He must keep his mind on her crimes as a special adviser. Martin's deep-seated anxieties about at least this one woman in particular and his refusal to acknowledge and accept this response. we're told in the next sentence: "The faults of the woman as a woman kept chattering on in his mind like an unruly witness.) From the standpoint of vertigo. (From the author-function standpoint.) While it appears that Mrs. "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Martin. Martin's recollection as simply a flashback that is taking place at this part of the story. "This he found difficult to do. then.) A good illustration of Mr. and even work through. Martin's reluctance to acknowledge. and especially in the social setting of New York City life.

Why is the first reference in the story to the title placed here and in this fashion? It appears that. see Eco. Is Mr. Yet it suggests more.with them in the office. But.") The Unplanned Plan The next day. Moreover. if no figurative or literal occurrence of this expression appears again. The routine nature of his life is further reinforced by the narrator's tagging of Mr. Martin "followed his routine." Mr. This can be contrasted. Barrows's consistent reliance on metonymic discourse. Thurber has specifically Mrs. In the halls. Martin's actions as activities repeated "as he always did" (12). (On this issue. as usual" (12). if not yet. Mrs. as usual" at work. will he be in it at some point? This suggests a literary decoding of irony: the character who will be most strikingly affected by Mr. Barrows evidently realizes this irony when she understood Mr. Barrows had asked this of Mr. or rather. as usual. Like the use of dramatic irony in a text such as Sophocles's Oedipus the King. for almost two years now. into which she romped now and then like a circus horse. In terms of the hermeneutical code. both synthetic and undigested (i. The reader possessing literary competence would be alerted to the hermeneutical code suggestivity (as Eco declares in his depiction of the controlled practice of the Model Reader). "Narrative Deception. as a hermeneutical code. and thereby receives the greatest emphasis granted presumably by typographical partitioning). Barrows ask Mr. it comes too late to do her any good and thus her anagnorisis only increases her suffering. Is this parataxis. this is a juridical litany of "evidence". she was constantly shouting these silly questions at him.. Martin this question. Mrs. Martin in the catbird seat? Or. the last entry in this list confirms Mrs. "The Cask of Amontillado. The special status of the last item in a list (like that of the first item. But the "competent" reader would certainly note that Mrs. Martin's joy at his removal of Mrs. and had a glass of milk. like Samuel Beckett's Endgame. in the elevator. Martin revealingly casts this behavior as directed toward himself in particular: She had. Mr. even in his own office.") Of course. Moreover. Role. this is foreshadowing. Martin's ascension into that position is the one who asks him about it. Martin's scheme at the end. baited him. (Regarding competence. Like Edgar Allan Poe's treatise on successful revenge outlined in the opening paragraphs of his short story. though? Look at the last example (which. Martin earlier on. is it a calculated final inclusion based on something like sprezzatura ? In other words. by the way. Mr.) Certainly. with works in which the title is never referred to within the work itself. "Literary Competence. again see Trifles and Simpkins. showing only slight signs of nervousness.e. Additionally. and Jonathan Culler. is the last sentence of a paragraph. "At five-thirty he walked home. Barrows is too disrupted to make this connection initially. this is accorded special weight by virtue of its appearance. Does this suggest that the final entry is merely the result of a careless parataxis. (Like the single mention of "the heart of darkness" in Joseph Conrad's novella by the same title. Recall Merrell's commentary on the potential 181 . an apparently paratactic "list"). this summation appears to announce a liminal "decision" (another "occasion"). and even those striking elements "buried" within it) could be considered here. "Are you lifting the oxcart out of the ditch? Are you tearing up the pea patch? Are you hollering down the rain barrel? Are you scraping around the bottom of the pickle barrel? Are you sitting in the catbird seat?" (10) Numerous connections are signalled in this early passage. as with Oedipus. it is possible that this seemingly "loose" list builds up a final entry of greater significance than the preceding items on that list. Barrows is potentially heightened by his accomplishment of something she had said offhandedly earlier on. too.

as he did so. if they did not represent an unnecessary note of strain. As will be discussed later. Barrows's cigarette preference is similar to her vocabulary in that both derive from a male-oriented perspective which is publicly aligned with her self-image.. Martin heads circuitously toward Mrs.shortcomings of semiosic habituation in relation to this passage (discussed in Lecture 7). After Mr. Barrows. During his customary walk later in the evening Mr. Thus. Undeniably. Barrows's apartment. Martin has played the same finite game the same way for so long that it has grown into a firmly static Weltbild. Barrows have increased his exposure to the realm of anarchy that is arguably consonant with the "everyday"." Mr. The narrator's remark that "Mrs. Barrows's apartment "at a casual pace" and notes his "gloved hands felt moist and warm. this provides an informational cue regarding a body of shared information that would. Barrows in accordance with his initial plan (12). Martin panics as myriad uncontrollable factors impinge on the meticulous scenario he had planned. Mr. it would explain how the body of common knowledge could be counted on by Mr. Mr. Barrows smoked only Luckies" arguably implies that this information is well-known among her co-workers. Furthermore. As Mr. it appears that Mrs. Martin walks to Mrs. Martin's overreaction to such pedestrian details clearly dramatizes the similar exaggeration of importance he is compelled to infuse into his life in order to justify its otherwise mundane character.e. On the other hand. Martin's encounters so far with Mrs. Martin has become figuratively moribund. from a play-theory standpoint. And. Martin's hyperbolic anxiety as he puts his plan into action reiterates the pathetically small scale of his day-to-day existence. Mr. because later the communal store of knowledge regarding Mrs. The Luckies comment bears more weight than might appear. stagnantly ensconced in his collection of unchanging "habits" -. Martin to "drag a small red herring across the trail" (another metonymy) after he kills Mrs. Mr. in the advertisements in The New Yorker at the time. Barrows's apartment house. Martin's fabricated performance. Marlboro cigarettes. Barrows's apartment in a manner that is to signify purposeless "nonchalance". wholly semiotic) in nature. it is as though Mr." although nobody took notice (11). Barrows's domicile. And. explain how Mr. Or. say. Martin comes to 182 . Martin knew a great deal about Mrs. revealing how much his mindset varies from a chaotic mindset (one linked to metonymy) that is nevertheless actually much more reflective of the "real". In addition to the presumption of the Luckies knowledge. Luckie Strike cigarettes were evidently pitched toward a male target audience (men are cited as the authority figures who endorse the product ) -. Martin would know where Mrs. that he actively exercises only when it is threatened by Mrs. she had bragged to everybody about her ducky first-floor apartment in the perfectly darling three-story redbrick" (12). which at the time were marketed as a woman's cigarette. Martin "transferred the Camels from his overcoat to a jacket pocket. the Camels themselves serve as a false signifier that would allow Mr. it is worth noting that the only way he engages such a token of maturity is wholly instrumental (i.a collection.unlike. Mr. "he wondered. Of course. While he had initially calculated the best time for entering Mrs. Earlier at work. Martin had never seen" Mrs. moreover. Martin to create a unified impression of the "real" (including his likely or unlikely behavior within it). Although "Mr. Martin had "polished his glasses more often and once sharpened an already sharp pencil." the narrator notes. Barrows has significant impact on Mr. "he had a clear enough picture of it": "fortunately. Mr. the narrator reveals that Mr. The presence of his prop cigarettes stresses him unduly as well. Barrows lives (and thus support the plausibility of her claim of his visit later on). another way to view this is that possessing an item usually asociated wtih adulthood makes him nervous. of course. on the one hand. his forehead cold" (12).

pressing the bell under the card that said "Mrs. Martin is capable of adopting an arguably "positive" attitude toward nonstructured thought.) This adaptability is suggested. Evidently. Martin's meticulousness and the increasing force of uncertainty that he encounters. Barrows's domain 183 . Barrows is in the picture. Martin's office area and cryptically surveys his domain.recognize that no amount of planning can rule out the impact of other "players" on the field. The same thing would hold true if there were someone in her apartment. "finite" fashion." When the clicking in the lock started. He got inside fast. that Mr. and perhaps structured instead in an organically systemic way. time becomes elastic (no longer accountable to the precise minute) and everything is potentially rekeyable. This is reinforced by the contrast between Mr. Martin's play stance. This reveals that Mr. Barrows enters Mr. when Mr. recognized her charming house and thought to drop in. Two operations take place here simultaneously. He was up the steps and in the vestibule in no time. two operations: temporal hyperactivity and intense physical display of self. Ulgine Barrows. If he ran into anybody. closing the door behind him. Barrows's eventual disempowerment. What happens. both based on the inside/outside displacement this entry effects. Martin inhabited an "inside" position prior to Mrs. Mr. monologic agency of the "blue memo. but may well be neutral or even positive. (Or rather. too. Mr. Martin is still thinking in terms of finite play restrictions on his "moves". He went toward it swiftly. he would simply have to place the rubbing-out of Ulgine Barrows in the inactive file forever. Fitweiler and Mr Martin except through the one-way. There was nobody on the stair. It is apparent. A bulb in a lantern hung from the hall ceiling on a chain seemed to give a monstrously bright light. A door opened down the hall in the wall on the right. it will be recalled. then. Fitweiler's "closed" office (an entry symbolized by the closed door that confirms her insider status) dramatizes the accomplishment of this ascension. are his last vestige of control as long as Mrs. the discourse between Mr. Furthermore. Barrows had ascended figuratively through the back door. Note.which already heralds Mrs. Martin enters Mrs. on tiptoe. thereby leapfrogging over the other insiders on their way up according to the constraints of convention. This is when. that the authority of the door-opener is challenged here -. Rather than climbing the corporate ladder in the traditional. (Until the end of the story.") The same displacement is enacted yet again when Mrs. that Mr. acknowledging that "it was impossible to figure when people would be entering or leaving the house" (12). Barrows's appearance. Fitweiler and Mrs. (12) This observation dramatizes the limited array of moves afforded by Mr. There was great risk at any hour. It's as though Mrs. there is no apparent dialogue between Mr. however. Her ability to find "entry" into Mr. Barrows's building? Again. He "abandoned" this tight adherence to a time frame. Martin's catalogs of the exact time to the minute. he jumped forward against the door. Barrows's building. Barrows also is of an "insider" nature. which went up ahead of him along the left wall. Martin decides he has to act before he loses the minor insider position he had acquired (along with the self-identity it carries). As soon as he is inside her building. and the exact number of feet constituting his circle of safety prior to entering Mrs. In that case he would just say that he had been passing by. Remember that at F & S. the exact number and gender of people he passes on the sidewalk. too. thought structured in a less systematic way. by his importation of metonymy ("her ducky first-floor apartment") which initially seems mockingly parodic. Mrs.

He is suddenly quick on his feet. Barrows's response to his entrance: "'Hey. Fitweiler and may.Mr. Martin. Martin through their interaction.) Importantly. in fact. "demanded". (This occurs again inside Mrs. initially. Mrs. "'You're as jumpy as a goat. Barrows." Mrs. look who's here!'. although it also creates the kind of thrill that -. "'Well. As someone who likes to make his self-presentation unobtrusive (something he is counting on. quit shoving!' she said. Admittedly. for instance. challenging prey that will give it a good fight before inevitably losing the battle.'" (Again. If someone known for this type of behavior had been outside the door. "brayed". ("Speech/act" is used to designate the usual 184 . Martin's highlighted activities serve as a catalyzing force. it nevertheless contains an energizing force -. a clockwatcher. who would have to. Barrows. Mr. for God's sake.) "'What's after you?' she said" after he entered. out of necessity. that is. Barrows would certainly have guarded it differently. to his activities that. It draws heightened attention. in fact. Martin signals a shift in the "game" between them. Martin changes the register of play from politeness to impoliteness. This is indicated by Mrs.exudes the same disruptive (metonymical?) force that her presence conveys at work. and are otherwise reported as "yelled". pretend that it didn't bother him at all. Barrows's status as the entryway controller is challenged at this point as Mr. bumping her. Barrows's apartment. tiptoeing not like a stereotypical husband trying to sneak into his home late at night without waking his wife. This temporary confidence is reinforced by Mr. "which seemed to Mr. and her braying laugh rang out like the report of a shotgun" (13). But. have to remain unobtrusive if he's to succeed. Martin's visit is what Goffman calls a "guided doing" (Frame 22) which will assume a broad speech/act function. suddenly finds himself in an environment where time runs amuck. Martin' s brash entry into Mrs. If he were open to it." Notice that Thurber identifies the nature of this imperative utterance merely as "said". Martin. like a jungle predator confidently stalking a sizable. closing the door behind them. Mr. as is suggested in the opening paragraph when nobody notices that he has purchased cigarettes).again. Barrows opened her door (inside/outside again). Mr. but instead. Barrows holds for Mr. The same is true for the increased visibility Mr. It also seems to be alienating. Mr. (Her utterances receive only one "said" before this.) Unbeknownst to Mrs. this change is worth noting. With this move. bawled Mrs. brisk movement suggests. she appears as a formidable barrier as the agent capable of controlling entry. Mr. she shifts from the use of anarchic metonymy to the more readily decoded. lifeless life. in other words. from a play standpoint. This seems disempowering. as his confident. however. draw attention to the transformative capacity that Mrs. Considering that virtually everything else she utters up to this point is given a colorfully negative description. newly invigorated. in keeping with his work persona. this light's "monstrous" connotation is aligned metonymically with the "monstrous magic" Mrs. While this is a threatening development. Martin's hyper-visibility is a foreign experience. perhaps significantly. Between her shouting and annoying laugh. Barrows would normally stand as a considerable annoyance for Mr. Martin to be lighted by a hundred lamps" [13]. she is granted another "said" and. Barrows had worked on Mr. the "monstrously bright" hallway light accentuates Mr. Barrows's apartment living room. Martin's uneasiness. Mrs. Rather than aligning itself with the symbolic-code connotation of "illumination". When Mrs.even a dangerously vertiginous thrill -. at least "translucently" motivated simile [Hodge and Kress 22]. Mr. Martin never experiences in his usually humdrum. and "bawled". Paul de Man challenges the logic of figurative motivation in a manner that further problematizes my claim here [Allegories 14-15]. Martin "rushed past her like a football tackle. Martin experiences.

