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

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

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

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

he referred to them in other ways as well so that. to the contrary. are limited precisely to the degree that this excision and shaping take place. at least in the popular conception. index. as Thomas Goudge notes. sinsign. Within this dilemma. for example .signification based on difference and relation as opposed to the transparent conveyance of meaning-without-mediation. frequently reworked his models. Although he commonly used these three divisions (qualisign. consider Eco's 8 . icon. something else is always used to signify the thing itself. at the same time. 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. 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). An emphatic example of this is Umberto Eco who. dicisign/dicent. (In one case. Or. symbol. legisign. within this model. 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. which inevitably led to an equally inadequate condition. But. but alluringly systemic order. then.Peirce and Saussure. but then failed to fully explain them. Yet his works are often criticized for their needless. 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. for instance. the notion of semiotic authority is certainly questionable. Peirce. although in radically opposed ways. when reading these texts. Peirce later expanded these divisions into 10 trichotomies that produced 66 sign classes.would hardly provide a substantial basis for a solid depiction of the constituent elements and concerns of "semiotics. Peirce. Furthermore. erroneous or heavy-handed reductions. 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. That is because Saussure essentially said too little about what constitutes "semiotics" and Peirce said too much at times." In part. 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. argument) that produced 10 sign classes. is held to possess a truly sophisticated grasp of semiotics. it is also the result of the fallacy behind the presumption of authority associated with the use of "primary" sources which. and rheme. was very sensitive to potential criticism regarding his penchant for triadic models which arrange arguably fluid and chaotic elements into a possibly inaccurate. are undeniably inadequate. in the case of both Peirce and Saussure. Authority and Primary Sources Even drawing upon the terms derived from what could be called the "primary sources" of modern semiotics . "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). 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.

Additionally. and therefore do not stand as distinctly different categories as much as interdependent gradations. he asserts. Sebeok makes agency a necessary component of semiosis. Peirce's triad of signs based on their relation to the thing they represent . which view it as a process of intellection. etc. or source. . he nonetheless privileges the phenomenological view at the expense of the extra-phenomenological. in so far as it is like that thing and used as a sign of it" (2. often at the expense of a much more dynamic view of semiosis. In the course of their attempts to make vague definitions like this one more precise.) To take one example: the icon. 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. This "surrogate stimuli" (E 194) is seen in a sign based on onomatopoeia that essentially signifies something by imitating. 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. After all. Even though Peirce has noted that they can intertwine in potentially subtle and complex ways. as I have characterized it here. consider the icon in this way: in order to render an icon intelligible. though. While Eco allows for the possibility of negative agency. existent individual. 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. (Eco even presents an extensive "critique of iconism" in E 191-217. or destination" (F 36). or destination.) What these efforts to "clarify" the icon lead to. (This also happens with Saussure's concept of the signifier and the signified. you have to know (through experience. Eco adds that "iconic signs do not possess the 'same' physical properties as do their objects but they rely on the 'same' perceptual 'structure'. such as a popular one by Peirce. Joseph Ransdell. is an Icon of anything. . But.247). just the same. This 9 . 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. This would draw upon the index. these relations are culturally determined so that the symbol component of this function would need to be considered at the same time. index and symbol serves as a convenient illustration of easy and imprecise appropriation in the discussion of semiotics. they nevertheless are frequently used as though they were separate entities. to a sign-receiver. is the aforementioned conceptual myopia that fails to retain the multiplicitous relation that Peirce apparently had in mind." the sign has to be actively originated. whether any such Object actually exists or not . To Sebeok. In order for a decoder to be figured as as "a signreceiver. in this fashion. At one point. identifies the mechanism of the icon as that of conceptual "likeness" (F 248). and which it possesses.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). as opposed to other conceptions. The IG discussion. Anything whatever. tends to reify this presumed autonomy. 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). or law. be it quality. Thus. while Sebeok considers the potentially dual nature of the initiating source of a sign-process (unlike Eco's description above). Charles Morris says it's "any sign which is similar in some respects to what it denotes" (quoted in E 192). and thus reproducing. it. or a string of signs.icon.) that there is some meaningful relation between it and the thing it stands for. transmitted from a sign-producer. the "sign" is something concrete that is "transmitted" to someone.

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. 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.html#top Gates. some agent. for instance. The cloud-rain connection as a "sign" of possible rain would. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co. according to its contours as depicted by the IG. 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. indeed. or destination" serving to designate whoever might encounter the cloud and make a connection that produces an intelligible sign indicating potential rain. (1994). Course de Linguistique Générale. or destination"). you typically have to refine and extrapolate from their conceptual components to accommodate exceptional instances and conceptual flaws overlooked by their originators. or source" and "sign-receiver. 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. emphasis added). S. Peirce. 251-264. A virtually limitless array of components associated with this process can figure into the analysis of semiosis as well. Working With the Lingua Franca In order to make most models of the sign fully workable. Daniel. Thomas. "Division of Ferdinand.Music. "Has Eco Understood Peirce?". Additional References Chandler. or previous interaction between the encoder and the decoder." so it is assumed that somebody. lack both a sender and a message-goal (correlatives of Sebeok's "sign-producer. or intonation.2/3 (1989). (1950). Tejera. Along these lines. "Semiotics for Beginners" web site: http://www. must be doing this constructing and passing (E 8. Ed. (1959). New York: Dover Publications Peirce. The Thought of C. Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss (Cambridge. The same is true for dealing with texts purporting to outline semiotic theory and practice. (1988). trans. ed. Wade Baskin as Course in General Linguistics. Vols. parallels with the interruption of the Tower of Babel construction come to mind regarding this situation. Charles Sanders. Henry Louis. or feedback by the encoder. Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye in collaboration with Albert Riedlinger [1916]. But. I-VI.The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism (New York: Oxford University Press Goudge. MA: Harvard University Press de Saussure. one could argue for the existence of a "natural" phenomenon as a sort of "signproducer. (1931-1935)." Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce.view of the sign presupposes a sign-creator (or encoder) of some kind. The American Journal of Semiotics 6.indiana. 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. Of course. Victorino. or source" in this case and the "sign-receiver. admittedly. 10 ." This would be consistent with DeelyŐs contention that "semiosis is above all an assimilative process" (D 102).

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

"The Semiotics of Post-Semiotics. he argues. serious problems of plausibility. (Stewart's use of "the symbol model" refers to an eclectic assortment of paradigms sharing a common feature configured as a sign. name and named. "Distinguish[ing] . It posits a two-world combination that resists our tangible conception of only one existent world. Stewart attacks the practice of partitioning.) 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). Such a distinction does not "coherently" account for a comprehendable interface between two realms that cannot co-exist simultaneously. . Stewart argues. Again. This practice." The Semiotic Review of Books 7. has spurred a false assumption of primary or foundational segments in language. the one we inhabit consciously. 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 results from the belief in "a fundamental distinction between two realms or worlds. . Consequently. in the case of represented concepts (like negations) that would exist only in the world of representation without 12 ." he asserts." The American Journal of Semiotics 7. 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). 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. between two worlds alters the historical sense of the term world as the single coherent sphere that humans inhabit" (105). 1990. . (For those interested in more extensive critical descriptions of these books. symbol and symbolized. announces its consequent obsolescence. 8-10 .social structures and forces. we can't conceive of such a sphere. Since these worlds donŐt intersect. To the contrary. hamper a productive and accountable analysis of the nature of linguistic communication. These "problems" result from a handful of what Stewart refers to as "theoretical commitments" that. We don't live in the world of conceptual signs. Representationalism similarly extends the independent-unit fallacy. this examination will point to areas that are ripe for explorations to come. 1-2. 145-151. word and thought" (6-7). this position must rely upon the assumption of an unnecessary plane that impedes the intelligibility of a semiotic account of language.) Stop Signs: Stewart John Stewart condemns semiotics for relying upon the symbol model for its basic paradigm. for Stewart. "by . 1996. and their complex interrelationships together constitute the irreducible object of semiotic analysis." However.1. these approaches to semiotics also are vulnerable to critiques similar to the ones they offer themselves. and applicability" (xii). identifying the presumptions behind these two studies will hardly negate whatever value they offer to future semiotic discussions. and an ontological impasse results."Reading the Social Text.and Hodge and Kress . the world of the sign and the signifier. "semiotic accounts of the nature of language are crippled. The other commitments Stewart aligns with semiotics extend from this initial assertion. and asserts that the only possible hope hinges on a "post-" manifestation of semiotics. please consult my reviews of Stewart . this position holds. he insists. January. The particular shortcoming of this commitment arises. though. coherence. . The commitment that most significantly hinders semiotic analysis for Stewart is the two-world "problem. and as a result.