Martin manages to retain a semblance of calm (13). Barrows's metaphors.) While it appears to belong to the social practice of the unannounced drop-in. Barrows's fussing about his unexpected appearance are revealing. Martin.. combine to form a series of sallies against Mr. in addition to revealing his uneasiness at executing his plan. Here. Mrs. Barrows "seemed larger than he had thought. His stuttered speech is figuratively metonymical in that its significance has to be parsed out by filling in missing logical connections." he managed to say the following in response to her inquiries: "No. "I recognized -. "you don't drink. in that her remarks constitute an interrogation scenario that presumably would draw attention to his lesser status as an adult." he said. Martin's collective initial responses to Mrs.. Martin "finally brought out": "I -. that Mr.. you don't drink. as is suggested by the powerful assumption of 185 . trans-linguistic sense.is there anyone here?" Mrs. Barrows was "jabbering and laughing as she started to help him off with his coat. it would be reasonable to expect Mr." reflection on her query. as if to suggest that he is still far from comfortable with the new persona he is adopting within Mrs. The tag evaluation of Mr. it functions not unlike Barthes's identification of the "prattle" of an as-of-yet unformed speech (Pleasure 5). You're as white as a sheet. do you?" isn't a question as much as it is an imprecation. Barrows "turned and gave him her amused look. as if to suggest that Mr. This response carries significant weight. In this fashion.we're all alone. Mr.yes. Mrs.linguistic concept of the "speech act" but in the wider. Martin.. not only is Mr. Barrows's domestic realm and he still feels distanced from the role he's performing.Scotch-and-soda be all right? But say. it assumes additional significance in light of his lack of previous social interaction with Mrs. Martin's masculine status (ca.. Martin "heard himself say" this. He doesn't surrender his gloves and. do you?" As if to accentuate the deprecation underlying this last observation." along with the accentuation on "has" in the sentence that follows and the "But say. as is often the case with the majority of male characters in Thurber's fiction and art. Barrows "laughed louder than ever" and said: "No. His heart was wheezing in his throat" (13). It is important. Whatever has come over you? I'll mix you a toddy. Under such circumstances. Martin as a "funny man.'" Is he becoming more self-confident in this "confrontation" with a frightening woman? Possibly. At first." Mr. but the narrator notes that Mr. then. the narrator employs an especially "opaque" metaphor. Barrows." "I was passing by. on the other hand." he said. to be intimidated by this female character. Mr. While Mrs." Note here that Mr. appears quite at ease with her persona. Martin rendered speechless when faced with Mrs.. Martin "pulled himself together" and stated in response: "'Scotchand-soda will be all right. "I'll put it here. (She.serves more to chastise than to solicit input from an equal. Martin's relatively broken discourse is to "[laugh] louder than ever. you funny man." thereby tyrannizing him with a stock gaze." While Mrs. Barrows's response to Mr. "he found he was unable to speak. Additionally. no. A rhetorical question -. Barrows and the consideration that he has never visited her apartment previously. Martin is choking on Mrs. after he had "pulled himself together. early-1940s cultural standards in the United States). In response to his query about the presence of anybody else in the apartment..." he can even respond to her query in a complete sentence. is also tentatively exploring a new discourse.like: "How many times have I told you to clean up your room?" -.

she's probably waiting for her ride home from the church also across the street and her pacing reveals her irritation over the ride's tardiness. If so. I could ask her why she's pacing.) It could be said that Mr. it could alternatively indicate that he is dissembling in the same way that he had at work in front of the others. as though he isn't behaving in a genuine fashion but rather is reciting a part of a scripted "role" (Goffman.") Pacing often manifests itself unconsciously. But. instrumental and non-instrumental). Martin looked quickly around the living room for the weapon. (In fact. and in fact is metonymically linked to it. Finding no convenient murder instrument that would be suitable. too. Obviously. this would serve as even more of a threat to Mr. Pacing suggests one cannot simply work out distress without walking back and forth in the process. then this ability to conceal emotions (he is no doubt irked by Mrs. "He had counted on finding one there. Then panic sets in. Mr. one that perhaps doesn't actually address why she's evidently distressed and may even reveal an unawareness of her pacing.") Pacing is similar to the "blunder". on tiptoe. Martin is praised at work for being a person one can count on. He ends up pacing impotently for three hours. planned for. Martin in a considerable dilemma. Martin's part. Martin. of sorts. there's someone pacing in front of my apartment as I write this. As he was pacing." This notion of "counting on" some outcome bears special significance for Mr. One can't help but pace under certain circumstances. in the positive sense. "literalistic" world can be anticipated. one which is both necessary and unnecessary at the same time (or.) Pacing is the locomotion of despair. relied upon. Significantly. Martin is undergoing a change in his makeup through his interaction with Mrs. his version of pacing is the trial he holds earlier. For example. Thus. 186 .) Pacing is walking without a goal. an action that connotes spontaneity and chance. Martin's life. (Not unlike the famous pacing scene in Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground when the Underground Man's plan for revenge against his "enemies" goes awry and he is at a loss for what to do next. a development she evident had not "counted on.) This self-hearing could suggest a type of falseness on Mr. Note here that he comes upon this desk. (This is the same character. as was intimated by Mrs."her amused look" here. She would probably also offer a halting explanation. Once Mrs. But this pacing produces a yield. it is walking as a means for prompting thought while working off the psychological tumult produced by the distress rising from irresolution of some problem. It introduces a different form of walking. one could assume) is not a weakness. like a large-scale nervous tic that one is not initially aware of (like daydreaming. Martin is not usually a pacer. so this sudden development certainly suggests he is experiencing a significant alteration in his usual behavior. Counting on something means that an orderly. remember. it' s a sign of self-command." the narrator notes (13). Or rather. Mr. who just moments before was moving "swiftly. Presentation 141-166). "Mr. (In an unbelievable coincidence. but I bet she would stop doing it if she realized someone was watching her. (Of course. the discovery that what he counted on as a crucial part of his plan is not available leaves Mr. Barrows's visit to his office. his appearance at the desk is ironically the outcome of his aimless. In other words. "he began to pace around" (13). Martin because he fears that the same thing is happening in his work environment. in that this pacing takes place in a domain that she has complete control over. the extreme version of this is the pacing of zoo animals who evidently have reached the outer limits of this distress. Barrows left the room to make the drinks. Martin "came to a desk" (13). Barrows's amusement. where the moment one realizes one is daydreaming it immediately evaporates). Mr. Barrows. One could say that countability is emblematic of Mr. It is illogical walking.

Martin searches about for a weapon." One has to wonder about this laugh. Still. Mrs. creating bizarre. he tried its point against his left wrist. Barrows's return to metonymy. he "knocked over a small brass jar. Barrows's "yelled" metonymy frames what would otherwise be a mere failed search for a weapon. discordant new fields of play that differ markedly from the homogeneous security Mr. Martin emits in the story.) Like the apparent unraveling of his plan. This could well signify the contagious disorder that can result from infinite play model of action (or an unlimited semiosis model of signification). however. Mr. Martin thinks to himself: "Would it be sharp enough?" But.. of the symbolic action taking place here. The blundered reach frustrates this desire. one that is tangible and audible to the detection of another person. Mr. It wouldn't do. dramatizing that it is so powerful it doesn't have to rely on lexical meaning to express itself? This laugh may be an incipient marker of liminality for Mr. "stamps spilled out of it and it fell to the floor with a clatter. Mrs. Is this metonymy a marker of a discourse field that is superior to his own? Is it the speech of infinite play dismantling the sad rigidities of finite play? And. It was blunt. a locomotive form of chattering. Martin' s discovery of "a metal paper knife with an ornate handle on the desk" (13). Barrows "yelled": "'Hey. to draw upon Barthes's proairetic and symbolic codes: desire --> reach --> grasp --> non-fulfillment of desire Mr.) It serves as a ligature between Mr. And. Mr. (Oddly. Think. In this respect.." This is yet another blunder. unlike his minor signs of nervousness displayed earlier at work. It appears as though Mr. An object given the symbolic function of keeping stamps in relative order. Hearing the ruckus Mr. This is suggested further by Mr. Fitweiler's mistake -. 187 . this unanticipated mishap could well betoken the failure of his overly complex and rigid plan (along with the overall lifestyle it signifies). Martin as he was about to test the letter opener on his wrist. Mr. think of this jar's metonymic potential here. Martin's reach and the consequence of his impotent grasp. in other words. Barrows. Barrows has introduced the equivalent of a destruction of that arena. it is the only laugh Mr. Martin prefers. Martin wants to succeed in removing Mrs. Martin's view -in hiring Mrs. as he reached for it. which in itself signifies metonymically the intrusion of disorder into his world. Martin may well be moving progressively into a different experiential realm of "play" with this development. too. Mr. Barrows's influence from the work environment in which he has invested his entire sense of self. Evidence of Mr. Martin yearns to return to the arena of play he had safely worked within before (Derrida' s notion of "sure play"). this jar's informal containment of order is disrupted as Mr. Barrows at precisely this moment.nervous movement. All that would be needed to reinforce this threat would be the shouted articulation of a metonymy from Mrs. Mrs. Martin. Like the chuckle that might come with realizing that one has forgotten one's umbrella once again when it was needed.. From a game-play standpoint. Martin's likely failure is suggested here through Mrs. Martin's action functions in two ways. Yet it also suggests the figurative metonymy of desire and fulfillment of desire. a development that elicited "a strange laugh" from Mr. Martin is creating while she is making drinks in the kitchen. "Picking up the knife. His grasp (in several senses) is an attempt to recover the safe status quo he had maintained prior to her appearance at F & S." Moreover. (He's visiting disorder upon a token of order. he has symbolically reenacted Mr. Obviously.are you tearing up the pea patch?'" (13). Martin has made what could be called a mistake. it signifies the meaning of reaching for something he wants to grasp.at least in Mr. does the emptiness of its speech (it literally means nothing literally) all the more flaunting its superiority.

" This is undeniably the most substantial transitional moment Mr. since Mrs. "Cigarettes in his pocket. this normative violation is exactly what Thurber engenders. standing there with his gloves on.. Martin is poised for a grand failure at this juncture. he has been reduced to going along with Mrs. It is only when he reaches a point of post-pacing resignation. accordingly.no. As a result. As will be seen. Mr. In effect. the table scene establishes itself as a narratological prelude to this second coming upon. however. For Mr. And. He has entered the realm of the improbable -. The transformative agency of this play. In fact. It is a perfect ruse in this sense: as far as Mrs. a drink prepared for him -. In this sense. Martin's liminal experience is not one of personal growth (again: the literary code. she has seen a wholly plausible side of Mr. This is what Mr. Martin and Mrs. 188 .) This would dovetail with the apparent phallic suggestivity of the letter opener. a type of foreshadowing.) And now he has allowed a "fantasy" to displace his carefully controlled reality. But Mr.You're in a lady's house'" [13]. Barrows knows. Martin that he has successfully hidden from the others at work. Will it allow Mr. "When Mrs. Martin to reassert his status within a phallocentric culture? Or. (On the semiotics of this process. (In the same way that he "came upon" the table. as discussed earlier. Barrows's prompts. Martin's laugh could be seen as a precursor to the "laugh of the medusa" that Hélène Cixous identifies as the powerful reappropriation of a negative image of women. "Aeolian Composition. Barrows reappeared. (The gender reversal is wholly ironic here. Barrows has succeeded in completely tainting Mr. nearly detumescent phallic power? Mr. of course.. it is the flash of insight that allows Mr. Martin to experience this recognition and then to continue on as he was before would be essentially inconsistent with this norm. it was impossible. the disruption of his finite plan forces him into an economy informed by infinitude. Martin concludes. as manifested in the epiphany as employed in James Joyce's work). Martin appears to undergo a substantive change at this point by fabricating something that will be decoded as "impossible" by anybody who "knows" both Mr. This moment is relevant from the standpoint of a subgroup of the hermeneutical code: the literary code. Mr. rather than initiating his own. Barrows had requested. Barrows has directed Mr. Mr. Martin suddenly realizes. will it merely stand as a comic caricature of his rapidly diminishing. For. at virtually every point of their exchanges. (Except for keeping his gloves on.Martin's laugh could easily serve as the connective link that allows him to move from finite to infinite play. Martin had attempted to evoke a logical plan out of forced. Mrs.") Mr. Martin's meticulously wrought self. too. Mr. that an idea comes to him. is that Mrs. abruptly dislodging his figuratively literal world into one that is figuratively metonymic. see Simpkins. as he relinquished his coat. In fact. When a character experiences an epiphany like this. Barrows has not "known" Mr. Martin experiences in the story. "It was more than that.it was all too grossly improbable" (14). It's almost as though Mrs. Here. Martin retained his gloves. Martin. became acutely conscious of the fantasy he had wrought. Barrows. Martin nearly as long as the others at work have." the narrator remarks. directed thought.. Martin's behavior according to her own behavioral and proprietary dictates. such a moment has a deciding influence on future behavior. she hasn't seen the extensive demonstration of his work persona firsthand that he has performed consistently year after year at F & S. "'your hat and gloves. carrying two highballs. Mr. anyway). the impossible. when he can no longer find any constructive input in his customary fashion. Martin to see something that had eluded him before. Martin is counting on. has begun (at least in one provisional reading of this scene. What Mr. Although she has heard that he is of a certain nature. it would sound far more plausible that her description of his behavior would have stemmed from her own point of view than from the "real". Rather.

an articulation of new-found power that has yet to be channeled effectively.) "Back" thought is similar to activity one is not fully or consciously aware one is doing (like pacing). Barrows's glove-removal order. Barrows's initial response upon returning to the room is focused on the anomaly of wearing gloves indoors. Martin learns how to cultivate unsoughtafter imagination. This is not a mutually participatory comedic exchange. remember. the narrator tells us. once more. something that bathetically changes the register of the exchange from purely informational to the humorous.) This channeling that Mr. the reader anticipates the subsequent configurations of this new plan in its first inkling. yelled. he situates it in terms of a front-back dynamic of thought. Because it is not at one's disposal. Martin realizes how "impossible" this scenario is and that he has been visited by a "vague idea. This is the type of humor that 189 . a sign of power that challenges the status quo. but nonetheless is favored idiosyncratically by the speaker.). It is hardly insignificant. (Mr. Since the reader knows. Consider the implications of this proxemic designation. at least from the standpoint of the usual logic that directs Mr. the straightman) in a scripted pairing. sprouted" (14). then. Martin's original plan. The reader has already been signaled that Mr. Martin replies: "'I always wear them in the house.. Barrows is not knowingly functioning as a partner (i.' said Mrs. then. Martin.or rather. initially wore the gloves so that he wouldn't leave fingerprints behind after killing Mrs. usually a directed activity. something he could "count on. the gloves are -. it is of no "use". an agency unto one's self -.) In response to Mrs. the reader knows all along that the generic nature of Mr. either.again. Barrows is unaware of (i. that Mr. or a husband who constantly devises annoying "tests" for himself that make him look foolish. Martin now learns to cultivate is articulated in "organic" terms (as the Romantics..e.'" His statement initiates a host of significations in this scene. of course. But.e. While it indicates membership in the speech genre (Bakhtin) of "the reply". its tone is that of "saying". "'For heaven's sake. repeatedly employed themselves). these terms differentiate between conscious and sub-conscious activity. "Always" also suggests a type of behavior that is exclusive (and potentially aberrant) in some way. activity beyond one's directive agency (like Merrell' s conception of "living" semiosis discussed in Lecture 7). Barrows." In other words. the reader knows that something is up. Not only does Thurber cast this as a non-directed undertaking. Martin does not always wear his gloves in the house. to "rub her out" through an elaborate speech/act).all that remain of Mr. its function shifts here because it's a "comic" reply. in which Mr. Martin's usual realm. But. Mrs. And. The same would be true for the phenomenon of "sprouting". Martin suddenly finds himself influenced by a new source of imaginative power under the circumstances." it turns out. It is a way of announcing a willed exertion of autonomy. Typically in Thurber's fiction. in that Mrs. Mr. shouted. take off those gloves. for example. that Mr. as opposed to the stronger descriptors mentioned previously (brayed. Recall his frustration over the labored search for a weapon at the table that results in the "strange laugh" -. Barrows" (14). They remain something he was able to think through in his usual fashion. This "stirring". "Somewhere in the back of his mind a vague idea stirred. Martin's "visit" has a purpose that Mrs. Typically.The first instance foregrounds the latter. (In terms of the stream metaphor of "mind". etc.along with the cigarettes -. is portrayed here as self-directed (like Brownian motion). Tellingly. their function goes through a spontaneous rekeying. this exertion manifests itself in negative ways: a husband who insists on using terms or singing songs his wife abhors. this would be equivalent to surface thought and deep thought. Note here that while she is employing an imperative prefaced by an imprecation.the reader. there is a partner here -.

He has planned to keep his gloves on. It seems reasonable to infer that Mr. It appears that Mrs. it anticipates the presentation of a personal life that those who think they know Mr. Martin would find absurdly "impossible". Or. Barrows's initial response to this strange remark about the gloves is a "non-response" associating with "disattention" (Goffman. and even though Mrs." Intriguingly. "For heaven's sake. one is free to act illogically. Barrows's censure (e. "In the house" implies that one is under no constraint to adhere to the communal "logic" imposed outside one's house (i.) In any event. Martin tries to outwit specifically a woman who threatens his terrritory at work.) While it might make no "sense" to wear gloves indoors -. (On this issue. Barrows's response to Mr. that the strength he does reveal at work manifests itself as quiet diligence." To have done so would have acknowledged the validity of her claim. Barrows 190 . Stigma 41). she may be thinking that his second refusal to remove his gloves. Martin's assertion. For example. (This is relevant regarding the author-system: the concealment of one's imaginative strength occurs repeatedly in Thurber's fiction as his men typically use this concealment as a sub rosa form of empowerment. and privately. in "public". Martin initially refuses this request out of mere nervousness. Martin retains his gloves out of fear: the preceding sentence suggests that she is looming large as a threat to him.) It appears that Mr.. While Thurber provides the reader with only Mr. Barrows intimated out earlier. in the few seconds of silence while Mrs. Martin has a personal life radically different from what he conveys at work. Barrows might be thinking to herself that Mr. additionally.usually is cited to support claims of Thurber's misogyny. Martin. (There is even the extrapolative possibility that the gloves stand as a figurative prophylactic barrier to protect Mr. Thurber provides no transitional logic here.. Martin has recognized her status as a "lady".they are typically considered "outdoor" apparel -making sense is irrelevant to the "indoor" economy.e. the qualification of "at home" makes this assertion remotely plausible. see Goffman's Relations in Public. it certainly is not "impossible" that Mr. Or. and her right to make it. Because the domestic environment allows for total control of one's self-expression. He kept his gloves on. Instead.is reiterated by Mrs. so that Mrs. It is not a pathetic assertion of himself in a derivatively defensive way against a woman who has power over him (or. at least not as much as in Thurber's frequent domestic "abuse" scenarios).he is sticking with his plan. however.) This interpretive "play" -. "She put the glasses on a coffee table in front of a sofa and sat on the sofa" (14). Barrows seemed larger than he had thought. Mrs. and it could apply here as Mr. that Mr. Barrows is more imposing -. (She had asked him to remove his gloves because "You're in a lady's house. is different. Recall the conjunction between his impression of her after this request and his plan to keep his gloves on: "Mrs. In effect. she is attempting to effect the economic "rules" characteristic of her own domestic autonomy by making this demand on Mr. one has to conjecture about what is occurring during this brief hiatus in their conversation.in the play theory sense of allowance for movement. metonymically "larger" than he had imagined -. The "always" in this case. Barrows. are signs of a strength that he also doesn't reveal at work. Clearly. the motivational aporia between these two congruent sentences allows for considerable play for such extrapolations. But. like the play in the movement range of an automobile stickshift -..e.") is overruled. this could just as easily demonstrate the firmness of his resolve. Martin from the threat of sexual contact with Mrs.g.i. Martin's thoughts on the various developments in the story. Martin could always wear them in the house. Still. At home. Removing the gloves would have confirmed that she controls the social semiotic order in her domain and. as Mrs. along with his explanation for why he's wearing them. or in the workplace). take off those gloves.

[1] might suggest a confident stance.) Mrs.. however. not on her peccadillos as a personality. Is this the first in a series of successful blows against Mrs.'" 191 . (Or perhaps even better. Martin cannot refrain from referring to her (via the narrator's mediation) as "the obscene woman" (11). anyway): "'Gentlemen of the jury. consideration of some play options may prove illuminating. attack. take off those gloves. issuing an ultimatum with a three-count deadline for compliance and reaching a count of two with no indication of willingness to comply. Martin reminds himself (10). remember. But. a feeling of potential power loss may arise. This is no small undertaking. as though the speaker possessed enough status to utter an oath prior to making a demand (she's in her own domain. perhaps. and this nonresponse may seem puzzling at first.places the drinks on the table and sits down. and the same holds true for the uncomfortably polysemous "odd". suggesting the need (or advisability) of placing the request first. Mrs. Barrows's eventual response (in the few long seconds that I imagine passing here) is the reverse of her second glove removal request. It also has the literary markings of foreshadowing. Mr. too. who seems impervious to such sallies according to the usual logic of business politeness codes. revealingly.) The shift from non-gendered to gendered attack may hold significance. and has superior status over Mr. Barrows? (A character.I demand the death penalty for this horrible person." Mr. At the beginning of the story. the final line of his summation is gender neutral (after the opening salutation. she had a "fair" trial). "odd little man" is arguably in more of an adult register than "for heaven's sake. she is making a second request.' she said" (14). Martin reproved himself for allowing his personal feelings to taint the trial's "impartiality". Martin at work as well). The reader. you odd little man." Or. however: "the faults of the woman as a woman keep chattering on in his mind like an unruly witness. Then. Barrows is unable to refrain from adding a milder imprecation afterward -. Martin tried to justify the fairness and objectivity of his condemnation of Mrs.) Under these circumstances. "He must keep his mind on her crimes as a special adviser. and gendered. she had "said": "For heaven's sake..or does so as a reminder of her superiority. Barrows (after all. you odd little man. Mr. consisting of an imperative followed by an imprecation: "'Come over here. The reader is told that Mr. In [2]. The discourse positioning of the "second request" speech genre is similar to being obliged to repeat oneself. conversely.") While obviously one could speculate any number of ways about the differences here.. (No "man" wants to be called "little" by a frequent user of metonymy. take off those gloves. after all. the imprecation of [2] could be seen as a more vitriolic. (Previously. Thurber again allows for considerable speculation regarding her thoughts." Near the end of his summation. In terms of her imprecation.") and [2] imperative --> imprecation ("Come over here.") What does this syntagmatic reversal signify? Consider the difference between [1] imprecation --> imperative ("For heaven's sake. is watching to see how she responds. For instance.

" (14) If this summons/compliance scenario were reversed in terms of gender orientations. or even direct invitation. Is she mirroring Mr. indeed. not as subservience on his part. Martin?) Other potential readings of this dynamic offer themselves at the same time. this could simply be seen as a counterplay: he won't positively acknowledge her gender. Martin's compliance. One has to ask why.) Consequently. "Well. Mrs. It was difficult getting a cigarette out of the pack of Camels. That this could be plausibly "something else" is suggested by the proxemics. Barrows in a similar pairing. Instead of handing Mr. but as feigned behavior. Proxemically. Barrows had framed her first imprecation neutrally. If you want your drink. (Mrs. You with a drink and a cigarette. while sofas typically consist of formal divisions (often indicated by sections or cushions). offering considerable variety of seating possibilities. with one variation: the male is typically in the role occupied here by Mrs. I'll keep mine in my personal space. but following his continued recalcitrance.here/there). lights her cigarette for her with anticipation of further variance from her usually composed. his compliance to Mrs. Barrows merely "said" this." she said. the reader has to speculate about tonal inflection to determine whether this is confrontational. At Mrs. Martin has formulated a plan. but wary woman may be lured back to a man's apartment. (I. Thus. (One wonders. his need of a light. "this is perfectly marvelous. Many stereotypical pursuit-narratives follow this pattern. Barrows couples it with hers on the table. and possibly even initiating flirtation.) This could also be said for sharing a sofa. offered an unaccustomed alcoholic drink. Martin to join Mrs. formal behavior. she turns to a gendered attack.Just the opposite takes place between sentence [1] and [2]. you odd little man.. division. Martin his drink.") is not indicated. Barrows specifically commands: "Come over here. and his silence in the face of a framing utterance by Mrs. Barrows's utterance ("Come over here. but he managed it. The tone of Mrs. and invited to the sofa where the man. it would hardly seem remarkable. After all. a lure into a trap invisible to Mrs. Barrows's invitation: Mr. in a gesture of gentleman-like behavior. coupled with the conjecture that she is making a playful admission of détente. a timid... all conform to a reversed version of this scenario dynamic. but is the first step toward paired closeness. whereas Mrs. so neither will she. Obviously. Being handed one's drink signals separation. Barrows's request is viewed. keeping them together symbolically invitates Mr. Martin went over and sat beside her. or feigned compliance by Mr. laughing. or something else."casual" touching. Mrs. Martin's sense of inadequacy by projecting onto someone of the "opposite" sex? This may well be the case. In such narratives. Barrows. insofar as his refused compliance indicates that he does not countenance her self-description ("this is a lady's house") offered earlier. though. though: is this over-compliance.e. The sofa is a relatively "open" seating arena. Mr. handing him his drink." The sofa offers relatively unbounded perimeters. Barrows. sitting too close to someone under these circumstances would violate this spatial division and propriety. quiet. She held a match for him. And. Separate chairs establish spatial division (my chair/your chair -. Here's your drink. although gradual movement in that direction may be invited through subtle cues -. The reader knows that Mr. Consider the alternatives. you have to accompany me in a shared bodily space that isn't quite as close as your personal one. there is no rigid prescription for seating on them (except for the aforementioned social codes of intimacy/formality). 192 . and then invites him to join her on the sofa. his awkwardness at producing a cigarette.

her voice and posture changing. Additionally. Martin's performance demonstrates the apparent veracity of this side of his self. Mrs. Martin's awkwardness at producing the cigarettes is not that of a timid prey in the presence of a masterful predator. but he made no grimace." she said. It shows the result of a stimulus that illuminates its potential range of connotative significance. Her response to his relatively mild behavior is a litotic rendering of the response that others will have later on when she reports what took place the night before. Additionally. Thus.) Mr. He clinked his glass against hers. (Additionally.) Mrs.) And. in which a character's previous blindness to the significance of something serves to further heighten later suffering through painful recollection during a moment of anagnorisis. This creates a mild form of tragic irony. Language and Women's Place and Graddol and Swann. Martin's remark -.reiterates his earlier "always" assertion. "you are insulting our employer. this development is consistent with the revenge component that Poe outlines (as mentioned earlier). "Here's nuts to that old windbag. and could have protected herself if she had only extrapolated that far ahead." he said.the last two sentences of the paragraph -emphasizes the importance of this observation. she is not merely describing a situation. Barrows was a known smoker.Mrs. she is providing a literary cue that a "competent" reader will pick up on as a hint of Mr. For. he was counting on (again) finding a means of lighting a cigarette in her apartment. From a speech-genre standpoint. actually. Furthermore. Martin signals a preludial action -. Martin's presumed unfamiliarity with the process of lighting a cigarette and his understandable anxiety). Robin Lakoff. and took a gulp of the highball" (14). "Really. Surprisingly. Martin. Mrs. Barrows's remark is framed by another "said". The stuff tasted awful. a discourse register that has been identified here repeatedly as a token of a neutral (if not a lesser) power position when it is associated with Mrs. nor even a simile. Barrows 193 . Mrs. Martin would not have matches or a lighter on his person -. It is genuine difficulty at producing an unfamiliar object out of his pocket while wearing gloves (coupled. (The same occurred. Martin paused at the point when he realized that the letter opener wasn't sharp enough and he was devoid of a weapon to effect his plan. Mr. not too awkwardly. with Mr. Mr.Barrows. the containment of this action into a single paragraph typographically creates the impression of seamlessness and continuity. After all. Martin. Mr. Like the orchestra director who taps her baton on the music stand and assumes an air of readiness. Mr. drinking and smoking habits. the typographical location of Mrs. to the assessment of unusual behavior that Mrs. Gender Voices." Mrs. This "opening" of Mr. to a far lesser extent. here. for instance) reveals several potential reading developments. like the use of enjambment in poetry. Mr. it will be recalled. what masculine man would say "perfectly marvelous"? (See. Barrows will later understand that she has been set up by Mr. Martin puffed. Barrows was now all special adviser to the president. Barrows's utterance has a literary encoding of foreshadowing."all the time" -. this is one of those expressions that stereotypically is aligned with a disempowered "female" speech position. creating a consistent narrative triad among his glove-wearing. this exclamation is a "reaction". Fitweiler. The performance itself consists of several assertions that increase in outrageousness: "I drink and smoke all the time. Barrows's speech. Barrows's remark -.a reaction. Mrs. Barrows has just offered. finally." he said. In this scenario frame. Barrows uses an expression which is relatively literal: "perfectly marvelous. Moreover. "Mr. Martin's performance (in the sense of an initial "move" in chess. and gulped again. when Mr." No metonymy. Martin's as-yet unarticulated plan. for example. all of these components are antithetical to his "known" work persona.

Barrows's door at the beginning of this scene. "Nuts! I have forgotten my umbrella. but his greater power over Mr." moreover. (He uses the example: "within the coming weeks.is aware of this. Barrows responds so strongly and negatively. The clinking of glasses effected by Mr." (This is not unlike Mr. such as testes). Martin normally abhors precisely because of its illogic. Fitweiler's usual address of Mr. however. If she had not..g. say. very close to those Mrs. The use of "nuts" here is more like the metonymy for mental illness ("He's nuts!") or excessive interest in something ("She's nuts about soccer. then the clinking by Mr. Fitweiler. may well be an expression of negative reaction (e.. In effect." which further indicates his apparent insolence.in a manner similar to that of a player who initiates play with an unwilling player who is unable to resist being brought "into play. Martin to the sofa is accepted as an active "move" by Mrs. Martin bursting through Mrs. Martin says "Fitweiler". And. would once again be "impossible" for them to accept. or in league with.. Martin..make use of two distinct metaphorical mappings at once" (219). Martin performs despite the considerable disparity between it and the work-self she is familiar with. Barrows if she reported that Mr. illogical language usage that Mr. Mr.) This 194 . Like "rub out. "Here's nuts to that old windbag. Fitweiler.. Barrows's comparatively brief exposure to Mr. is a metonymy that operates on a low level of logical motivation (unlike. the first substitution. Suddenly. Martin is in the upperhand position (the catbird seat?) and this explains. thereby joining his "team" and abandoning the one she had formed with Mr. in the sense used by Mr. Barrows utilizes). A bi-metonymical toast insulting the president of F & S. the metonymy of "nuts" for objects shaped like nuts. she would have effectively countenanced Mr.. not coincidentally. Martin does -." similarly is a mode of discourse entirely alien to that associated with Mr.") Like substituting "Geez!" for "Jesus!" as an exclamation." with "nuts" is a bi-metonym: a metaphorical substitution on top of. This construction is like Lakoff's notion of "simultaneous mappings" in which "two different parts of a sentence.. Note that Mr. Fitweiler. "Nuts". the clinking is another metonymical action. She can accept the seemingly "impossible" rendition of self that Mr. Barrows. but without the motivational conduit). This activity can be forced on an unsuspecting agent who is within reach. Martin." these expressions signify the "strong" figurative."). not his customary "Mr. But the combination of "Here's. Martin heralds a symbolic shift in the predator-prey dynamic of this scene.").. why Mrs.." is that it will be followed by a positive descriptor of the subject of the toast. Martin as "Martin" which displays. it lacks the semantic weight of the original metonym while nonetheless retaining its expressive/rhetorical force (like the operation behind onomatopoeia. The joining of glasses for a toast is usually a mutual undertaking. Fitweiler. on the other hand. Everybody from F & S would believe Mrs.. Martin." also bathetically reverses the speech genre of the "toast". the impact of tradition has not habituated her as extensively as it has the other employees. The anticipation after the "Here's. Mrs. in part. but being the newest member of the firm. which is typically employed as a public articulation of praise or acknowledgement. "Here's nuts.. Mr. If placing the drinks together on the table and inviting Mr. Martin dismantles the active agent status she had initiated for herself. "Here's nuts. Martin not only employs two metonymies. Martin's comments about Mr. and this is what Mr. This is the opposite of Mr. In a single sentence. but he also constructs them out of slang terms far removed from his usual vocabulary (and. not insolence. Martin offered a positive toast to Mr. Martin enables her to be more open to accepting alternative self-presentations.