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

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

such features are. as opposed to the real-time blur of languaging that usually occurs during human semiotic interaction. Actually." Stewart declares. Many complaints have been raised regarding the neglect of human subjectivity that seems to result from systemic analyses. In this sense. These things essentially cannot exist for us in a "real" way." "No grammatical analysis of a poem.even though they appear to function as part of the microstructure of the text's signifying system on different linguistic planes. he says." he concludes." Stewart says. 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). But. as opposed to the intangibly conceptual. Moreover. language use appears based on a predominantly unconscious internalization of these rules and paradigms. and changing) ways of understanding rather than reproductive of cognitive states. This occurs to such an extent that humans seldom consider speaking as using language from the instrumental perspective Stewart decries. "conversely. things. "Speech communicating is a principal not a surrogational dynamic.well. he suggests. However. "Humans cannot live in the subject-object relationship with language that the tool analogy requires. should be considered as "constitutive or productive of (necessarily partial. Thus a microscopic study of linguistic features of a poem's system can detect effects that are essentially beyond human detection. It analyzes language usage in slow-time. from his perspective. or other units of language" (125). 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. "by engaging both proactively and responsibly in the play of language events" (119). in a significant way." He adds that "there may be no way for structural linguistics to distinguish between these unmarked structures and those that are literarily active. one that is rule-bound (to whatever extent of formal regimentation of these rules)." And. In "Describing Poetic Structures: Two Approaches to Baudelaire's 'Les Chats'" (1966). tentative. 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). "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.implicitly conceptual in nature. in his view. "can give us more than the grammar of the poem" (36). this interaction is . One of the obvious benefits of Stewart's assertion here is that he shifts semiotics (or a postsemiotics) toward a felt enterprise. should always remain in the realm of the tangible. Riffaterre eschews linguistic elements that are. it is undeniable that any such social interaction ultimately takes place as a form of system." he suggests. 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. Language. 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. not there . Stewart's proposal also endeavors to focus on language study as an undertaking that. palpably experience abstract things (like negations). again. a lot can be said for Stewart's position here. 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. 15 . or detect segmentation when speaking in a string of unpremeditated units. this can be taken much too far beyond the realm of human draw upon models of the sign like those generated from disparate commentary by Peirce and Saussure . Similarly. Denying these aspects of language usage will not make semiotics go away. "Humans participate in the constituting of the coherent spheres we inhabit. Humans cannot prove the existence of these states.

"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

as a private act it would cause no ripple. 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. An individual could deface this advertisement in exactly the same way in a magazine.) Furthermore. (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. The group also changed the ad's slogan from "New. BUGAUP painted a grave headstone on the western landscape. as communicators of subversive meanings presented publicly. they contend that power can be wielded by both the encoder and the decoder in any given instance of semiosis. the solidity of their approach to social semiotics yields a consistent and homogeneous view of semiosis within a given cultural site." they suggest. Hodge and Kress maintain. Mild. they frame this notion of the social in another way beyond Stewart's presumption of a "natural" order. The Expense of Ideology Clearly. in which one reading of the original text is reclaimed and incorporated into the text itself. which had significantly changed it. 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)." they argue. (11) The motives underlying Hodge and Kress's readings of social semiotics are amply demonstrated by this example. a sunset and a dollar sign. acquiescent reader in a passive role in the act of communication. 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 BUGAUP alteration of the billboard substantially shifts the power wielded by an institutionalized "ideological complex" to control public dissemination of images about its products. exercised or resisted." they argue. "However. "The BUGAUP additions constitute a specifically dialogic text. And a bore. the BUGAUP reading attacks the [logonomic] system in a radical fashion. Throughout Social Semiotics to varying degrees. By "defacing" a billboard the BUGAUP readers/authors are inserting themselves into a forbidden semiotic role. (While. and places readers in a particular position. even after this interaction the flow of discourses will still continue. Following this fairly conventional approach to a text of this nature. 20 . 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. While the original advertisement "positions the pliable. situating the new text in relation to other agents of discourse and their interests" (12)." to "New. they reconsider the entire text following its alteration by an urban guerilla group. in a public space. "Society is typically constituted by structures and relations of power. a thick cloud of smoke rising from the cigarette. Billboard Using Graffitists Against Unhealthy Promotions. admittedly.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. Vile. And Marlboro. this seamlessness comes at the expense of a heterogeneous consideration of other facets that affect and constitute semiosis.

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

they still offer illuminating models for a progressive semiotic discussion based on the very inclinations that John Stewart claims semiotics cannot fruitfully accommodate. While their readings often mire in ideologically based reductions." they observe." 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). The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. and universal for users of the code. by substantially framing this review of basic principles as selective and subject-positioned. their form and substance. under the general editorship of James Strachey in 22 . Annette Lavers. Hodge and Kress provide one of the most flexible and fluid accounts of something akin to a "critical semiotics. though. their origins and destinations. (1) Hodge and Kress also allow themselves to fall into the easy assumption of the "basics" of semiotics. A Grammar of Motives. References Barthes. they agree. Trans. Social semiotics cannot assume that texts produce exactly the meanings and ef. 1972. "We want to contest one particular version of history which underpins a specific and limiting conception of what semiotics was and is. (12) This assertion carries a lot of rhetorical suasiveness until its presumption about a totalized "semiotics" is challenged.more. Kenneth. all of the factors which provide their motivation. Sigmund. How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic. 1975). Still. For it certainly in no way accurately depicts a consensus (if it could be said that there were one) among the discussants of semiotics. would be an "oversimplification" [13]). For example. 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 propose a concept such as "mainstream semiotics" not to posit a concrete discipline or science (which. and should be and do. Ariel and Armand Mattelart. to return to a point raised in Lecture One. at the expense of functions and social uses of semiotic systems. Burke. to be extracted and decoded by the analyst by reference to a coding system that is impersonal and neutral. in a foundational chapter titled "The Founding Fathers Revisited. New York: Hill and Wang. It stresses system and product. which (as mentioned earlier) is a convenience that carries with it considerable imprecision. Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. as when they argue that Traditional semiotics likes to assume that the relevant meanings are frozen and fixed in the text itself. they do give in to the admittedly alluring temptation of convenient generalizations that so often hobble semiotic discussions. Trans. David Kunzle (New York International General.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. Dorman. 1969. Freud. and their effects in the production of meaning. Berkeley: University of California Press. Mythologies. the complex interrelations of semiotic systems in social practice. Likewise: "Mainstream semiotics" emphasizes structures and codes. they do so as a means of constructing a temporary ground for their own discussion. "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). Instead. Roland. At times. Ultimately. they do present their conception as much more subjective than others in the semiotics discussion who propose the existence of a "basic" conceptual ensemble. Trans." despite some potential problems.