in turn. Mrs. along with the energizing danger of performing "play" of this nature. Her physical positioning and her vocal tones both change: she is no longer potentially flirtatious or even merely "social". the narrator reveals that Mr. Martin know about intoxication? Just because this statement about his condition originates (more or less directly) from himself. Martin's toast shifts her demeanor and accompanying discourse. "I'll be coked to the gills when I bump that old buzzard off. a form of symbolic body linkage that can. After all. Martin. ironically. what does a teetotaler like Mr. which was not strong. Barrows's typically high-volume rambunctiousness there. one could argue that it is precisely the person consuming the alcohol who is least likely to be able to assess the degree of its influence on him by virtue of its impact on his assessment organs. Mr. Martin himself is assessing the transformative action that is running its course here. The play-theory view of vertigo provides another way to read this observation. it will be recalled. as opposed to her convivial hostess role during Mr. or experiencing a terrifying brush with death). While Mr. (He also did this when he "puffed. Martin always displays at work. This bi-metonym initiated her query about his assumed pledge of marital fidelity. Mr. Barrows's response to Mr. she is "all special adviser to the president. as signified by the presence of his ring. Martin is able to maintain an outward appearance of self-control while drinking the alcohol he finds so distasteful which. Now. Fitweiler's similar refusal later to believe her story about Mr. it could be that. would be "impossible" for those at F & S to believe. serious role suggests a literary encoding here. Martin's visit. Martin's continued mix of metonyms and bi-metonyms. he does the same thing. the encoder certainly does not necessarily inhabit a privileged position in the process of signification. Barrows's own concomitant disempowerment: "I am preparing a bomb. Recall from Lecture 7 Roger Caillois's commentary on the production of vertigo through artificial stimulation (as opposed to spinning in place. too. for instance.) In fact. Martin is evidently experiencing the uncalculatable transformation and exhilaration of a semiotic undertaking based on vertigo. "which will blow the old goat higher than hell. (He thinks to himself: "It couldn't be that. "Do you take dope or something?" Mrs. Martin's refusal to countenance her formal. for it foreshadows Mr." He had only had a little of the drink. Unlike the carefully planned elements of his action that are vulnerable to dissolution if any uncontrollable variation intrudes (such as the 195 . Barrows). given Mrs. Martin has probably induced minor intoxication by gulping his drink. Considering the substantial variation from his normal way of life. as a form of a toast." assuming the formal distantiation that. Mr." said Mr. professional role. clinked her glass against his wedding ring instead of the glass in his hand." In addition to Mr. "Heroin. Martin's continuation of this outrageous dialogue reaffirms his assertion of empowerment and Mrs. When he assumes this other persona in Mrs." said Mr. lead to further excursions out of the realm of formality and into the realm of intimacy. Martin. Barrows asked coldly. The further irony of this role is that it. Mr.) Mr. Barrows's apartment. (A married friend of mine was propositioned in a bar by a woman who. She suddenly performs a different.) When presented with a person he also finds distasteful (Mrs.") Of course. he refuses to allow his revulsion to show through in his workplace persona. it doesn't mean that it is of greater validity as a consequence. he repeatedly suggests that the alcohol wasn't causing this behavior. indicates that he can perform a role convincingly. like his resolve regarding his gloves. Like ignoring the request to remove his gloves.gesture is metonymic as a figurative linking of sentiment. It couldn' t be that. (To return to earlier discussions in these lectures. not too awkwardly" on a cigarette. Martin's visit so far.

Like poetry that is somehow aligned with inspiration but nevertheless shows all the earmarks of careful. considering the extent to which his life is inextricably connected with his work identity. Martin's self-evaluation is that it suggests his behavior is potentially intentional.). And. Mr. Martin's plan is not a wholly arbitrary. as opposed to the tightly controlled thrill of the bumper car. at the same time. he is running a serious risk indeed. this artificial stimulation. then again. or "contained") vertigo. Martin could. in Eco's view. But. and seemingly self-generating. Martin's handling of unanticipated alcoholic consumption by appearing skilled and nonchalant about doing so is a good illustration of this. at least) is a dangerous counterplay to the play move that Mrs. Rather. or even an actual automobile race. Not in the sense that he has pre-planned this presentation. Is this to prompt the reader to speculate. but the increasingly outrageous ones that follow as well (the heroin references. One has to wonder. this presentation is inspired. Martin has not abandoned himself to the chaotic throes of intoxication (or. that maybe Mr. does it serve. from a play standpoint. unsustainable vertigo that Caillois aligns with eventual self-dissolution. there is again a form of intention behind it -. spontaneous. the walk had worn off all effects of the whisky" (15). for Eco. he couldn't have anticipated this development ahead of time either. having an "intoxicating" experience. his subsequent. But. so what he is actually undertaking (it could be argued. Martin was somewhat inebriated and it was. From this perspective." the narrator notes. accidental. accordingly. This frames not only the preceding outrageous utterances he makes." ) suggests that he even lacks a satisfactory term in his vocabulary to describe what is taking place. "It wasn't tipsiness. Martin's part. recall that he uses this regimentation to distinguish a Work from a non-Work. Martin's elation. after all. an anarchic "unlimited semiosis"). "He felt elated.) This contention of self-possession is brought up again upon his return to his own apartment. Mr. Again. Martin is. exhilarating vertigo while still retaining a vestige of self-control. Barrows. (Mr. he considers Mrs. without an element of control within it. etc. "sober" evaluation of his behavior would seem to more "objectively" reinforce the assessment he made in Mrs. and not spontaneous acumen on Mr. so there is a distinct element of spontaneity involved. it is driven by the forces of a "natural" (or "intentional". that was responsible for the bizarre outbursts regarding his purported plan? Or. Anyway. Another assessment of Mr. as I suggest above. In effect. instead. why Thurber includes this second assessment about Mr. Barrows's recent interest in his department as a prelude to something like that happening anyway. Mr. Finally. He is. in fact. 196 . this is more like participating in a demolition derby.absence of a suitable murder instrument). Barrows's apartment. the "value" of Mr. through reiteration. engaging in the imaginative flow of a transformative. It's not as though this performance is wholly accidental. Martin's fairly spontaneous plan is grounded by this reflection on his part. however. in other words. Nevertheless. because it is noted that the idea suddenly sprang up during his interaction with Mrs. Martin refers to this sensation as the vaguely polysemic "it" ("It couldn' t be that. because he hadn't been tipsy. To return to Eco's commentary on the control of the open work. chance-oriented affair. if Mr. This type of experience is remarkably similar to the control of an array of readings by an author of an open work. That Mr. to corroborate his earlier contention that "It couldn't be that"? In this latter rendition. lose his job for doing this. subsequent revision. Barrows appears to be on the cusp of executing. this is part of a controlled engagement with vertigo: he has not abandoned himself to the dangerous.an element of craft.

"Not a word about this. Martin repeatedly shows self-possession. she has asserted herself through the use of an ejaculation. "I'm sitting in the catbird seat. Then he got up. grinding out the cigarette angrily in an ashtray or flicking it forcefully at Mrs. crushing up and throwing the package on the table. At least one of his short stories (in The Thurber Carnival ) reinforces this. leisurely sip. signifies an effort to return to that initial power position in relation to Mr. Barrows is no longer employing metonymy in her initial command.after the way I acted last Saturday night'" [129]. by the description of his having "walked over and put on his hat and coat. He was famous for inexcusably inappropriate behavior while drinking and then apologizing engagingly the next day. (14-15) This conclusion to Mr. Elliot Vereker. especially considering alternative means for doing this in ways that signify other connotations. He stuck his tongue at her and left. but "getting up" connotes a type of unstudied non-direction." he said. Barrows could bring out was "Really!" Mr. then. he takes a "swallow" of his drink.Or. Martin's crazy behavior is to signal the end of the visit. as his biographies agree. as opposed to a hurried gulp or a needlessly insolent.) Mr. "That will be all of that. 197 . Barrows. Mr. Martin put his hand on the doorknob. he shuffled meekly in contrition." His locomotion could be described in many explicitly connotative ways (he stamped. while whimsical. Her decision to end the visit. like "getting up" from bed in the morning. "Something to Say" focuses on a character. His response to the attempted scopic enforcement of her power is not only non-reactive. getting to her feet. She stood glaring at him.. she had displayed the modicum of power still available to her by inviting him in and initially directing the blocking of his visit. betraying his intention of leaving behind an artifact that no one would believe he would haved possessed. Martin decided on his own to leave regardless of what Mrs. Barrows's response. In other words. moreover!) by the unanticipated visit. (E. While Mrs. and laid an index finger against his lips.") Mrs. While she did not initiate the visit. self-directed fashion implies additionally that he is not granting any significant power to Mrs.. That he "tapped" out his cigarettes and "put" the package on the table are likewise indications. He tapped his cigarette out in the ashtray and put the pack of Camels on the coffee table. Barrows's response to Mr. or. Martin's act of "getting up" in a seemingly leisurely. it could be the result of a later evaluation of guilt arising from outrageous behavior he engaged in while slightly drunk. You must go at once. her stance clearly signifies anger and firmness as she remains "glaring at him" after her command. this would certainly coincide with Thurber's own personal behavior." Mr. But.g. Martin. In the face of this set of strong commands by a superior from work. Martin took another swallow of his drink. and a "shout" delivery. several imperatives. Nobody saw him go. This is indicated. Martin!" she shouted. it's almost as though Mr. which in part is an attempt to regain some of the authority she has lost (in her own apartment. After misbehaving at one of his own parties.. Barrows in relation to her demand that he leave. All Mrs. Barrows has been doing or demanding. Given an order for immediate dispersal. The narrator notes that Vereker's "repentances." he said. it could be said. Mr. were always as complete as the erratic charades which called them forth. who specializes in social violation. it is an active indication of new agency. however. Immediately after the heroin-and-bomb remark: "Mr. that he is not intimidated. Martin's performance is a display of masterful calm with an accompanying anticipation of the impact of his actions suggested by Mrs. (From a biographical-code standpoint. Martin has any number of arising actions at his disposal to demonstrate a wide array of significative valences. possibly. He walked over and put on his hat and coat. he sent the offended individual a note that read: "'I shall never ask you to my house again.

etc.), but "walked" implies a neutrality that, again, (like getting up) only reinforces his retention of the upperhand he has apparently gained from this exchange. His closing three gestures further strengthen this stance through markers of leisurely selfpossession, if not nakedly aggressive displays of his power. The bi-metonym of the finger against his lips suggests at least the silencing gesture of an authority figure (e.g., a librarian gesturing toward a noisy patron). Or, it could be viewed as the figurative suture of open lips through a form of phallic binding that silences, in this case, a female speaker. The hand on the doorknob dramatizes his success as being able to control the dynamics in her home environment (after all, he's opening her door), a co-option he had initiated by the unannounced drop-in visit by a relative stranger. And the tongue protrusion articulates a victory in which he shows Mrs. Barrows something he still has after symbolically disabling hers. Sticking out his tongue also can be viewed as a demonstration of a return of the supremacy of the phallic order. Or, as in the case of Dostoevsky's Underground Man, it could signify an insolent unwillingness to be part of a larger hegemonic order. Or, it could reveal that his immaturity remains at the end of this encounter, perhaps even stronger than ever. Or, it could simply be a return to childlike exuberance in which such practices are acceptable. Or, finally, it could stand as something that Mr. Martin is known to be utterly incapable of doing (it would be "impossible"), and therefore no one would believe her when Mrs. Barrows reports it. Little comment should be necessary at this point on Mr. Martin's accompanying exclamation. "'I'm sitting in the catbird seat'" functions as a form of stichomythia in which he rearticulates Mrs. Barrows's utterance with an entirely different metonymical valence than it had when she employed it. To trope on a boxing metonymy (i.e., rope-a-dope), one could say that, by using of the same expression with a different semiotic register, Mr. Martin "tropes-a-dope," as Kimberly Benston describes such an action (cited in Gates, 52). Through this operation, his expression actually functions as a trope of a trope, or even as Harold Bloom suggests, "trope-as-defense" (Poetry 10). From Bloom's perspective, within a competitive semiotic arena, "a trope's revenge is against an earlier trope." And, finally, as Lakoff and Johnson note, there is a potential systemic coherence of metaphors based on "front-back organization" (Metaphors 41-2). The same is true in the metonymies in "The Catbird Seat" with in-out arrangements and the illocutionary speechact (and speech/act) force that places Mr. Martin, in this particular instance, "in" the catbird seat. That Mrs. Barrows can only "bring out" a lexically nonsensical ejaculation ("Really!") additionally implies further diminution of her linguistic powers. Far below "shouting" or "braying", and even below the neutral "said", this agency is itself a metonymy of her own disempowerment. Bringing out an utterance is characteristic of the least accomplished forms of language use, a low-level utterance which is reinforced by its linguistic vacuity as merely an articulation of amazed and impotent befuddlement. The exchange that takes place between Mr. Martin and Mrs. Barrows after Mr. Martin has begun to formulate his impromptu plan differs for each participant. Mrs. Barrows presumably believes she is engaging in a genuine -- albeit encoded as "social" -- dialogue between them. Mr. Martin, to the contrary, knows that he is putting on a "false" performance (as opposed to sincerely acting in a socially genial manner) -- the trans-linguistic speech/act mentioned earlier. What Mrs. Barrows doesn't realize is that the side of Mr. Martin she thinks she is seeing is, in fact, one that nobody who thinks they know Mr. Martin (based on his workplace behavior) would believe. Mr. Martin's behavior in the workplace following his visit serves to corroborate their belief along 198

these lines, and correspondingly discredits Mrs. Barrows's report as a bizarre pyschological aberration on her part. The Rub Out The narrator notes that the next day at work, while Mr. Martin follows his routine "as usual," Mrs. Barrows "swept into" the office more than an hour earlier than her regular schedule (15). "'I'm reporting to Mr. Fitweiler now!' she shouted," as she passed Mr. Martin. "'If he turns you over to the police, it's no more than you deserve!'" Mr. Martin's response to this outburst is significant, as is the way it is registered by the other employees: Mr. Martin gave her a look of shocked surprise. "I beg your pardon?" he said. Mrs. Barrows snorted and bounced out of the room, leaving Miss Paird and Joey Hart staring after her. "What's the matter with that old devil now?" asked Miss Paird. "I have no idea," said Mr. Martin, resuming his work. The other two looked at him and then at each other. The contrast between the speech connotations of Mr. Martin and Mrs. Barrows is revealing in this exchange: it is the reverse of the closing dynamic in Mrs. Barrows's apartment the previous evening. Both of Mr. Martin's utterances show relatively high formality and restraint (the first is a question containing two markers of high politeness). Both are merely "said". Moreover, Mr. Martin's "I beg..." is linguistically empty in the same way that Mrs. Barrows's "Really!" was the night before. Mrs. Barrows's utterances, on the other hand, are framed in animal-like connotations of sweeping, bouncing, and snorting. Moreover, this speech genre of "the confrontation" reinforces the selves that Mr. Martin and Mrs. Barrows are known as at work (e.g., "What's the matter with that old devil now?"). This is reiterated by Miss Paird's remark about Mrs. Barrows's previous behavior as well as their relative lack of astonishment at Mr. Martin's display of reserve in the face of her outrageousness. She has, after all, accused him of doing something illegal (something he actually has done) and has threatened to "turn him in" to the reigning authority figure on hand who could, in turn, call upon an even higher level of authority: the police. Mr. Martin's assistants, furthermore, serve as reactors to this scene; witnesses who, on a second order, reveal the type of response uninformed decoders are likely to have under the circumstances. ("Uninformed" in the sense that they know nothing about Mr. Martin's actions the night before. They are, however, "informed" by considerable information about Mr. Martin's and Mrs. Barrows's characters through extended exposure at work. In this capacity, then, they generate a sense of a given "context". In light of their ignorance of what took place between Mr. Martin and Mrs. Barrows, this is a reasonable dramatization of how they might respond to Mrs. Barrows's outburst. They are, in this sense, like Eco's Model Readers who, knowledgeable about a given semiotic circumstance, react in a fairly predictable manner.) In fact, one could argue that their reaction -- along with Mr. Fitweiler's just a few minutes later -is exactly what Mr. Martin was counting on as he formulated his spontaneous plan variation in Mrs. Barrows's apartment. Since it is "impossible" that Mr. Martin would act the way he did ("impossible" at least to these three people), nobody would believe Mrs. Barrows's account, even though it is truthful. This demonstrates a crucial component of semiotics, one embodied in Eco's famous declaration that semiotics is the study of how to lie. For, after all, signification by no means is limited to conveying the truth. In effect, one could say, abstractly, that it can never convey the truth: the sign is always something that stands for something to someone, rather than standing for itself. Consider the pack of cigarettes Mr. Martin left behind. They are a true token 199

of his visit, but this truth is not immanent within them -- Mrs. Barrows cannot produce it convincingly. At the same time, Mr. Martin's use of this token to signify falsehood is a crucial part of his plan ("a small red herring"). The final scene in the story marks another shift. It takes place in the president' s office where Mrs. Barrows is having a "closed door" discussion with Mr. Fitweiler about her experience with Mr. Martin the night before. This domain (as was seen with the workplace proper, Mr. Martin's apartment, and Mrs. Barrows's apartment) has a significative effect related to the actions that take place within it. As with the scene-act ratio (to borrow a concept from Kenneth Burke, A Grammar of Motives ) related to Mr. Martin's appearance in Mrs. Barrows's apartment, a similarly symbolic register is established by Mr. Fitweiler's office as a semiotic arena. It is the highest locus of authority in the company. Furthermore, it signifies Mrs. Barrows's prominent alignment with this authority as long as she is allied with Mr. Fitweiler. Additionally, Mr. Martin's long-standing alliance with Mr. Fitweiler (as demonstrated by his earlier approval of Mr. Schlosser's encomium regarding Mr. Martin's virtues) has been potentially displaced by the newer alliance between Mrs. Barrows and Mr. Fitweiler. His office, accordingly, could be cathected into a site of possible, and even probable, threat to Mr. Martin's entire world -- at least as it relates to the significance of his job to it, which seems substantial to Mr. Martin. Given that Mrs. Barrows has begun to displace Mr. Martin, and that Mr. Martin has schemed to "rub out" Mrs. Barrows and regain his previous stature, Mr. Fitweiler's office holds the potential for a reintegrative display. Symoblically, however, one could view this development as establishing Mr. Martin in the "father" role of the familial paradigm of the workplace by situating Mr. Fitweiler as the prodigal "son". According to this dynamic, Mr. Fitweiler "erred" by allowing Mrs. Barrows to engage in activities evidently inferior to the previous tradition, as is suggested by the reaction of several employees to her decisions as an efficiency expert. Furthermore, Mrs. Barrows's gender is significant as this development reinforces the war between the sexes that appears throughout Thurber's work and life. Thurber' s life was full of intense "homosocial" relations (Sedgwick, Between Men ) with other men that were, in Thurber' s view, disrupted by the intrusion of a woman. This, in part, seems to account for his well-known beratings of women, especially wives of his friends. (This, of course, is based solely on biographical "fictions" of Thurber's life which have no absolute authority, admittedly.) E. B. White's commentary on Thurber may be more informed than that of biographers who did not have extensive contact with him. In the course of his almost career-long friendship with Thurber, White knew him especially well. Significantly, in their co-authored sex manual farce Is Sex Necessary?, White notes that "a strong undercurrent of grief runs through" Thurber's drawings (189). "In almost every instance the man in the picture is badly frightened, or even hurt." White identifies the "distinct type" of what he calls "Thurber men": they are frustrated, fugitive beings; at times they seem vaguely striving to get out of something without being seen (a room, a situation, a state of mind), at other times they are merely perplexed and too humble, or weak, to move. The women ...are quite different: tempermentally they are much better adjusted to their surroundings than are the men, and mentally they are much less capable of making themselves uncomfortable. Note that this characterization of Thurber appeared in a work he co-wrote, so presumably Thurber had relative agreement with, if not actual endorsement of, this assessment. The parallels between Thurber's concerns with sexual politics and the closing scenario between Mr. Martin and Mr. Fitweiler should be entertainable at this point. What Mr. Fitweiler has to 200

symbolically enact is an apostasy of his belief in the personal adviser he had entrusted in order to return to the "fold" of the previously existing order in which Mr. Martin's value was recognized. While this earlier order was not explicitly gendered male (women work in the F & S office), the place of women was subservient, not powerful. In other words, they were allowed to work at F & S, evidently, as long as they didn' t attempt to disrupt the comfortable (and arguably "male") system that had been established over the years. Mr. Fitweiler, though, saw Mrs. Barrows's presence as enlivening. Recall that she rescued him from a boring man at a party and worked magic upon him. Clearly, Mr. Fitweiler sensed a transformative potential that could be cultivated through Mrs. Barrows and that was what he was trying to encourage by allowing her to effect radical changes in the established system of F & S. At the end of the story, then, he has to acknowledge the superiority of the (male-dominated) status quo in order to reclaim the symbolic position he had inhabited (somewhat stagnantly) before. This is what can take place, arguably, only in Mr. Fitweiler's office (which itself is a synecdoche for the larger, overall office space of F & S and a metonymy for the company's System). That Mr. Fitweiler's office constitutes a divisive barrier is demonstrated when Miss Paird investigates Mrs. Barrows's discussion with Mr. Fitweiler after she sweeps indignantly through the office: Miss Paird got up and went out. She walked slowly past the closed door of Mr. Fitweiler' s office. Mrs. Barrows was yelling inside, but she was not braying. Miss Paird could not hear what the woman was saying. She went back to her desk. (15) This rather unremarkable passage is freighted with considerable suggestion. Once more, Mr. Fitweiler's office stands as a token of power consolidated and constituted through controlled accessibility. Note the contiguity between the sole means of entry to Mr. Fitweiler's office and the fact that it's "closed". Moreover, look at the dysfunctional behavior it inculcates. Rather than allowing Mr. Martin to participate in planning the anticipated reorganization of his department, "the enchanted Mr. Fitweiler" is likely instead to simply issue a "blue memo...bearing nonsensical instructions deriving from the obscene woman" (11). Likewise, Miss Paird has to resort to subterfuge and eavesdropping: in order to find out what's going on, she has to eavesdrop. (Mr. Martin earlier notes, via the narrator, that "Mr. Martin got the story [of how Mr. Fitweiler met Mrs. Barrows] from Miss Paird, who seemed always able to find things out" [10].) By extension, think how this contrasts with management expressions such as an "open-door policy" or "my door is always open" which connote free employer-employee interaction. "Door" thus metonymizes exclusion. (The narrator remarks earlier that, from Mr. Martin's perspective, immediately upon Mrs. Barrows's arrival "confusion got its foot in the door " [11].) The door to Mr. Martin's office is one such entryway vulnerable to destructive intrusion. The day that Mrs. Barrows visits Mr. Martin to survey his office, for instance, his door cannot protect him. She dramatizes this as she stood in his doorway before her departure and "bawled" a remark at him. But, only the tonal register of loud speech escapes the walls of Mr. Fitweiler's office during Mrs. Barrows's later, irate visit. Additionally, consider Miss Paird's dramatizations of (what could be gendered as) female subservience. Shut out from the discussion between two powerful members of F & S (one, a woman who has leapfrogged over her under unclear circumstances), Miss Paird can discern only that Mrs. Barrows "was yelling inside, but she was not braying." Already, one can sense a return 201

(15) Here. When she returns to her desk after this move. so apparently he retains the substantial agency of authority commensurate with his position. even though. Fitweiler is apprehensive about something. to say the least ("she swept into his office.) In other words. Martin's plan to Mr. Martin's current appearance and his extensive reputation established over 22 years of interaction with Mr. Fitweiler somehow. then indeed Miss Paird has learned something useful. either. He took his glasses off and twiddled them. Fitweiler sent for Mr. stood in front of the old man's desk. By eavesdropping. it appears that Mr. as well as when the other office members are called in to help subdue Mrs. Martin first enters the office after Mrs. mild filing clerk seems to have disconcerted Mr. on the other hand. Barrows left the president's office and went into her own. The subtle nuances that signify this shift appear again in the description of Mrs." etc. Martin's locomotive accent. Fitweiler. Fitweiler was pale and nervous. is evidently well aware of this sudden shift. Barrows was an eye-witness to Mr. Barrows's next action: "Forty-five minutes later" after Miss Paird's surveillance. after all. Yelling. Fitweiler's summons. What has taken place up to this point. The same is true for "shutting" her door. Mr. If this suggests a continued slide in Mrs. technically speaking. This will be significant later when Mr. Strangely enough. (He still has the power. Mr. its absence nevertheless suggests a reinforcement of the power behind Mr. shutting the door" (15). He made a small. not braying -. Barrows's intonation. there is an informational "gain" in the noted change of register in Mrs. one would expect Mr. quiet.to feminine diminution that will reactively accompany Mrs. has been radically challenged by Mr. Martin]. Martin appears without a locomotive trace. Barrows's yelling incident. Barrows. But. Martin to be the one twiddling with his glasses and making bruffing sounds under these circumstances (especially since he's guilty and could 202 . to summon someone [he "sent for" for Mr. it's not quite as neutral as "closing". Martin. when Mrs. and arguably takes further advantage of it in the closing scenes. Even though Mrs. Martin. it appears that she has made no gain in her power-acquisition endeavor. Barrows launches into her revelation of Mr.). he should always be occupying the catbird seat at work because he's the president. If anything. Fitweiler are unaware that the employees know about this shift. It certainly thus suggests a transitional phase of doorsignification as indicated by the accent of character/door interaction.consider the shift between human orientations (do animals yell?) and animal ones. Martin's appearance hinge on an actantial elision: no mention is made of Mr. Martin's outrageous behavior. bruffing sound in his throat. attentive. What follows is the enactment of an interrogation scenario in which a subaltern is summoned into the office of the most powerful figure in the company: It wasn't until half an hour later that Mr. Barrows's power. Barrows and Mr. Miss Paird is effectively making the most powerful sally available to her in terms of approaching the inner circle of power. the presence of a meek. The head of the filing department. (Goffman refers to this as "unknown-about knowing" [Stigma 67]. Mr. she does not know that her audience already possesses information about the recent plummet in her power at F & S.) Somewhat mysteriously. "Mrs. insofar as he makes a command and suddenly Mr. Fitweiler. Barrows's disempowerment. Fitweiler's summons and Mr. neat. however. That she "leaves" hardly suggests the confident bravado of her earlier actions that were explosive. While not "slamming". While Thurber may have done this for economy or simply as an inadvertent omission. especially because Mrs. her testimony is obviously challenged by his calm demeanor and his reputation.

"your work and your -. Schlosser). Fitweiler. in his case. sir. Fitweiler's prodigality may be aligned with a debilitating senescence as well." said Mr. (In fact. Martin. although this very difference had been what purchased her entrance into his domain of power to begin with. Martin had been present in the company during the entire span of Mrs." "That is correct. Mr. Martin's self is wholly aligned with his professional identity. it is appropriate that the narrator characterizes him in this fashion. Martin's nervousness earlier was Mr. Barrows's employ. Presumably. Mr. it again establishes Mr.but. attentive. Martin himself. Martin demonstrates in a superior fashion earlier. Martin lacks any of the human characteristics that would make Mrs. Martin's return of membership within Mr. Barrows's report even remotely believable if it were about anybody else in the firm. Fitweiler's nervousness is noticed by the narrator. Remember that the few details revealing Mr. "In that time." said Mr. faulty figure -.what the reader sees through the narrator's eyes is also presumably what Mr. Fitweiler initiates the scene: "Martin. Martin's uneasiness at work the day of the "rub out" were so pedestrian that nobody noticed them. (One sign of Mr. paradoxically.lose his job at the least as a consequence). This power dynamic reversal signifies Mr. quiet. Once more." "I trust so. would betoken the slimmest shred of plausibility to Mrs." said Mr. Martin is not a person to Mr. Martin. Fitweiler is facing. Martin to show anxiety at this moment. Martin who should be nervous. Given that Mr. and this is what he has to symbolically repent. Fitweiler has demonstrated complete faith in Mrs. as the prodigal son engaging in a return: Mr." "Twenty-two. Fitweiler polished his glasses. In other words. in other words.uh -. Barrows's metonymical field.account of Mr. Fitweiler. stood in front of the old man's desk. It is almost as though Mr. is a clash of fiercely competing sign complexes. Martin's presentation of self here: "The head of the filing department. "I have understood. Barrows's narrative. evidently.a decidedly human. that he coauthored with Mr. "Ah. Barrows's opinion after she worked her "monstrous magic" on him. it went unnoticed. Mr. Martin's visit to her apartment when she had just reported to Mr. Martin sees. inanimate entity through this expression.) In this sense. unlike the self-containment that Mr. At the same time. Even when a senior employee challenged her politely. Mr. sir. It is an observational notice -. neat. considering these precedents. Martin. "you have been with us more than twenty years." he said. the only person besides the narrator who "saw" Mr. in light of the repeated references to his increasingly feeble condition. Mrs." Mr. But. "that you have never taken a drink or smoked. sir. For Mr. however. Fitweiler's circle.) This shows. it is Mr. Fitweiler is beginning to suspect the logically figurative field Mr. yes. Moreover. however. (15) 203 . Barrows's re-encoding of the System of F & S (a system. Martin. Barrows gave an accurate -. Fitweiler. Fitweiler." pursued the president.) What Mr. except the narrator who remarks on how they went unnoticed. Mr. too.manner have been exemplary. Mr. he is a metaphor. Fitweiler -. the narrator metonymizes Mr. though." said Mr. (It could be added that Mr." A body synecdoche (head) is thus mapped onto a personification of a physical. He has repeatedly shown a willingness to uncritically accept Mrs. Martin represents is preferable to Mrs. Fitweiler intractably supported her vision for reshaping the firm. that Mr.lacks the ability to conceal his distress. Martin's nervousness during the day of the plan execution while he was at work was needless eyeglass polishing -.albeit metonymical -.