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

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

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

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

he contends. according to these models. certain clouds=likelihood of rain). "The codes are. who hears a soliloquy? Who is its decoder? The encoder! In the first example. or whatever conceptual framework we are using). 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. But. etc. The sign user. Moreover. For. Or. "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. While drawing upon Peirce's commentary on abduction." Halliday asserts. the number of available pieces to select from.. a new rule was proposed which governed a rarer application of the previous rule" (Theory. too).. are vulnerable to changes imposed on them by sign users. presumes that it was encoded. 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. If this is so. A. following Ruqaiya Hasan. within these models. producing a signified of one's own making. tenor and mode. "on the basis of a pre-established rule. And vice versa. An alternative view toward these code theories can be situated in the standpoint of governanceas-options decoding strategies. or symbolic orders of meaning generated by the social system" (111). functions as a liaison between an encoder and a decoder. (67) Still. 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. also noting Bernstein's work. 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. Codes. Jakobson maintains." 98). the opposite takes place: the decoder becomes a retroactive encoder of a sign. "Codes are not varieties of language. A common-ground viewpoint obviously meets a serious challenge with this contention. the encoder is not actually needed in order for semiosis to take place as long as something has a decipherable order or relation (e. After all. for instance. the piece-moving choices. "one concrete text can submit on various levels to different codes" (25). This would even apply to encoder-less signs (e. Instead. as Lotman argues.g.). the models cited above evidently presume a monosemous "message". 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. Halliday argues that codes act as determinants of register. that "in the combination of distinctive features" into signifying units. they are types of social semiotic.The code. as dialects and registers are.g. "'uncoded' means 'not (yet) fully incorporated into the system'" (180). then no single "message" can necessarily correspond exclusively to the signified of a given sign. so to speak. are "principles of semiotic organization governing the choice of meanings by the speaker and their interpretation by the hearer" (67). a sign user presented with an initially incomprehensible sign system may sense "the feeling of 27 . like a chess player. Halliday. like signs in general." Eco suggests. Another consideration regarding the mutability of the code is related to Eco's contention that codes.) Eco proposes "overcoding" as a "circumstantial selection" in which. (Not unlike Thibault's commentary on "particular coding orientations" [182]. this process is regulated by the codes. portrays codes as something akin to syntagmatic choices. To decode something. in this sense. "natural" signs). Eco outlines two "different hypothetical movements" related to this phenomenon. and so on. Accordingly. "A semiotic theory must not deny that there are concrete acts of interpretation which produce senses that the code could not foresee. K. 133). M. "otherwise the principle of the flexibility and creativity of language would not hold" (Theory. 133).

"Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narratives" (1966) and S/Z (1970). S/Z is indeed a "farewell" along these lines. Barthes recounts his chronological reading of "Sarrasine. "The Struggle with the Angel. he had announced that he was pursuing the development of "another semiotics. who becomes infatuated with a gorgeous singer. 28 . is a frame narrative set in mid-eighteenth-century Italy. but that fails to satisfy his desire for her. "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). Ernest-Jean Sarrasine. a vaguely theorized analysis substantially lacking in a unified.) S/Z: "Another Semiotics" In an interview. one could engage in "a sort of imprecise coding. little more than a lively." Barthes remarks. I radically abandoned so-called critical discourse to enter a discourse of reading. he cites Halliday's concept of "situation" as. Barthes simply extends this viewpoint in S/Z. 48-150. Instead. In this case. published in 1830. Fredric Jameson elaborates on this argument: "S/Z is." 73). with the first instance oriented more toward a "scientific" methodology. however. a writing-reading. "doesn't trifle" with competitors. Even though S/Z is well known. it may be useful to quickly review its design. "which it has already postulated-if not explored-under the name of situation. A close examination reveals. he attempts to "copy" her in his next statue. intensely subjective reading of one person's reading of a novella is offered in the course of the text. As his desire increases. he is warned to withdraw his interest in La Zambinella and informed that she is under the protection of Cardinal Cicognara who." "What is given here. but merely a 'way of proceeding'" (127)." When "it seems difficult to establish whether one is over or undercoding." one is in the position that Eco labels "extra-coding" (136). referring to "the associated nonlinguistic factors" (127). while visiting Italy." he observed ("On S/Z. indeterminate and fluid text in the process. "In a word.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". 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). What he does there is similar to his commentary on his analysis in the 1971 essay. In his "Structural Analysis" essay. focused thesis. Between Barthes' haphazardly applied codes and the threadbare theoretical support for them.. producing an increasingly polyvalent. that the seeds for the latter were in fact sown in the former. The interior.. In both cases. (For a much more detailed account see Eco's chapter on "Theory of Codes" in Theory. moreover. embedded frame of the narrative focuses on a French sculptor. At the same time. Barthes remarked that he believed a significant shift had taken place in his semiotic approach between his influential essay. 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.organization that permits one to speak of a significant whole" (135)." As an example of this province. Furthermore. Barthes' method entails a section-by-section analysis of all of "Sarrasine" with the entire novella included in an appendix. The text itself is derived from Barthes' discussions in a seminar at the École pratique des Hautes Études in 19681969. a tentative hypothetical 'gesture' subsuming one or more large-scale portions of text under a given heading. Balzac's text." he notes." a novella by Honoré Balzac. he felt had had engaged in different forms of semiotics." "Linguistics knows this kind of frontier. La Zambinella. in the case of a sentence. This is what Barthes develops in S/Z.

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

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

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

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

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

Even the absence of motivation does not embarrass myth. Without the code. Jameson collapses these two distinctions in his ultimate chastisement of the Barthes of S/Z... yet he upbraids him for failing to shape these investigations into a cohesive. deprived of any previous meaning. Like the function of a deity in certain theologies (the encoder of the Great Code?). It's as though the code is a prerequisite condition for comprehensibility. without question. Barthes illustrates the extent to which a culture.. will go to find one. the code has to be accepted a priori in order for it to be used effectively.. there can be no way of intelligibly framing a sign. a code represents a sort of bridge between texts" (239. Silverman. in part. that "the task of the semiotician. not merely a contention. for this absence will itself be sufficiently objectified to 34 . "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 concepts that supposedly ground it: "As Barthes explains in S/Z. has to beg the question regarding the code's very existence." (S/Z. and that myth is impossible. coherent web of knowledge. by necessity. it would seem that here. from her perspective. Barthes' contention here may well be. "In S/Z the codes were hardly more than suggested avenues of association that." Elizabeth Bruss to penetrate the alibi and identify the signs" that constitute it ("Tourism." 155). the form could not root its analogy in anything. desperately in need of an ordering principle. 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. 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. emphasis added). He applauds Barthes for investigating the presumably coded nature of (in this case) narratives. make the absurd itself a myth. But what the form can always give one to read is disorder itself: it can give a signification to the absurd. proposal. In many respects.society and the mass culture which has issued from it: each demands signs which do not seem to be signs. might help to keep the signifier in play. "semiotics" exists because it establishes presumptions like "codes" as constitutive elements. as Culler suggests. 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. by their multiplicity and contention. 73). Any substantial questioning of the code effectively dismantles it as an analytical tool.. The intertextuality that Silverman employs to defend this assertion never examines the initial premise of the code: what Barthes offers. both sides of this desire are undermined by Jameson's own belief in the code. However. as suggested by Barthes' assertion: "Without the-always anterior-Book and Code.. In response to the firmly entrenched status of the myth. is a revelation. Countenancing the Code Code theory. no desire. 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. (18) Strangely enough. or designation. for example.

155). Bruss. a skeptical strain also runs through much of the S/Z discussion in the form of citational restraint.. "Five is not a magic number. Philip Thody is one of the few observers to comment on this as a strategy itself. 120." etc. who comments that Barthes "makes great play with the five codes into which he claims that the statements in 'Sarrasine' can be classified" (115). 150. the absence of motivation will become a second-order motivation. Admittedly. 420.. Some examples: Champagne illustrates this well by asserting that Barthes "discovers five codes" (96). and myth will be re-established. While he employed playful neologisms in the earlier Mythologies ("basquity." 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. "There is something too arbitrary. "A number of criticisms can be made of this selection of codes. 115. as though he is unwilling to naturalize the use of a concept in his own discourse. Culler: Barthes "identifies the codes on which [the lexias] rely" (Barthes. or reveals "the codes" (75) in "Sarrasine.) Jameson (35) and Barbara Johnson (6) take this another step by referring to Barthes' "so-called" codes.). Thody charges him with being stingy: "to provide only five codes for an infinitely meaningful text is a shade miserly" (116). the linguist John [Háj] Ross. 25 do the same thing. and to a far lesser extent." (Seymour Chatman. possibly even crippling. Scholes additionally attacks the reification of the codes that grants them an almost essentialistic or totemic status." "governmentality. Surely Barthes picked this group of codes to keep S/Z from being even more diffuse than it turned out to be. and Jameson. Calinescu effectively draws attention to this by commenting that "Barthes proposes five codes" (211. As Frank argues. Nevertheless. (Unlike. too personal." "Sininess. The more emphatic manifestation of this uneasiness is demonstrated by Frank's quote in the previous paragraph: he places the "code" in quotes. 154)." Scholes declares. Bruss: "By revealing the codes at work in Balzac's 'Sarrasine'. And Eve Tavor Bannet: Barthes "demonstrate[s]" that the "lexes are coded in terms of five codes" (59). in many respects. as when he observes that Barthes "gives them [the five codes] impressive neo-classical names in abbreviated form" (115).become legible: and finally. it appears that Barthes attempted to establish a semblance of "scientific" analysis by virtue of the apparent gravity behind his designation of. Moriarty. Barthes himself may have collaborated with the discussion of semiotics by going along with its "alibi" of the code. as does Thody. But his one attempt at creating focus ultimately only succeeds in severely limiting. 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. say. who identifies negating expressions such as-"He doesn't know squat about soccer!"-as "squatitives. emphasis added). Barthes' designation of specifically five codes also has elicited negative feedback. or at least sufficiently theorized." (432). Along these lines. aspects of S/Z. "The control to which Barthes submits consists in his observing each lexia by the standard of a set of 'codes'" (156)." he argues (156)." "bouvard-and-pécuchet-ity. 35 . 84). and too idiosyncratic about this method" (Structuralism. his theorizing and subsequent use of the codes. Barthes' wild employment of the codes effectively eliminates any of the "scientific". his code applications.") In this respect. Structuralism. Even the terms that Barthes devises for his five codes appear rooted in the desire to validate their existence. Scholes." Scholes declares that Barthes "recognizes five master codes in the text" (Structuralism. to be a dupe to the "alibi. ("Myth.