Martin's substantial capacity to feign emotional detachment and denial of self-hood is brought up once more when. true account of his usual evening routine. Martin in fact hesitates at this invitation. it does sound plausibly enough like his regular behavior to elicit from Fitweiler only: "'Ah. searching for the proper words to say to the head of the filing department. Martin to recount his actions of the previous evening.Here. again. Martin refers to Mr. Fitweiler decides who is telling the truth here." Mr." -. the narrator notes: Mr. based on his subaltern status and the control of the speech scenario by the figure possessing greater power. when Mr. and if it had been made to them under similar circumstances it may well have elicited at least a hesitation. yes'" (16). Martin's pause." (spoken by the greater figure). as the "head" metaphor suggests again. he has such self-control at this moment that he doesn't permit himself to show understandable anger over this obtrusion. he acquiesces politely and strategically ("Certainly. (He provides a precise. he says: "'You may describe what you did after leaving the office yesterday. this inversion initiates action to be undertaken by someone who has to ask permission from the other speaker. and an affirmation of Mr. Fitweiler refers to him only as "Martin". Fitweiler invites Mr. however. Fitweiler perceives is not real. Martin completes this display. Fitweiler has to adopt 204 . Fitweiler. The reverse would be true for Mr. too. After polishing his glasses. when such invasions may not have seemed quite as unacceptable as they are now in the hyper-sensitive workplace in the United States of the 1990s. Mr. his vocabulary consists of tokens of refinement and coalition building. ending each statement with a marker of high politeness. "May I describe. Thus. but also greater prominence for the speaker over the addressee.. Moreover. "Allowed" reveals a great deal about Mr. Martin. (A repeated articulation of power differential appears in the means of address between the two men. Rather than a marker of his own deference.. the register of bewilderment in his pause is wholly fabricated. Almost surprisingly. This invitation takes place at a time."May I. reinforcing "22" in response to Mr.. Mr. then. Many readers of this story have mentioned that this invitation is insulting. a metonymy of "trust" is employed. clearing indicating who is in the position of greater authority insofar as. Martin'" (15). responds concisely. Martin represents synecdochically. calling someone by his last name alone would suggest not only intimacy. what Mr.) The request -. on the other hand.is inverted here in Mr.") and then pauses again before giving a dispassionate. genuine bewilderment (since presumably this outcome has been what he expected). Fitweiler is revealing anxiety through his vocalized hesitation and nervous behavior of polishing glasses that probably didn't need polishing. But. as Mr. Additionally. if not an actual protest of invasion of privacy. he only "allowed less than a second for his bewildered pause" (15). while Mr. Fitweiler's invitation. Thus.. but feigned bewilderment. Although this account varies somewhat from his actual activities of the previous evening. Barrows). Symbolically. "Joey Hart" indicates his lesser position at F & S in that he is referred to by his full name but with the diminutive variant for his first name. or genuine anxiety (because. sir. Fitweiler as "sir". what he has done could get him fired if Mr. Fitweiler's correctness is offered. Martin's addresses to Mr. in the United States in the early 1940s. Accordingly. This is one of the few points in the story where a last name is used without a preceding indication of status.. Mr. Mr. Fitweiler believed Mrs. Fitweiler's silence in this scene prefigures his previously mentioned voluntary return to the System of F & S which Mr. Mr. This presumes that the lesser figure's willingness to comply is implicit.." (spoken by the lesser figure) is coopted and rearticulated as "You may describe. Clearly.) A further indication of the inverted power dynamics between the two appears when Mr. Fitweiler "was silent for a moment. Mr. Fitweiler's approximate "more than twenty" that doesn't challenge the accuracy of the latter's approximation.

"Mrs.'" While mouthing Dr. Fitweiler's confidence in his ability to regain his former position of respect at F & S. suggest that Mr. Mr. this dramatization of Mr. Martin to accomplish this is revealed in his sliding logic which assesses Mr. Mr. Barrows's outburst. Fitweiler had a phone converation with his male psychiatrist." continued Mr. As Mr. Martin. Fitweiler has further buttressed his alliance with the System through a theoretical rationalization for disbelieving Mrs.unseemly manner. Martin is engaging in strategically empowering self-silencing. "that you visited her last evening and behaved yourself in an -. Fitch's diagnosis -. Barrows. (This uneasiness contrasts with the uneasiness Mr. Martin as the "most innocent" because he is "the least likely." and Simpkins. in which one male recounts to another male a female's speech about yet another male -. Fitweiler's literal superiority over Mr. Mr.Mr. Martin remains. Martin. It grieves me to report that she has suffered a severe breakdown. not unlike female characters in late-eighteenth-century and early-nineteenth-century British novels who use silence as a powerful means of manipulating others. Fitweiler notes. Martin's use once again of "sir"." he said finally. in the time that elapsed between Mrs. In effect. Through this consultation with a male representative of the medical field. very hard. but also by his subsequently apologetic description of Mrs. along with the articulated "uh" that indicates Mr. Mr. And. Martin's silencing is of his own volition. It has taken the form of a persecution complex accompanied by distressing hallucinations." said Mr.one made by phone secondhand. as is suggested not only by his silence here." "I am very sorry. While Mr. "'to fix upon the least likely and most innocent party as the -. (On this phenomenon." Additionally. Fitweiler -.a mantle of (admittedly self-directed) contrition in order to make this return. Martin. he is on his way. Fitch. Mrs. who has consistently maintained his position within the System. following Mrs.") Yet. In other words. Martin shows genuine nervousness in anticipation of having to kill the person he is exchanging pleasantries with. this action reinforces Mr. Fitweiler's incipient resumption of power within the System. Martin by a mere raising of his hand reinforces this. see Barthes. Martin's vocal disempowerment can be viewed as a display of his real -. through the dual cooperation of Mr. Fitweiler tells Mr. "'It is the nature of these psychological diseases. of course. Fitweiler is selecting an appropriately inoffensive term. Barrows. Fitweiler's subsequent revelation that. 205 . Barrows's departure from his office and Mr. Barrows has worked hard. Fitweiler. "'I suspected a condition at once'" (16). "Power and 'Cool'. Martin shows when he first enters Mrs. Martin. Martin's little pained outcry. it appears that Martin is continuing his fabricated display. a subordinate. Dr. "Mrs.but unknown to Mr. "The Economy of the Gesture. Fitweiler's speech is riddled with indications of hesitation and vulnerability which could be readily configured as markers of his self-diminution associated with gradual reentry into the System.uh -.power. Martin and Dr.source of persecution. The repetitions. Fitweiler has not yet fully ascended to his previous power position within the System. Mr. so that the "little pained outcry" could be seen as merely another feigned articulation that works in league with Mr. although with opposite consequences. still has a form of symbolic superiority over the temporarily lapsed Mr. Fitweiler curiously assumes a weak posture in front of Mr. Martin's summons.uh -. Mr. Martin." He raised his hand to silence Mr. Barrows is under the delusion. Fitch.) Of greater significance is Mr. (16) Mr. as is indicated by Mr. then. Fitweiler's reliance upon Mr. Mr. sir. that Mr. Fitweiler. Barrows's instability: "Mrs. Fitweiler can literally silence Mr. Barrows's apartment. But.'" Mr. remember.

I regret to say. Mrs. a form of concentration that extends beyond reasonable duration and is typically employed in constructing a hysteria narrative that disempowers women. it's more of a catachresis) to describe Mrs. Fitweiler can no longer continue to be thought of by his employees as someone Mrs. moreover). Barrows can order around.'" Here. so to speak. Barrows's reaction. Mr. Barrows as a special adviser. even though it was clear he had been. it nevertheless serves satisfactorily as a means of erecting a rational scaffolding to justify Mr. She is no longer capable of effectively making demands to Mr. it also confirms that Mr. as confidential and kept out of circulation among the other employees. it intimates his preference that the employees cooperate in pretending that he hadn't been under her sway. Martin could not have known about this threat ahead of time. Fitweiler has provided Mr. This is reinforced when Mr. Martin's earlier suspicions about the threat to his department. "'I suggested to Mrs. after all. as is further suggested by Mr. Fitweiler is endeavoring to present a company image of himself that is newly distanced from Mrs. Barrows's response to Mr. "'She flew. indicating that her rhetorical power. Barrows is a storyteller rather than a visionary. and demanded -. Fitweiler uses an animal-based metonymy (actually. Fitweiler is choosing his words carefully for two reasons: to signify his renewed alliance with the System. but Mrs. Fitweiler adds: "'You may not know. Martin. While this confirms Mr. Fitch. Now. in which employees have to gather information second. which is wholly susceptible to fabrication unknown to his fellow employees) is employed to extend logically to his innocence. Barrows's tenure as his adviser further hints that he wants the employees to frame his authority as intact once again. Fitweiler (or so he claims): instead. His repetition of this observation could be seen as both evidence of his nervousness (is he protesting too much?) and an effort to be sure that it is recalled later for narrative distribution.'" Note here that Mr.Barrows's emphasis on Mr. Consequently. Additionally. which would certainly indicate a reduction of her power. Fitweiler relates to Mr. and to provide the vocabulary for describing that renewal. she is now at a much lower level of power because. Martin with narrative tokens that he can disseminate around the office (probably indirectly through Miss Paird. The account of events that she presents as true is reconfigured by Mr. Fitweiler is supplying additional narrative information that had been classified. Mr. Fitweiler's pause and subsequent revision of his initial word choice ("demanded") into the subservient "requested". into a rage. Fitch. subject to my approval. is now precisely the very thing that works against her. Martin (16). as these elements attest. Therefore. Mr. Barrows. Fitweiler after a significant pause as a "story". Fitweiler's repeated reference to the preservation of his authority during Mrs. Martin is cast as the result of a fixation. Fitweiler's return to the fold without lessening his status by admitting previous error in judgment about Mrs. Fitweiler's return to the System in a manner that recuperates his stature that was diminished as a result of his previous trust in Mrs. Additionally. Fitweiler's suggestion that she seek treatment from Dr.'" Mr.subject to my approval. Barrows. for I suspected a condition at once. Barrows. Mr. Mr.uh -requested that I call you on the carpet. that she visit Dr.story to me this morning. These narratives could then frame Mr. Barrows when she had completed her -uh -.or thirdhand. Mr. of course. which had been manifested successfully in metonymy before. 206 . Martin's longestablished public character. one potentially false condition (Mr. This shift in allegiance is heralded by Mrs. given the relatively monologic discourse arena at F & S. Even though this argument is vulnerable to fallacy. Barrows had planned a reorganization of your department -. it also could not be said that he had a motive for attempting to discredit Mrs.

in this sense. Even though "little rat" is a powerful metonymy. Martin entering Mrs. sir. Martin's behavior all the more implausible. then Mr. So. I am afraid Mrs. Martin. And. if Mr. The earlier bond that had linked Mrs.Mr. rather than anyone else. Two male-based "teams" (Goffman. Fitweiler's final observation in this exchange identifies the team alliance shift that has taken place following his abandonment of Mrs. too. Martin. Fitweiler's office represents a newly formed barrier similar to the one she had previously used in alliance with Mr. Fitweiler tells Mr. indeed. Fitweiler to empower herself. Barrows and Mr. Fitweiler's last comment is designed to reinforce Mr. (This desire would also be consistent. Fitweiler occurs as Mr. Martin employed.") is. Dr. Martin has to agree with Mr. Martin. Martin's assertion of being full of dread. at this moment it is precisely this language that renders her account of Mr. In order to construct this alliance. Martin's reply. Barrows's employ will not reflect negatively on Mr. Fitweiler's chair. "He can't get away with that!" Mr. Martin's scripted response to Mr. Fitch and not for us." Mr. Barrows's apartment. Barrows's preoccupation with reorganizing the filing department "'brought you. At the same time. Fitweiler's use of "us" indicates that he also is forming a team with Mr. in particular] who provided him with models for crafting his own adult male Self. it's something she has to force her way into (like Mr. Mr. Fitweiler. as it evidently refers to no real fear. Harold Ross. He responds: "'I am dreadfully sorry. Martin relocates to a space nearer to him during this confrontation. although with the opposite significance). and then pauses before continuing. confirms his willingness to enter into this contract. upon hearing of Mrs. sir. Mr. But at this point. Mr. (16) Mrs. Fitch and Mr. Mrs.'" Mr. (Earlier. as if to suggest that future commentary on Mrs. Barrows had at some point been "useful" to F & S.'" Note.) For. Mr. Martin had offered: "'I am very sorry. Barrows catapulted through it. street slang aligned with a form of empowerment. Barrows's persecution complex and hallucinations. in part because Mr. Mr. Barrows. dread and sorrow in their remarks. Fitweiler's renewed status of company respect. Martin and Mr. Fitweiler function as a team whose authority is established by the predominantly (even more so in the 1940s) male-based medical establishment (the same people who brought us "hysteria"). her once-powerful language is now working against her as it invokes the very discourse she claims Mr. Fitweiler's reference to fear ("I am afraid. the same is true for Mr. and does so with the intonational register of the "scream" speech genre. Martin agrees. of course. Barrrows' usefulness here is at an end'" (16). Barrows's purported usefulness is now "at an end.'") A significant paragraph break draws attention to the event that takes place immediately after this "pact" is reached: It was at this point that the door to the office blew open with the suddenness of a gas-main explosion and Mrs. Barrows. from a biographical standpoint. of Thurber's frequent cultivation of homosocial relations with older. Such a bond shift suggests another plot model: male homosocial bonding (even women participate in this. Martin got up and moved discreetly to a point beside Mr.. merely figurative.. "'But again that is a phenomenon for Dr. Mr. Fitweiler and Mrs. Fitweiler is dissolved and the new bond between Mr. Presentation 77-105) are established here at the expense of the previous one consisting of Mr. Barrows's entry into the office is highlighted here. but subserviently so) disrupted by apparent male-to207 . that both speakers employ exaggerated forms of fear. Fitweiler will in turn agree that Mrs. "Is the little rat denying it?" she screamed. Fitweiler that Mrs. Martin's proxemic demonstration of his new coalition with Mr. "experienced" males [original New Yorker editor. to her mind. Fitweiler is dramatized.