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

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 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

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

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Semiotics and Interpretation (New Haven: Yale University Press. 1980): 3-12. NJ: Humanities Press. Jean-François. Scholes. 43 ." The Critical Difference: Essays in the Contemporary Rhetoric of Reading (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. Trans. Jameson. Lotman. The Structure of the Artistic Text. 1982). 1988):17-76. Social Meaning Making. Philip. --. Trans. "The Critical Difference: Barthes/Balzac. Iain Hamilton Grant (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 95-120.000 Years into the Future. Sebeok. Fredric. Social Semiotics as Praxis: Text. 448-466. Michael. Lyotard." The Ideologies of Theory: Essays 1971-1986. The Subject of Semiotics (New York: Oxford University Press. Roland Barthes (Stanford: Stanford University Press. Libidinal Economy. 1977). Kaja. 1991). 1993).Structuralism in Literature (New Haven: Yale University Press."Two Aspects of Language and Two Types of Aphasic Disturbances. Thomas." Language in Literature. Vol. Moriarty. 1991). and Nabokov's "Ada" (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Johnson. Barbara. 1: Situations of Theory (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Robert. Jurij. Paul. 1977).--. 1983). Silverman. Thody. Thibault. 1974). Gail Lenhoff and Ronald Vroon (Ann Arbor: Michigan Slavic Contributions. Roland Barthes: A Conservative Estimate (Atlantic Highlands." On Signs. "The Ideology of the Text. "Pandora's Box: How and Why to Communicate 10.

is to call for the contained behavior of the "possible" or "Model Reader." (An indication of Eco's continued prominence among the IG is the recent appearance of the substantial Reading Eco: An Anthology." Umberto Eco."Peirce and the Semiotic Foundations of Openness: Signs as Texts and Texts as Signs" (1976) L . and to a far lesser extent (at least for Eco)."Introduction: The Role of the Reader" (1979) P ."On the Possibility of Generating Aesthetic Messages in an Edenic Language" (1971) M . Assigned Reading: Umberto Eco."Lector in Fabula: Pragmatic Strategy in a Metanarrative Text" (1977) The Threat of the Decoder Like the "code". For Eco. 1979). the "decoder" has garnered considerable attention in the discussion of semiotics. 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. I will explore only one extensive illustration of commentary on the decoder here. The Role of the Reader: Explorations in the Semiotics of Texts (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. but he does so in a way that highlights a common view as well."The Poetics of the Open Work" (1959) S . 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 encoder.Lecture Four: The "problem" of controlling the decoder. which features essays by Eco and critical essays on his 44 ."Narrative Structures in Fleming" (1965) F ."The Myth of Superman" (1962) I . To focus this examination. like many other semioticians."The Semantics of Metaphor" (1971) G . The only way to quell this challenge to the authority of the text. the decoder seriously threatens a systemic comprehension of semiosis."Rhetoric and Ideology in Sue's Les Mystères de Paris" (1965) N . although in a fashion that also unfortunately mirrors the shortcomings of code theory. A Theory of Semiotics Key for Chapter References in Assigned Reading: R .

Furthermore. a set of felicity conditions and the personified 'competent' judge of interpretations. and in the absence of a real addressee. Lubomir Dolezel is similarly representative of those who fear that decoders will run amuck if given a sign entirely under their own jurisdiction. differs in its semiological nature from the class of generic readers. As a means of curtailing the actual decoder's behavior." 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. In the end. if the reader coproducts the literary work's meaning. Eco establishes the Model Reader as voluntary acceptance of guidance. "no criteria of interpretation. it is difficult to speak precisely about Eco's reader for. while the Model Reader "recurs again and again in Eco's writings. it remains indefinite" (413). the text's device. But Eco cannot quite decide what to do with this superfluous entity. However. While accounting for the presuppositions aligned with semiosis. as Susan Petrilli notes. is a radical relativization of the literary work's meaning and of the procedures of interpretation. now a Model Author. 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. it is absolutely necessary to receive "the interpretive cooperation of the addressee" (vii)." Corti raises an important distinction neglected by Eco when she distinguishes between the Model Reader as a function of the actual reader. "One of the potential dangers that the introduction of the reader (and any other pragmatic concept into literary theory) brings.. perhaps this distinction should remain. internal to the text. (The silent auditor character commonly used in dramatic monologues would be an apt illustration of this positioning of a decoder situated "inside" the text. "Utterance. This latter pole is approximately consistent with Eco's conception." Dolezel contends (114). as opposed to the "internal addressee" of the text whose "relation is internal to the text" (34). "it fluctuates between being the author's construct. For semiosis to take place in an orderly and systemically regulated fashion. 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). V.fiction and writings about semiotics. Eco. Volosinov suggests that the existence of any sign activity necessarily dictates the contribution of the decoder. no distinction between interpretation and misinterpretation can be postulated.) Michael Riffaterre identifies the two extremes of positioning the decoder that are common in both semiotics and reader-response theory. Yet. 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.. an addressee is presupposed in the 45 . 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). One position emphasizes the ceaseless play of "unlimited semiosis" which would evidently challenge the static function of a Model Reader. 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).) Corti notes further that "this class of addressees.. treats the Model Reader with some irony. Eco opines." Once the decoder has been sanctioned to freely interact with the sign.. then there is no limit to the coproductions. "Indeed. she remarks. N. is constructed between two socially organized persons. the internal addressee is known on the basis of a precise relation created or hypothesized by the sender.." But Eco collapses this distinction by importing the actual reader into the text as one of its structurally determined components.

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

a decidedly mediated form of freedom indeed. "is bound to enter into an interplay of stimulus and response which depends on his unique capacity for sensitive reception of the piece. The decoder's behavior is further circumscribed as an "interplay" which is limited to an exclusively "sensitive reception" of the work. As he reacts to the play of stimuli and his own response to their patterning." he adds. he begs the question of the possibility of such control to begin with. within this scenario. Given this arguably meager allowance. Eco configures this "openness" in a decidedly peculiar fashion. 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). "Literature". overseeing and invisibly directing the decoder's respectful. The clear implication is that the encoder can actually wield substantial enforcement over the decoder's interaction with the message. 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). In fact. 47 .) While Eco constantly restates "openness" as a reduction of encoder/text control. Note. authorizes this openness (the "addressee can refashion the original").. and prejudices." (Good examples of related commentary on reader competence can be found in Culler and Fish. "the way the author of the work had devised various visual devices to oblige the observer's attention to converge on. 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. a set of tastes. a defined culture. The encoder. in Eco's view. 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..Significantly. the individual addressee is bound to supply his own existential credentials." Look at the way Eco phrases these descriptions. "That is. 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)." he continues. "'The Infinite Game''"). The decoder is allowed only the freedom sanctioned by the encoder/text . For instance. almost immediately in the discussion. in an unfortunate choice of words. 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. the "addressee" is correspondingly "bound" to participate only along these closely prescribed lines of decoding. through the agency of the encoder and a host of protective buttresses that could be accurately grouped under the rubric of "competence". These give it a wealth of different resonances and echoes without impairing its original essence. not to "impair" the message's "original essence. called the "female-reader" (see Lecture Three and Simpkins. As the source of a message's closure. again. Thus his comprehension of the original artifact is always modified by his particular and individual perspective. personal inclinations. 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. The decoder is "bound" once more. that here Eco privileges the authority of the encoder to control a "valid" act of semiosis. appreciative practices. The work. For example. "The addressee. 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. but it would still impose it to a far lesser (but still not entirely free) extent. the sense conditioning which is peculiarily his own.

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

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

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

to the extent to which this is possible for human sciences. at the very least. 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. In "Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language." Eco presents a similar rendition of this contention by asserting that When it is well-constructed." "close to. Overcoding. the analyst has to accept that what is being "reveal[ed]" are "structures that exist within the work. The extra-precise establishment of a code functions directly as a means to substantially diminish the impact of the decoder on semiosis." these naively essentialistic claims do little to establish a compelling argument about encoder/text autonomy. Riddled by questionable assertions like "objectivity. both proposals by Eco and Longoni are vulnerable due to numerous assumptions that are. "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)." "scientific status. legitimately go? What is the legitimacy of interpretation?" (211). the commerical situation under which the novel was written and published. the text is viewed solely as a systemic construct. who interacts with the text. 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. or close to it . and the system of narratology. Eco imagines Sue asking himself: "What sort of problems must I solve in order to 51 . "The mark of legitimacy" can be established through context. The impact of the decoder is nowhere to be seen here."Rhetoric and Ideology in Sue's Les Mystères de Paris" and "Narrative Structures in Fleming" . though.continue to flesh out the consistent stance that Eco assumes regarding the activity of the decoder. 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. To produce a decoding based on a verifiable evidentiary concluson. in this sense." Ultimately." "legitimate. this process will ground itself upon an analysis of what are then viewed as confirmable "objective constraints on the interpretation of a text" (214). Eco implies. at least in a statistical sense. a specific semiotics attains a scientific status. "a hypothesis. (3) Obviously. It's only affective concern is that the encoder's "intention" is conveyed most successfully. Longoni adds. Longoni expresses this sentiment when she asks: "How far can the interpretation of the reader." A drive of this nature is evidently fueled by a desire for authentification (or possession of the capacity to be authenticatible). she concludes." "normal circumstances. to engage in an analysis which reveals how a text is "ideologically overcoded." the notion of textual control has to be accepted (I 126). must be built upon clear proofs given to the reader" (213)." This process. in order to become a legitimate interpretation. essentially presupposes an even greater extent of decoding enforcement by positing a high-level form of "conventional" code work." "well-constructed." and "clear proofs. under normal circumstances. she suggests. For this undertaking to presume the empirical claim of objectivity. extremely shaky from an epistemological standpoint. Consequently. frequently also are prescriptive and to some extent they can be predictive. These grammars are descriptive. Undeniably. additionally. will generate or interpret messages produced according to that system's rules. in so far as they are supposedly to successfully predict how a user of a given sign system.Decoder Incontinence The two chapters from the mid-1960s .

gripping his attention and torturing his sensibilities. 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. the decoder options eventually constrict and "the algebra [of their selection] has to follow a prearranged pattern" (155). This planning extends throughout Eco's discussion. and so on. 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. given the rules of combination of oppositional couples. Eco contends that Fleming's novels are "built on a series of oppositions which allow a limited number of permutations and interactions" (N 147). resolution. He concludes that "the novel. 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. Essentially. when Sue first published the novel in serial form he engaged in strategies for prolonging narrative "life" by way of continuous extension. Eco proposes assessing the limitations imposed on the decoder by "evaluating for each structural element the probable incidence upon the reader's sensitivity. The plot must be so arranged.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). "A dialectic is established between market demands. "aberrant" decoding behavior. and the plot's structure is so important that at a certain point even fundamental laws of plot construction." Sue is able to maintain a reader's interest in the story without giving in to the threat of its eventual conclusion. further resolution. Through "tension. therefore. 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). an addressee. surprises" (132)." he argues. "New episodes are invented one after another.. that is. Bond-Villain. so as to present climaxes of disclosure." he declares. is fixed as a sequence of 'moves' 52 . Eco avers (I 132). Acceptance of this assumption evidently is designed to reinforce the belief that signs operate according to eminently describable/prescribable pathways. because the public claims that it cannot bear to say good-bye to its characters. the novels as a whole operate as "a machine that functions basically on a set of precise units governed by rigorous combinational rules. mass-culture drives. Eco posits the control of the resulting decoder's interpretant in the hands of the encoder. as a result. From this angle. Eco views this as a market constraint prompting an encoder to continuously present new message variations. he assesses the perimeters of the Bond novels as constituting a "narrative machine" (146). Yet it in no way serves to explicate the much broader phenomenon of general semiosis as a whole. Subsequently.. as when he proposes: "The element of reality. which might have been thought inviolate for any commercial novel. are trangressed" (133). renewed tension.). "Toward the end of the book. and the element of fantasy. maybe Eco's proposal is a way to resolve such a conflict." 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. This is a surprisingly plausible account from a political angle critical of consumeristic. The Role of the Reader . despite ever-increasing implausibility. must strike the reader at each step. The decoder. 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." Even though Eco posits 14 "dichotomies [that] constitute invariant features around which minor couples rotate as free variants" (such as Bond-M. is merely a respondent.. Here. he returns again to the argument that these pairings substantially limit the decoder's interpretive operation (147). etc.. Eco imagines a model of semiosis that the encoder always controls via the message. As with the Superman myth.

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

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

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

he argues. This notion is extended in Eco's final entry in the early group of chapters. however.. he concludes. comprehensible because the entire book. such a conceptualization will allow him to "construct an automaton capable of generating and understanding metaphors. For instance: "sang plus sans plus glorians plus riant makes 'Sanglorians'. As the above illustration and Lecture Three suggest. An organized." To illustrate this phenomenon. Eco declares. read in different directions. And a "scientific" semiotics is under way. based on metonymic chains based in turn on identifiable semantic structures" (69). because it is limited to a solely combinative operation. though. What this means.) He adds that." Ultimately. the "code" can be effectively conceptualized as a means of control imposition. "We should be able to show that each metaphor produced in FW is. all linguistic systems would serve to enunciate exclusively that which has already been determined by the system's conventions. operates primarily as a quasi-etymological apparatus for tracing "the origin of the metaphoric 'vehicle'" (S 71) after discerning its "key" (72). adaptive codes in response to developing semiotic circumstances that Eco identifies as the presumably enabling agent for the decoder. Significantly. (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. whether partial or (in theory) global" (68). (He uses sample portmanteau words from Finnegans Wake as examples that can be explained logically along these lines. "On the contrary. is that a structured decoder can then be integrated into the structured models of the encoder/text. The controlling agent behind this activity nevertheless (in Eco's conception) continues to exert a systemic hold on the decoder's behavior. actually furnishes the metonymic chains that justify it. 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. "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. then. Eco's machine.") This procedure can be extended to the entire text. nonetheless allows us to assign new semiotic marks to them" (S 67) through a "rule-governed creativity" (68). in referring to predictable cultural entities. 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. he suggests. predictable. through "rule-changing creativity." 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. What this connective association will produce. This is an illusory generation of free intervention by the decoder. 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). "If a code allowed us only to generate semiotic judgments. This assumption. stable decoder is the result. Eco cites the development of new tropes. will "bring the problem of creativity back to a description of language which depends upon a model susceptible to translation in binary terms. For." "factual judgments can be integrated into the code in such a way as to create new possibilities for semiotic judgment.. "The code. As an illustration. 56 . But. he argues. is an "explanation of the creativity of language (presupposed by the existence of metaphors). he casts this discussion as though the decoder could actually possess the capacity to exert considerable control over the message during semiosis." he begins." But. unfortunately.created and ruled by the God of the encoder who wields "the rigid generative law of the code" (101). in the last analysis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