female heterosexual bonding. (Again, the source of considerable tension in Thurber's own personal life.) This disruption is undone with a concomitant return to the status quo at the end of this exchange: "You drank and smoked at my apartment," she bawled at Mr. Martin, "and you know it! You called Mr. Fitweiler an old windbag and said you were going to blow him up when you got coked to gills on your heroin!" She stopped yelling to catch her breath and a new glint came into her popping eyes. Here she is employing approximately the same type of metonymic language she undoubtedly reported while describing what Mr. Martin had allegedly said. Considering that it is loosely the same as that which she is known to employ herself, clearly no one would believe that she is accurately reporting Mr. Martin's speech. Another parallel between this scene and an earlier one is presented in the epiphany that Mrs. Barrows experiences which is not unlike the one that preceded Mr. Martin's impromptu plan. Like the other repetitions, however, this one also marks the return of Mr. Martin's situation prior to Mrs. Barrows's influence on it. So, while Mr. Martin's epiphany seems in keeping with the imaginative epiphany associated with artistic creation, Mrs. Barrows's is merely that of the victim who suddenly realizes her victimhood. (Once more, as in the case of Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado.") Narrative point of view comes into play here. Although the reader experiences the narration of Mr. Martin's epiphany as unfolding gradually, the reader learns almost nothing about Mrs. Barrows's until it is fully developed as a mere low-watt illumination. Accordingly, for the reader, Mrs. Barrows's revelation is a meager "glint" that indicates that it is only now that she sees something that should have been clear to her before (and it's something that Mr. Martin had already understood well before she had). (Ironically, Mr. Martin didn't really plan it at all -- at least in the sense of "plan" that she's evidently using here. He did have a fixed plan, remember, but when it fell apart, an unplanned plan emerged.) But, while Mr. Martin's epiphany is empowering -- it allowed him to gain control of the situation in Mrs. Barrows's apartment and, more importantly, its physical indication occurred out of Mrs. Barrows's sight -- hers, to the contrary, is on increasingly full display. Since it only infuriates and subsequently unhinges her all the more, Mrs. Barrows's epiphany thus only works to her disadvantage: "If you weren't such a drab, ordinary little man," she said, "I'd think you'd planned it all. Sticking your tongue out, saying you were sitting in the catbird seat, because you thought no one would believe me when I told it! My God, it's really too perfect!" She brayed loudly and hysterically, and the fury was on her again. She glared at Mr. Fitweiler. "Can't you see how he has tricked us, you old fool? Can't you see his little game?" (16-17) This outburst only reinforces Mr. Fitweiler's suspicions that whatever Mrs. Barrows had reported about Mr. Martin's behavior has its origin in her own dementia. For semiotics, though, it offers a substantial instance of the irrational, false operations of signification because what Mrs. Barrows now sees (what Mr. Martin had seen earlier) is something that Mr. Fitweiler and the other employees cannot see. Its presence is constructed out of an absence that Mrs. Barrows cannot summon into existence again. And, significantly, Mrs. Barrows's account is nevertheless plausible. 208

Mr. Martin's deception is worth exploring here. Knowing full well that no one would believe such a report from Mrs. Barrows, Mr. Martin crafts his utterances and behavior in a way that would correspond to what those who know Mrs. Barrows at work would associate with her personal sign field. Her discourse, her manner, her interests, and so on, all figure into the self display that Mr. Martin performs in her apartment. These are all false, though, and in more than one sense. First, he is lying by saying and doing the things he says and does in her apartment. Second, he has crafted his self according to that of Mrs. Barrows's orientations. Therefore, when Mrs. Barrows makes truthful claims about his behavior to those who know her from work, the semiotic frame she employs is exactly what seems to signify the invalidity of her claims. Fauconnier asks: "Are 'virtual' presuppositions cancellable by 'stronger' implicatures and implications?" (Mental 82). This seems to apply here. While Mrs. Barrows's account is wholly possible (it terms of activities that Mr. Martin could actually have engaged in), it is implausible, given that everybody at F & S is familiar with her behavior and discourse, as well as that of Mr. Martin. In other words, while Mr. Martin could have done what she claims, it's much more likely that she is fabricating these claims. (Even though we know she is not.) Fauconnier adds that "traditionally, counterfactuals like 'If men had wings, they would fly' are viewed as cases of possibly valid reasoning from premises that are false in actuality" (107). From this perspective, Mrs. Barrows's account seems consistent with Fauconnier's characterization of "counterfactuality," which consists of "a case of forced incompatibility between [mental] spaces." Such a "contradictory space (as in proofs by reductio ad absurdum)," he notes, "contain[s] false mathematical statements (to which true laws can apply)" (119). It is useful to return to Mr. Martin's enjoyment of the metonymy "rub out" regarding this issue. This is effectively what he has done with his speech/act in Mrs. Barrows's apartment. He has engaged in an activity that left no plausible physical trace of its presence but remains as a memory residue in the individual who had seen it when it had existed. Although Mrs. Barrows is telling the truth, "truth" has no necessary bearing on signification. In fact, that she is telling the truth and nobody will listen to her is designed to only further accentuate her mounting anger, and thus further discredit her. And, Mr. Martin's performance in front of the others at F & S additionally strengthens his well-established (though somewhat false) credibility, even while his performance is, in fact, false. Still, it is a false representation of his usual true behavior -- and is "true" in that sense. As a result, the "habit" (in its fullest semiotic sense) associated with Mr. Martin has become so ossified that variation from it is both wholly unbelievable and yet also wholly likely. (Which is, by extension, what makes Mr. Martin's decidedly outrageous, unbelievable performance in Mrs. Barrows's apartment nevertheless comically plausible by virtue of its impossibility.) Unbeknownst to Mrs. Barrows, Mr. Fitweiler "had been surreptitiously pressing all the buttons under the top of his desk and employees of F & S began pouring into the room" (17). With this move, Mr. Fitweiler is exercising his power as someone who can command agents to act for him in a manner similar to his summons of Mr. Martin only minutes earlier. (These buttons reverse up/down hierarchies; in this case, down is more powerful because it is aligned with invisible power. There is a parallel here, too, with Mr. Martin's pressing of Mrs. Barrows's apartment doorbell as the first implementation of his plan to rub her out. This reinforces her disempowerment insofar as it is her buttons he is pushing, while Mr. Fitweiler is pushing his own. Another metonymy is employed here in relation to the expression commonly used to suggest manipulation of one's vulnerabilities as "pushing one's buttons.") 209

"Stockton," said Mr. Fitweiler, "you and Fishbein will take Mrs. Barrows to her home. Mrs. Powell, you will go with them." Stockton, who had played a little football in high school, blocked Mrs. Barrows as she made for Mr. Martin. It took him and Fishbein together to force her out of the door into the hall, crowded with stenographers and office boys. She was still screaming imprecations at Mr. Martin, tangled and contradictory imprecations. The hubbub finally died out down the corridor. Mr. Fitweiler's imperative ("You will...") further indicates his reascension of power, as was seen just before when he commanded Mr. Martin to recount his previous evening's activities. While this is the same monologic form that had been used in the blue-memo, closed-door semiotic arena at F & S before, it takes on a different contour now by recalibrating his power as company president. Note that there is no discussion about what to do with Mrs. Barrows's complaints about Mr. Martin. Mr. Fitweiler, the individual who introduced her into F & S and granted her considerable power, is now doing just the opposite, and doing so successfully. Additionally, Fitweiler is able to engage in an overt display of power without losing power himself. Even though he has a "scene" on his hands, he manages it in a manner that enables him to maintain the power he had earlier, or perhaps even gain greater power through this display of force. Primary and secondary employees thus serve as "audiences" (Goffman, Presentation ) to this shift in Mrs. Barrows's status in the company. So, this summons and removal can be seen as a performance designed to formally dramatize her disempowerment. A male-oriented sports allusion reinforces this display. Stockton's football background is mentioned by the narrator in connection with removing Mrs. Barrows, which harks back to the simile employed when Mr. Martin entered Mrs. Barrows's apartment somewhat forcefully. This would return to the subject of male-based discourse (and its wider extensions) that Mrs. Barrows had used earlier so powerfully. Both in her apartment and later in Mr. Fitweiler's office, this same network of power is turned against her. This also is reflected also in the total disregard for her speech at this point. As was mentioned above, Mrs. Barrows began by lucidly telling the truth about Mr. Martin; here, she is ignored by everyone in attendance. By the time of her removal, her speech has lost this lucidity, becoming the babble of someone successfully categorized as hysterical (suggested by apparent onomatpoeia: she causes a "hubbub"). Even in her own capacity as an encoder, Mrs. Barrows is unable to initiate a coherent message, thereby marking the completion of her disempowerment. Additionally, the cooperation of a female employee (the presumably married Mrs. Powell) who is an enabler of male power suggests that such obeisance is the only tolerated means of ascension for women within such an environment. (Mrs. Powell's "slave name" also implies her own adherence to male order, and probably without the breakaway radicalism of Mrs. Barrows, a woman whose single status implies that she is somehow "divorced" from the institution of marriage.) Mrs. Barrows's earlier, and temporarily successful, exercise of assertion and employment of male discourse, along with the abnormal variance she engaged in to achieve this power in the first place, attest to the ultimate unacceptability of women functioning in a powerful fashion under these circumstances and in this domain at this time. Finally, the forceable removal of Mrs. Barrows in this scene signals the total elimination of her access to the locus of her power. While Mr. Fitweiler's office had at one time buttressed her authority at F & S, the display of her removal palpably reconfigures the office as a source of her disempowerment. (After all, her conflict with Mr. Martin takes place here, so it serves as a symbolic site along these lines.) This would significantly mirror the unusual way that she began 210

her employ at the company: brought in under unusual, inexplicable circumstances, she is fired in the same way. Mr. Fitweiler's closing remarks to Mr. Martin suggest a temporary assumption of humility, a symbolic lowering of his head to acknowledge the presence of someone who had retained status: "I regret that this has happened," said Mr. Fitweiler. "I shall ask you to to dismiss it from your mind, Martin." "Yes, sir," said Mr. Martin, anticipating his chief's "That will be all" by moving to the door. "I will dismiss it." He went out and shut the door... (17) Several interactive power recognitions take place here. While Mr. Fitweiler's use of "regret" would appear more literal than his earlier use of "fear" ("I am afraid..."), it nonetheless suggests that he is adopting only a temporary pose of status diminution. This pose is indeed brief; his subsequent request to Mr. Martin is, once more, couched in the form of a declaration, even though it is, in fact, a request. His selection of "shall" is also pertinent, insofar as it implies that he is obliged or compelled to make this request under the circumstances, as opposed to it originating from his own initiative. Mr. Martin demonstrates his empowerment-through-voluntary-subservience within the larger System as he internalizes the commands of authority: he dismisses himself through an anticipated order. Like a form of ventriloquism, he gives himself the order and leaves Mr. Fitweiler's office, but does so in a way that is reminiscent of autonomy. Compare this exit from the site of power to Mrs. Barrows's, for instance. Even though he is under the sway of authority, Mr. Martin finds a satisfactory logic that creates the illusion of agency in the process. (This also would be related to his display of power as he's leaving Mrs. Barrows's apartment and he shows himself to the door, so to speak.) The closing lines following his exit reinforce this sophisticated, yet almost invisible, acquisition of power by Mr. Martin: He went out and shut the door, and his step was light and quick in the hall. When he entered his department he had slowed down to his customary gait, and he walked quietly across the room to the W20 file, wearing a look of studious concentration. (17) Again, maintainning an exterior facade allows Mr. Martin to act powerfully despite his relatively unpowerful position in the company. While he treats himself a brief display of joy (and a characteristically subdued one, at that), it is something he strategically abandons when he approaches his office. Even though he has to assume his persona of lesser status when he enters, this is the most powerful way that he can exist within the System. In The Catbird Seat Perhaps identifying Mr. Martin with Jakobson's discussion of "continguity disorder" is not wholly accurate. Fauconnier argues that with such constructs as metonymies, "targets do not need quite explicit introduction" (Mental 21). Accordingly, it appears that Mr. Martin could have figured out on his own how Mrs. Barrows was using metonymy. Through trial and error, as he well demonstrates, he could recognize the systemic components of her otherwise unintelligible discourse, and perhaps even use it to his advantage. (This is essentially what he does anyway through the decoding assistance of Joey Hart.) 211

in turn. significantly) in engaging in what Fauconnier and Turner call "projection to a middle space" ("Conceptual" 1). with substantially different significations as a result (i. And. Or. It appears that Mr. In a related fashion. (As they note. If it does." the problems with systematizing practices such as metonymy are indeed manifold (again. Barrows provides him with a heuristic for self-transformation. Another perspective on metonymy in Thurber's story can be derived from considering the domains involved (not unlike Fauconnier's target/source)." It is wholly possible that Mr. of course. as we know). is exactly what happens when Mr. "rekeyings" (Frame Analysis 81) can radically change the nature of a frame. he had done it. If not. Barrows would attest). Yet. Schön notes that "generative metaphor" entails a "'carrying over' of frames or perspectives from one domain of experience to another" (137) that leads to "frame restructuring" (139). as Jakobson and Ruegg remark). Martin with the sophisticated uses of metonymy (both linguistic and trans-linguistic) that he stumbles upon on his own. Martin at work and his behavior in Mrs. however. This. Barrows's apartment is through frame incompatibilities consistent with Goffman's work on this concept.Joey Hart. a sound first decoded as a firecracker exploding may turn out subsequently to have been gunfire). new conceptual structure that is necessarily believable. This entails employing "a general cognitive process. Martin conceives of a semiotic construct that nobody would believe.) Another way to view this dissonant linkage between Mr. "Because subjects recruit from a wide range of knowledge in the process and because the blend routinely contains emergent structure not simply inherited from either input concept. Martin learns. "lexical items that are conventional in the source domain. This also can explain the events in "The Catbird Seat. "are not always conventional in the target domain" (211). each source domain lexical item may or may not make use of [a] static mapping pattern. Martin could have done what Mrs. For Goffman. Mrs. its output cannot be predicted" (5). Nonetheless. this restructuring is infelicitous. the use of linguistic and trans-linguistic metonymy can yield all sorts of new semiotic constructs with a host of correspondingly new uses. "blended spaces can pick out non-correspondence between source and target" [5]. the source domain lexical item will not have a conventional sense in the target domain. but may still be actively mapped in the case of novel metaphor.e. Martin's equally individualistic domain. to say the least (as Mrs. for precisely the reason Fauconnier and Turner identify. Martin has acquired competence (through no effort on his own. Instead. does not seem capable of providing Mr. one could add. operating uniformly at different levels of abstraction and under superficially divergent contextual circumstances. As Fauconnier and Turner conclude. Fauconnier and Turner comment on research that demonstrates that "although the process of blending follows a logic. one that may prompt consideration 212 . "[give] rise either to a more abstract 'generic' space or to a richer ['fourth'] 'blended' space" (3) which yields an "often counterfactual or 'impossible' structure" (5)." A "middle space" of this nature can. in some cases. where that sense is characterized by the mapping. Barrows apparently claimed he had done (in fact. it has an extended lexicalized sense in the target domain. considering (once more) that her articulations derive from her individual source domain.. In this respect. The employment of metonymy in this story thus highlights both the systemic and a-systemic of use signs. "mapping a coherent source onto a conceptually incoherent target is not enough to give the target new conceptual structure" (13). as Mr." for instance. and concomitant practices of associated decoders and encoders. As Lakoff points out. nobody believes that they could have come from Mr.