indeed. though. original. And accepted first. underestimating the fact that the open-ended reading I supported was an activity elicited by (and aimed at interpreting) a work. 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. and like his address to the Model Reader in the opening of Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language. "bound" within such a relationship. Eco contends. Something that initiates in some way a semiosic response. way. "the interpreter" is not "entitled to say that the message can mean everything" (5) but instead is limited to its "definite. 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). Eco has progressed beyond this position in later works by reconsidering the need for limitations imposed on the decoder. This is not much of a compromise. In this example. an accompanying assumption of restrainable "decodification" (Elam) has to be accepted. the acceptance of that constraint" (6). But he had already expressed his yearning for decoder containment in that early work. he continues. "the object. Approximately 20 years later. on the first page of Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language. Eco establishes his position on decoder regimentation at the beginning through an anecdote from a text by John Wilkins.. In other words. 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. As these entities relate to each other. that "any interpretation can be both implemented and legitimated . Mercury. I was studying the dialectics between the 64 . isn't worth bringing up either.' because even the most definitive exterior always encloses an infinity of possible 'readings'" (Open 24).. he endeavors to control the reception of that earlier work: When those pages were written. This stable ground is constituted as "a recorded thesaurus of encyclopedic competence" (Semiotics 3). but "support" is not at issue. as when he argued that "openness manifests itself structurally" and a "cognitive relationship. Half-a-dozen years later: The Limits of Interpretation. not before. that "any act of freedom on the part of the reader can come after. he had "advocated the active role of the interpreter in the reading of texts endowed with aesthetic value" (6). according to the intention of its author. consisting of stimuli organized according to a precise aesthetic intention. generates and directs various kinds of openness" (39). maybe. 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. Evidently. or." and that of those "who assume that a text supports every interpretation" (3). Faced with how to account for the difference between the message and the number of figs. he proposes a compromise model of semiotic orientation between the view that "every text. Nobody would argue that in the latter example. The Secret and Swift Messenger (1641)..really 'closed. and only one.. though. can be interpreted in one. He asserts his authority as the encoder involved. The title says it all. Intention. He allows. The decoder is. Eco can only make this claim because he's referring to the decoder's activities in a markedly restricted "open" manner. what Eco is doing is returning over and over to the notion that if the decoder is going to be analyzed systemically. final authorized meaning" (3). Presumably. There. 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).even in the the case of the most 'open' instances" (3). my readers focused mainly on the "open" side of the whole business. In The Limits. the wholly open text serves as a form of "support". again. Eco addresses the Model Reader of his own study. Such a "social storage of world knowledge" is the "only" way. binds" the decoder and the text (24).

Returning to the opening example of the slave and the figs. but if they are to speak to the work and the experience it informs. He implores decoders to respect the encoder/text by not attempting to make more of a message than it condones. This tension surfaces throughout Eco's writings on the decoder. 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). As a means of reducing. In the present essays I stress the limits of the act of interpretation. or mere recognition of the interpreted sign. he concludes. in part." Interpretation and Overinterpretation? More than thirty years after "The Poetics of the Open Work" Eco continues to declare that his current work is. epicurean version of the more hedonistic pleasure of the text. of semioticity." Dolezel notes. and consequently the work of the interpretant sign is not limited to the very basic operations of identification. Accordingly. as the many illustrations cited here attest. in the course of the last few decades.. mechanical substitution." Eco maneuvers to characterize the adherence to this restriction as a refined." "we have to respect the text. signs at high levels of signness. 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. this tension. the text restricts the range of its possible interpretations" (115)." It even "can foresee a model reader entitled to try infinite conjectures" (64). The Aesthetics of Chaosmos. Eco tries to cast the decoder's function as a static.." he says. instead. "There are certain rules of the game. in "An Author and His Interpreters. cannot be interpreted by simply referring to a fixed and pre-established code. I have the impression that. as the text itself sets some limits" (214). " (65). "a text is a device conceived in order to produce its model reader. After all. "and the Model Reader is someone eager to play such a game" (61). his attempt "to reassert the rights of the text" (84). through mere decoding processes.. should be happy to serve as "the respectfully free Servants of Semiosis. 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. "As a signification system. They. let us first rank with the slave" (7). and if they are to verbalize that informed 65 . (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. in the same way that one can propose the intention of the encoder or the decoder. "Eco's semiotics views interpretation as an interplay between the addressee and the work as an objective fact. the rights of the interpreters have been overstressed. While arguing the case for "the intention of the reader" versus "the intention of the text.. mechanical undertaking. While remarking upon the title of Eco's study on James Joyce. or eliminating. 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. Eco appallingly suggests that in "a world dominated by "Übermensch-Readers.rights of texts and the rights of their interpreters. (6) Elsewhere. Longoni adds that "considerations on the relationship between reader and text convince Eco that it is necessary to deny an excessive interpretative freedom. he declares. rather than about other things.

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

Collected Papers." Reading Eco. Tejera. 1974). Rocco. 1990): 61-74. A. 50-69. Richard Miller (New York: Hill and Wang. "Interpretation and Overinterpretation: The Rights of Texts." Critical Inquiry 2. 1980). Samson. An Introduction to Literary Semiotics. Holland." Reading Eco. Robert and Gunther Kress. Interpretation and Overinterpretation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama (London: Metheun. Culler. ---. Trans. Jane Tompkins (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. "Eco. Peirce and the Necessity of Interpretation. 1985): 448.3 (Spring 1976): 447-464. David. M. Gibson.466. Hodge." Reader-Response Criticism. Marxism and the Philosophy of Language. Norman. Scholes. Walker. Peirce. 121. I. 1973). Semiotics and Interpretation (New Haven: Yale University Press. 1-6. Ladislav Matejka and I. Basil. Longoni. 1-13.1 (Spring. "Interpreting the Variorum. and Implied Authors." Reading Eco. Michael. 1980). "Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language. Charles Sanders. Fish. 1990). S/Z: An Essay. Scott. Lubomir. Inc. and Mock Readers. Wolfgang. 70-100. 111-120. "Esoteric Conspiracies and the Interpretative Strategy. ---. Readers. "Literature in the Reader: Effective Stylistics. Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss (Cambridge: Harvard University Press. The Open Work. "The Reading Process: A Phenomenological Approach. Keir. R. Stanley. "The Interpretant in Literary Semiotics. Umberto." Reading Eco: An Anthology. 1968) Riffaterre.. Dolezel. 217-234. ---. Volosinov. 59-70. 67 . Thomas. Petrilli. Practical Criticism: A Study of Literary Judgment (New York: Harcourt. Social Semiotics (Ithaca: Cornell University Press. Jonathan.136. 23. "Literary Competence. 1931). A Theory of Semiotics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Readers. Speakers. "The Open Work in Theory and Practice. Sebeok. ed. Corti." The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association. Reading Eco. Simpkins. 147-162. 1982). Elam. 1997). Susan. 1975). 1984). 1989). ---. ---. Capozzi. "Rationality and Imagination in Cultural History: A Reply to Wayne Booth. 1980)." On Signs. Marshall Blonsky (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. "Pandora's Box: How and Why to Communicate 10. The Limits of Interpretation (Bloomington: Indiana University Press." in Reading Eco. 210-216. 5 Readers Reading (New Haven: Yale University Press. 164-184. "'The Infinite Game': Cortàzar's Hopscotch. 73-81. 1976). Barthes. Trans. The Camp at Wallaby Cross: Aboriginal Fringe Dwellers in Darwin (Caberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies." Reader-Response Criticism: From Formalism to PostStructuralism. Robert. Iser. 173-184. Titunik (Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Ed. Eco. "Towards Interpretation Semiotics." Reader-Response Criticism. Trans. 1992)." Reading Eco. Brace & World. Maria.References Abrams. Roland. Margherita Bogat and Allen Mandelbaum (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ---. 1988). Seed. "Authors.000 Years into the Future. Victorino." Reader-Response Criticism. H. Richards. Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language (Bloomington: Indiana University Press." Reader-Response Criticism. V. 1978). Ed. Ed.s I-VI. "The Themata of Eco's Semiotics of Literature. Trans. Anna. Rocco Capozzi (Indiana: University of Indiana Press. "An Author and His Interpreters". Anna Cancogni (Cambridge: Harvard University Press. ---." Reading Eco. vol. N." Reading Eco.

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

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

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

" "Unlimited Semiosis and Drift: Pragmaticism vs. This latter endeavor is characteristic of many of the potential abuses of systemics. "To use a text means to start from it in order to get something else. for that matter. it is possible to discern "the way it works"(Limits 57)." which Halliday describes as "the number of terms in a system. the language allows for a choice among a small fixed set of possibilities. to use systemics to establish a regimen of literary semiotics that is empowered by order and voluntary subservience to it by the decoder .. is "in" the system when "interpreting" a text according to the system's rules. something about its nature. at a given place in structure.and even the encoder. "The underlying notion in the grammar is that of choice. This claim is made. we have a system" (Linguistic 30)." "Intentio Lectoris : The State of the Art. 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. "To critically interpret a text means to read it in order to discover. (This would be akin to Noam Chomsky's concept of "complex rule systems" [5]. the number of contrastive possibilities among which a choice is made at a particular place in structure" ("Typology" 180). within Eco's dynamic of condition of entry.formalizes the notion of choice in language. whereas Eco uses this same model component to restrict choice to social agreement at the expense of the individual. even accepting the risk of misinterpreting it from the semantic point of view". (Rorty believes that there is no immanent meaning of a literary text. This can also apply to the nature of options available as "range of choice." and "Small Worlds") Eco once again consistently establishes a regimental operation for semiotics. "The system. Eco's version of this is "conventional rules" that as sign users we "share" (Limits 2). 71 ." The remaining essays "apply" this theory and highlight his emphasis throughout on the need for the decoder to exercise "interpretive prudence" (162). Halliday positions the concept of choice as constituent of systemicity: "Whenever we can show that. Eco argues that through a systemic analysis of a literary text.) Eco feels otherwise. No inside/outside distinction. In these four essays ("Two Models of a priori. no system.) Halliday's stress is on the options available to the language user. As will be seen. This is dramatized in Eco's discussion of Richard Rorty's commentary on using a text as opposed to merely interpreting it. In keeping with this lecture's exploration of the implications of systemics. A decoder. systemics relies on a mechanism that requires both decoder and encoder subordination. as the examples cited in this lecture demonstrate. To recall the earlier discussion of this point. in other words. I would like to treat Eco's application of his "theory" as synonymous with the employment of a "system". 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. which again reveals his inclination toward placing the decoder in a lesser position of power in relation to system.." Halliday maintains ("Brief" 3). 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). which is a set of options together with a condition of entry" (6).opening with "four theoretical essays dealing with various aspects of interpretive theory. along with our reactions to it. and this is represented through the concept of a system." he suggests. in part. so therefore what a decoder can do with it seems to be the only defendable position to adopt regarding decoding practices. From this viewpoint. someone who goes outside the system is merely "using" the text (in the negative sense of "use" as in bad-faith manipulation). however. 'Pragmatism'. 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

. he proposes that "the coherence of the text. "To validate his or her hypothesis. he proposes that "describable semiotic mechanisms function in recursive ways. when the encoder engages a system that has already incorporated a specific systemic possible to reach an agreement. the limits of which cannot be identified in advance" (Interpretation 121). obviously. Like Foucault. 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. "the criterion of economy becomes rather weak. "But at this point. Firth also had earlier supported this position: in emphasizing the systemic nature of 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). Rorty is using "interesting" in a much less "economical" way than systemicists like Eco prefer. The "public agreement" of readings can therefore be employed to displace the decoder who has exited the system (28)." Hasan observes. This can be accomplished in advance. "If the sign does not reveal the thing itself. providing a traditional overlay that actually diminishes the individual decoder's activity range." Eco contends.. A certain degree of historicity can also contribute to the construction of a systemic order of decoding. extra-systemic decoding. "The addressee should rely on certain preestablished conventional interpretations" that the encoder and subsequent text rely upon when employing a given semiotic system (5). "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). "in that language as a formal system does not enable one to predict what generalized structural formula could be associated with which genre" (229)." Eco adds. And." he contends somewhat contradictorily. Eco argues." Rorty attempts to develop a positive alternative to this position in his own privileging of decoder "use" of a text. Eco stresses saving semiosis from spendthrift decoders. While in the course of decoding a given sign vehicle. of course." While this "has nothing to do with researching the intentions of the sender. he suggests that "it certainly has to do with researching the cultural framework of the original message" (5)." he remarks. "the addressee probably ought to first make certain conjectures about the possible sender and the historical period in which the text was produced. 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. In response to Eco. This raises the issue of merely "interesting". "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). if not about the meanings that a text encourages. And Ruqaiya Hasan takes a specifically genre-oriented approach to make essentially the same point. "the addressee could make various conflicting hypotheses. Also in response to Eco. "the act of reading becomes a terrain vague where interpretation and use inextricably merge together. 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). Various systems are to be 79 . at least about those that a text discourages" (45). "The controls upon the structural make-up of a text are not linguistic in origin. Eco says. which Eco asserts is indeed outside of the system." And. I do not propose an a priori system of general categories by means of which the facts of all languages may be stated.

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

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

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

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

"The term choice can be used to designate the processes that produce the realized manifestations and define usage positively. but the nature of realized manifestations (positive definition of usage). "By definition.perhaps unintentionally . he asserts.actually uses the term "exhaust" and projects this totalizing capacity of systemics much beyond a careful tentativity. contents endowed with valencies (possibilities of relations). a death rattle in her matter what. From these two examples alone it is easy to see how systemic orientation can readily lend itself to reductively programmatic decodings. "Nothing permits us to assert that a semiotic manifestation is dependent on only one system at a time" (60). operates within an epistemy.humorous elaboration. but they can also be defined negatively by what they are not" (52). Additionally." he supplements this with a . although this element continually returns to the extra-human position in the system that Stewart identifies. "Within this society it is possible for him to make a limited number of choices. "every system has a set of rules. which is an axiological and dialectical system immanent in all the semiotic structures of the society under consideration." Agent participation helps to integrate Greimas's sense of system with that of process." to the contrary. which is the result of his individuality and the society in which he is inscribed. "appears as common sense. a producer of any semiotic object. that is. Greimas provides a subtle distinction of inter-systemic levels he refers to as "epistemy". he notes. "And so far as it is dependent on several." he contends ("Interaction" 61). Greimas substantially broadens systemicity to include the factors outside of a specified system. which have as an initial result the investment of organized contents. it can be incorporated in such a way as to contribute to that outcome just as easily. The sparrows rarely appeared on the roofs. "a system's rules of injunction describe compatibilities and incompatibilities (a system without incompatibilities would not be an ordered system). or "the hierarchy of the systems" ("Interaction" 61). or incompatibility of the interacting terms of the systems). implicit or not. 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." The first section of Maupassant adequately reveals Greimas's use of a systemics based on semiotic square dynamics. "the manifestation of a system" is not "defined solely by the relations it permits" (59). and even the sewers were being emptied of their regular tenants." Both choice and constraints are matters of another type of choice at another level of this system for Greimas. People were eating . These levels "order the combinations that can appear. (1) 84 ." Like Halliday. they may be defined positively." While this seems to resist the homogenization that frequently accompanies systemicity." Here. Additionally. 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)." he suggests. "An author. 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. "Constraints. and thus not only the closure of the manifestation (negative definition of usage by nonmanifestations). While Greimas allows that "epistemy accounts for the historicity of the manifestations. The "social component" of semiosis within his schema." he contends. Greimas employs a hierarchical model which hinges on selection by the individual agent involved in order to refine the non-differentiated concept of system. famished.