Halliday reminds us. Martin's case.." as Richard Rhodes and John Lawler contend ("Athematic Metaphors" 3). They also suggest a host of significant relations to the development of a future. Mr." Schön suggests. (If he actually is aware of having learned it at all.. This returns to the consideration of framing as the creation of a "story" about an event (as opposed to an "explanation".. Martin during his tenure at F & S. "Each story construct[s] its view of social reality through a complementary process of naming and framing. While this bonding is arguably dysfunctional in Mr. "and its value may often exceed that of redundancy" (4). while Mrs. metaphor in general offers "the possibility for understanding novel extensions in terms of the conventional correspondences" (210). it is infinite finite play. Or. he relates. this example reveals that "metaphor making" can entail "the restructuring of the perception of. This is not infinite play. by extension. Rhodes and Lawler argue that metonymy actually can strengthen the bonding effect of mutual language use within a given linguistic (or. rather. Barrows can be seen as monologic versus dialogic discourse practices. that is. Barrows subverts the rule-governed behavior that had empowered Mr." they suggest.which. Martin's desire to continue play is based entirely on its finite manifestation. as discussed in Lecture 7). Furthermore. as the discussion in Lecture 5 concludes. As Schön notes. Martin's discourse.. For instance. Barrows prefers those that place all significative exchanges up for grabs. Mr. the "contesting" between Mr.. Mr. Martin's filing department). Thus. 213 . exists only as a means of establishing a victor and ending "open" play as quickly and as effectively as possible through a zero sum of accounting. the competing dynamics in "The Catbird Seat" hold numerous parallels with the play orientations discussed in Lecture 7. while he does want to extend his play. Martin and Mrs. Martin prefers sign fields that respectfully restrict themselves to fairly literal exchanges. Barrows's discourse is open in this orientation. "playful" semiotics. also systemic -. Is she.) Schön provides a concrete example of this. figuratively speaking. then. until one of them thought of approaching the problem through a metonymy: "a paintbrush is a kind of pump" (140). responsive significations. he could no longer "play" at work the way he likes to. as a disruptive finite player? Perhaps. Play Orientations As has been demonstrated already. Mrs. as Lakoff asserts.which enables us to call 'metaphor' what we might otherwise have called 'mistake'" (141)." (37). for metonymy is employed only to engender additional." Accordingly.. Metonymy in the particular can be viewed as "a device to generate local subsetting metaphors from the semantic fields of their referent by exploiting relevant perceptual characteristics. "Things are selected for attention and named in such a way as to fit the frame constructed for the situation.. she threatens the continuation of his work-play. This is revealed as well in Lakoff and Johnson's observation that "metonymies are not random or arbitrary occurrences. Mrs. Martin learned this earlier. But. the point still holds. In this sense. Metonymic concepts are also systematic. does not necessarily mean "systematic". In other words. There also are finite versus infinite play differences between the two characters. metonymic concepts are. If she were to succeed in rearranging the company (and specifically Mr. "An explicit reference to a salient topic is an effective cohesive device. They were stymied. He desribes a test case of researchers involved in product development who faced some unanticipated problems with the performance of a new kind of bristle used in a paintbrush.phenomena. on the other hand. this extension would merely continue a repetition of finite play. to be treated as isolated instances.of whether she may have been an asset to F & S had Mr. semiotic) community.

he assumes his usual mask at the end to conceal his vital engagement with Mrs. efferverscent influence on him. Consider. Mr. Look at how his interaction with her has livened up his life. and intellect (Nietzsche). Mr. Martin in ways that dramatizes the positive impact she could have on him if he were open to transformation. In terms of play devices. Rather than finding a transformative way to extend play." too much danger exists. but it is squelched so quickly and done in such total isolation that it is the least form of pleasure. Barrows is aligned with disorder. Mrs. however. Mr. Martin.) The character oppositions also reinforce this play distinction. His little victory bounce in his step is a pathetic token of just how pathetic. In effect. and intuition (Nietzsche). If it were to move beyond the realm of "sure play. Martin evidently needs to be shown this. then. juridical order. Barrows signifies. cigarettes) only instrumentally as components of play. possibly because it is too vertiginous. Martin finds a way to end the game altogether. and his one chance of receiving this insight resides solely in the threat to his order that Mrs. degeneracy. His "victory". Narrative depiction of these characterizations reinforces these differences. with all of the excitement that goes along with it. Even in his own speech. Like Nietzsche's man of intellect (discussed in Lecture 7). play order. the possible enlivening force of this change. is aligned with dis-order (Eco). Mr. and uneventful life. But this enlivenment is threatening. but does so in a manner that is semiotically far less subversive than the way she uses it. ultimately joylesss endeavor. recognizing that his own are directly conditioned by (but not necessarily limited by) the preceding moves of the other player. His comfortable and highly routinized lifestyle could become disrupted. it is a pathetic. he employs these strategies solely to conclude play. (Note. For instance. The transformative potential of her form of play rubs off on (as opposed to rubbing out) Mr. This would hardly be a desirable condition to maintain. de-generacy (Merrell).Nevertheless. He goes from living a virtually lifeless life to concocting and (figuratively) carrying out a murder. Mr. on the contrary. He could lose his job. regarding his change in step at the end: it is indeed light and quick. Mr. this form of play can be. Martin employs tokens of adulthood (alcoholic drinks. Barrows uses them. indeed. Martin's character is described "neutrally" by the narrator. Thus. the maintenance of established hierarchy. Mr. though. the scrutinization of established hierarchy. In other words. Martin is also drawn into infinite play strategies in response to Mrs. Martin employs markers of formality such as excessive (or high) politeness as a means of concealing his actual feelings (he 214 . Martin can enjoyably engage in this play only as long as he can control its containment. too. if not lost forever. He appropriates her powerful metonymy (itself appropriated several times over earlier on). Barrows and effectively "rub out" its transformative. it seems that Mr. as means for social intercourse (with other intercourse potentials possible) that reinforce the metonymic field of her activity. Barrows and the "team" this establishes is wholly negative and dysfunctional. Mr. Barrows's "moves". Martin out of the comfortable cul-de-sac of his lifestyle is the very one he successfully prevents from doing so. whenever he is utilizing metonymy. Nevertheless. Mrs. in keeping with his finite orientation. that his pleasure is wholly inward: the only person who shares his secret at the end is Mrs. the only catalyst that can drive Mr. Martin leads what would well seem to New Yorker audiences of the early 1940s as decidedly dull. tedious. is exactly like that of finite play.

When she is revealing Mr. Thus. through free indirect discourse. Furthermore. Barrows had temporarily altered the register of their play into an infinite mode. painstaking hand" (9). Martin's visit the evening before at her apartment "and went into her own. Moreover. He had maintained always an outward appearance of polite tolerance. Mrs. Martin's visit to Mrs. no one is able to see his "hand" -.. her system is metonymically linked with disorder." Mr.concludes every one of his exchanges with Mr.emotion. Fitweiler with the respect-tag of "sir"). but she was not braying" (15). shutting the door. This is extended into the realm of play like a "hand" of cards or the player's response to the "hand" he has been dealt and his external suggestions of subsequent play strategies. Martin's silence and smile. Mrs. however. Martin as wholly antithetical and destructive.. Ironically. Like Nietzsche's man of intellect. Martin. Martin. Barrows is reflected in her speech. And. In one respect.e. for instance. note that Mrs. In this way. as she "left the president's office" after telling him about Mr. "It was fortunate. Her feelings are characterized as unchecked flow. his "strength" is conveyed through his refusal to engage in certain "weak" self-displays.. Barrows's system when he recalls her first appearance at F & S: "On that day confusion got its foot in the door" (10-11).) "Hand" additionally represents Mr. Martin's logically "pure" mindset. Barrows's expressions are hardly something so disturbing that they reasonably merit comparisons with other painful experiences one is said to "stand up" under (most typically.' Miss Paird. the narrator suggests that Mrs. it will be recalled. Martin's actions in Mr. since her vertiginous onslaught in the president' s office apparently was met with uncharacteristic negativity. The narrative. for indeed. spews forth in fountain-like sprays. Martin's plan to murder Mrs. finite). Barrows's "system" for dealing with everyday life is eminently metonymic in nature. conveys Mr. Barrows is described in at least neutral terms and is humanized as well. that is. Barrows's character is described from Mr. Martin thinks to himself. Mrs. (This returns to the paradoxical signification of Mr. unless it were caught in the act" (9). closely monitored revelations of -. perhaps Thurber has the narrator employ a metonymy in that final sentence above to demonstrate how her rhetoric is already seeping into Mr. we are told that she is "yelling. on the other hand. torture). Martin's mode of self-presentation which is based solely of contained -. Regarding Mr. Has she been trapped into finite play all of a sudden? It seems so. In every way. Barrows's system immediately initiated a metonymical challenge to the System. But Mrs. Suddenly. Mr. but rather. Mrs. it appears as though the status quo has returned. thought that isn't mediated by reflection. the president apparently has shifted to the form of play he had engaged earlier with Mr. What had become vertiginous play suddenly turns "serious" (i. are not enough to make him lower his emotional barrier. thanks to Mr. Barrows's initial contact with Mr. This "strength" is ironized in several ways.figuratively it isn't "there" as a result of its implausibility. "that he had stood up under [her abrasive personality] so well. Barrows. Barrows's irritating ejaculations.had once said to him. I even believe you like the woman. Martin's perspective. Its refusal to adhere to the monosemous logic aligned with the F & S System comes across to Mr. In other words. Mr. Fitweiler has the same status that is usually 215 . Martin's negative impact on Mrs." This is a shift that is remarkable for its ordinariness. Barrows. Fitweiler's office. the narrator uses a metonymy while describing Mr. Martin's impression of Mrs. the narrator notes: "No one would see his hand. He had simply smiled" (10). 'Why.or at least. provide him with an impoverished smugness and an inability to express his feelings out of necessity for maintaining his relatively cheerless persona. While Mrs. Martin's reputation as someone possessing a "cautious.

Martin realizes? After all. Barrows's metonymical system. the climax of his victory against Mrs. it is not driven by strong goal-orientation in that sense. Martin says through the narrator (10). Or. Barrows's transgressions as a reverse synecdoche. would Mr. (Joey Hart has to explain Mrs. And there is no evidence that he had used them at all prior to that interaction. Martin uses metonymic discourse for finitude: "The term 'rub out' pleased him because it suggested nothing more than the correction of an error -. This is evident once again in the way Mr. Barrows is signalled by his repeating her own saying to her: "I'm sitting in the catbird seat.) Like Derrida (as discussed in Lecture 7). he describes the impact of Mrs. as a result of interacting with Mrs." or Virgil in Dante's Inferno -. In 216 . Barrows serve as a metonymical guide who Mr. Barrows on other members of the company team to suggest that his perspective is by no means the result of subjective aberration. Barrows's metonymies to Mr. By apparent chance she sees an opportunity to make a powerful move and accomplishes her persuasion not by rule-bound logic. but then ends up opting for the poor "victory" characteristic of finite play. Barrows. conversely. the same monosemous register as that of "non-figurative" language. Martin casts Mrs. he employs several metonymies. Martin's silence. Mrs. Barrows is still employing metonymies when denouncing Mr. or not.yet they "listen" to Mr. Or. pathetically mouthing a figurative discourse that co-opts his own imaginative expression? (After all." Mr.) Is this what Mr. In the same way that Mr. also end up in a place far removed from that of its origin. Martin in front of the others in Mr.in this case an error of Mr. then. (But. accordingly. (Consider Walt Whitman's narrator at the end of "Song of Myself. This produces a form of play in which one simply ends up back where one had begun. Perhaps this suggests that undue reliance upon a single discourse form (if that is what she does) is too limiting. but by "a monstrous magic. Barrows's influence on him. Mr. He has "won". Mr. Fitweiler" (9)." Mr. "She had begun chipping at the cornices of the firm's edifice and now she was swinging at the foundation stones with a pickaxe" (11). a mark of his superior empowerment? Mrs.neither guide can take his pupil on the journey toward selfhood without the pupil's own contribution. As a result.) Is this independence. Martin adapts to infinite play. Martin projects his opinion as an objective recounting. Martin become dependent upon Mrs. In effect. it is that very contribution by the pupil that ultimately produces the transformative component of the journey. Fitweiler's office -. is of no consequence in terms of the type of play elicited. but look at what he has lost along the way. and very powerfully so. blatant. In other words. Martin would by necessity become so reliant upon that he would have to consequently abandon his new-found empowerment? In other words. it could suggest that the other employees at F & S are similarly finite players. therefore. Mr. and ignore her. Martin. going "nowhere" ultimately in the process of play. Martin's location of his Self as a member of a specific company is then turned upside down so that it is the destruction of the company which threatens the security of his self.granted to vertigo in play theory. Finite play could. Martin's conformity to her metonymical arena would align himself dependently with another force that would thereby diminish his self-direction. so to speak. can be seen as wholly untransformative. is it? Does Mrs. and that the truly powerful sign user can learn from other users within his semiotic community without becoming derivatively dependent upon a specific individual's sign repertoire. She "stood charged with willful. whether one played in a way that returned to an originary beginning. Indeed. arguably.") Along these lines. his metonymies possess. it may be recalled. this "nowhere" does not necessarily resist infinite play. its goal is only to extend play and produce player transformation. and persistent attempts to destroy the efficiency and system of F & S.

but playing nonetheless. M. As in the case of Thurber's story.s. "When we interpret our problem-setting stories so as to bring their generative metaphors to awareness and reflection. "respectful" systemics that dutifully and seriously yields "information" (explanation versus story)? Or. when he had divulged his previous evening's activities to Mr. to promote a literalistic. Playing actively and infinitely. ever-altering rhizomorphous non-model that may well serve as the most "productive" methodology (an a-methodology?) to embrace. but it easily extends to semiotics." but instead. to the implications that an "open" reading of this nature can offer to semiotics. then our diagnoses and prescriptions cease to appear obvious and we find ourselves involved. in the "discussion" of semiotics? Clearly.this respect. Rabelais and His World. if not impossible.) "Indeed. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press. and endlessly fructive instances of semiosis can be generated from a seemingly impoverished initial "text" of any kind. it may be more transformative. more generative. Schön distinguishes an analytical pursuit based not on "problem-solving stories. 217 . on "problem-setting stories" that help to provide unanticipatable perspectives on sign systems. ed. in turn. References Austin. The glide from facts to recommendations no longer seems graceful or obvious. Is metonymy. 2nd ed. interesting. Barrows is telling. for instance. it provides new nodes in the ever-expanding. Martin's "silence" is an "explanation" (as discussed in Lecture 7) versus the mere "story" that Mrs. perhaps. more infinite to continue on playing instead. Mr. one might consider Schön's emphasis on the benefits of metonymical "stories" that potentially yield spatially progressive decodings that. O. For this is no "mere" play -. progressive. "that we can best discover our frames and the generative metaphors implicit in our frames" (149). it is through storytelling. instead. its metonymical fabrication renders it implausible. finally. To return to metaphor. to the contrary. much more complex. J. No Conclusion This discussion leads. Without resolving narrative dynamics. Fitweiler at his request). 1984). serious.such an orientation itself is aligned with finitude. How to Do Things With Words. this may be a misguided query itself. if one is so inclined. 1975). is this question itself misplaced? For. M." he argues. We become aware of differences as well as of similarities between the new problematic situation and the familiar situation whose description we have projected upon the new. Martin's (as. (150) This is a model that semiotics can readily benefit from. for instance. reveal new facets of semiosis on the whole." he suggests. Bakhtin. in critical inquiry. J. Urmson and Marina Sbisà. (Schön is actually discussing the difficulties in social policy analysis. L. Hélène Iswolsky (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Attention to generative metaphor becomes a tool for critical reflection on our construction of [our] problems. the paradigm best suited for the study of signs and signification? Is it better. it should be added.. Rather. Instead. who is "better" off in "The Catbird Seat"? Or. Although her narrative is much more engaging than Mr. it provides numerous avenues of pursuit for further explorations. Trans.

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