Among these exclusions. Greimas proposes to begin with "spatio-temporal criteria of segmentation" of the text. though. "Pragmatic discourse. 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. the 'sparrows'. which are sometimes situated at one or other levels of discourse" (1).Significantly. Barthes on Poe Despite the a-systemic manifesto that Barthes develops as a disclaimer in his "Textual Analysis: Poe's 'Valdemar'." 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). He suggests." his actual analysis is not all that different from Greimas's. a "spatial setting" is established through the Paris reference. 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. while Greimas inhabits a comfortable central position within it. 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. the larger literary historical context within which 85 . are consideration of the author. that the opening sequence is "composed of four co-ordinated propositions.and especially narrative discourse . Barthes says. Greimas argues. Accordingly.has a multiplanar organization" consisting of "undeniable delimitations. Admittedly. spurring an axiological relation in accordance with Greimas's schema: /enclosed/ vs /enclosing/ __________ ___________ "Paris" (non-Paris) Without pursuing this excessively. 'the sewers' and the 'People'" (3)." he adds. Barthes is on the outer limits of systemics. each having a different subject: 'Paris'. we shall abstain voluntarily from dealing with certain problems" (174). Greimas says that "all discourse . Barthes limits his procedure very specifically: "in analysing the 'signifiance' of a text. it should be apparent where Greimas is going with this analysis. this leads Greimas to emphasize what R." A "temporal infrastructure" (Maupassant 2) is being established in Maupassant's opening paragraph. Bailey identifies as a defining characteristic of systemic linguistics: "the idea of 'levels' as a root metaphor for language behavior. for instance. W. details a "series of 'events' or 'things' which are necessarily inscribed in a system of spatio-temporal co-ordinates. Or.

they have as an "obvious function" the role of "exciting the reader's expectation. as we read it. Maupassant stands in a similar relation to S/Z. "We shall take the text as it is. Valdemar has excited discussion. that the extraordinary case of M." Barthes announces. 86 . (As mentioned above. rationalist alibi." This prompts the reader to desire "the solution of the enigma posed in the title (the 'truth').an operation of the "narrative code" (177). but even the exposition of this engima is held back." he adds. This creates an "appetiser" which stands as "a term of the narrative code (rhetoric of narration). "Translator's Note" 10]. 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. escaping the logic and the ego-cogito and engaging in other logics [of the signifier.) "Textual Analysis: Poe's 'Valdemar'" demonstrates Barthes's system well.) Poe's story. Valdemar." begins: Of course I shall not pretend to consider it any matter for wonder. Still. what has moved into transgression. and the impact of reading a text in translation. Eco provides an example of a systemicist's rejection of another systemicist's practice. telepathy.) In Interpretation and Overinterpretation. 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'). Moreover." "But it can also refer to what is supernatural." "There was great enthusiasm for observing the supernatural scientifically (magnetism. (177) These sentences "are apparently meaningless. "The Facts in the Case of M.Poe can be situated. struggles with meaning and is deconstructed ['lost']" [cited in Heath. Eco discusses an analysis of a William Wordsworth poem by Geoffrey Hartman.. 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." Barthes assesses the function of this aspect as: "delay in posing the enigma. (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." Barthes remarks. spiritism.especially under the circumstances. but far less overtly so. 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." 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). Greimas. which is a scientist's word).." This delay is "a matter of whetting the reader's appetite" . etc." This produces what Barthes calls a "bonding" that is "cultural" in nature. there is an additional value of this "patter" as it signals the text's semiotic status as a "commodity" (176). of contradiction]." he observes "'This is the 'fantastic' element of the stories. It would have been a miracle had it not .that Poe tells'" (177). 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'. and Barthes demonstrate various strategies for engaging in systemic analysis. 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. "The supernatural adopts a scientific." Eco on Hartman on Wordsworth While Fries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is significant in that the stress on containment is imported into the concept of semiosis. constraining perimeter. In many models of signification in the discussion of semiotics. For. in order for a sign to exist. rational assumptions has to ground itself on just such an arguably desperate leap of faith. the entire order of a semiosis based on productive. trans. 2 (Gennaio-Agosto 1990). in no way requires a finite. as can be seen from Buczynska-Garewicz's attempt to salvage signification from an otherwise meaningless fate." Hanna Buczynska-Garewicz (166) Imported Finitude Peirce's perspective has had a strong impact on contemporary accounts of semiosis. "Reeling in the Signs: Unlimited Semiosis and the Agenda of Literary Semiotics. Note that this rendition anchors the process within the sign itself. "it is essential that it 'stands for something else'" (166). the process of semiosis is considered relatively ceaseless. so that rather than depleting the sign's meaning in the course of signification. Anna Cancogni (Cambridge: Harvard University Press. this apparently has been brought into 96 .) Umberto Eco. 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. is relatively ceaseless. Buczynska-Garewicz is a revealing example of this tendency as she portrays semiosis. semiosis actually reinforces it. The significance of her assertion lies in the endeavor to frame sign action as a purposeful undertaking -. Buczynska-Garewicz supports her claim in relation to Peirce's position on semiosis by adding that for that simply must have a purpose. significantly. 1989)." Versus: Quaderni di studi semiotici 55/56. Rather. 153-173. and needlessly so.Lecture Six: Finite Infinite Semiosis. however. in other words. as "a process of continuous self-reproduction of signs" (168). For." to employ Eco's term for Peirce's concept. This "essential" characteristic bears more weight than might appear at first. "unlimited semiosis. Assigned Readings: Scott Simpkins. (Designated throughout as "R". The Open Work. The key element of that conception.

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". in that his so-called "pre-semiotic" concerns are remarkably similar to those he raises in his "semiotic" phase. spurred Eco's move into a focus on semiotics. In The Role of the Reader. Finnegans Wake (hereafter: (FW) . he 97 . though. accept the implications of ceaseless sign deferral. displacement. Susan Petrilli likewise contends that there has been a seemingly natural development of Eco's emphasis on semiosic limitation. of course. which apparently also changed in composition in the course of subsequent editions. Rocco Capozzi likewise notes that. In this case. and 'unlimited semiosis' in relation to his earlier observations on the 'rights' of texts and readers" (217). contractural agreement. The latter orientation. while deconstruction generates mere "noise". Despite this apparent consensus about Eco's career. Eco's readers will recall his frequent references to this novel as an illustration of a purportedly extreme instance of literary openness. it's the concept of freedom. Without this understanding. The Open Work. I would like to address some implications of the open/closed issue and Eco's writings related to.' interpretation. 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. "Considering sign processes as open chains formed by the unending deferral of interpretants leads.or unable -. Since the IG has so strongly influenced literary semiotics. in light of Eco's later works on semiotics and his fiction. is typically aligned (and unjustly so) with deconstruction. the decoder is at liberty to use the sign-vehicle indiscriminately. "some [critics] see Eco betraying his original spirit of 'openness' presented in The Open Work" (221). From this perspective. before I enter into that commentary (an extension of my earlier essay on the subject). as opposed to meaningless sign slippage. Robey argues that all but two of the essays in the English volume are representative of "Eco's major 'presemiotic' writings" (vii). while dissemination is an accidental play of traces and differentiations" (169)." she maintains.the discussion solely to quell the fears of semioticians (like those in the Indiana Group) unwilling -. and deferral. But. 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). systematic product of understanding. Buczynska-Garewicz again illustrates this effectively by declaring that "semiosis is a process of logical implications. "critics have started to (re)examine the author's theories on 'open works. "to a need to consider the terms and sense of the opening" (133). I will explore here a manifestation of this view of a shackled semiosis on a specific topic: critical commentary on James Joyce's novel. Eco has been doing this throughout his semiotic commentary. The Open Work differs from the version in Italian (Opera aperta) published in 1962. specifically. Robey's observation is typical of the narratives generated about the trajectory of Eco's career. sooner or later. semiotics yields a rational. Producing these essays. 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. an enterprise portrayed as decidedly opposed to a "scientific" agenda. A careful examination of Eco's assertions in The Open Work reveals otherwise. Moreover. he relates from Eco's own admission. this consideration in itself is central to Eco's sententious interest in asserting that the decoder's practices must adhere to a negotiated. The Open Work tells a different story. In fact. semiotic work. The Open Work actually consists of essays derived from Opera aperta (chapters 1-6) and five other sources. Yet.

Peirce. too. His commentary on action painting is revealing on this point.seemingly allows Eco to make a stronger case for inherent multivalency.asserts that "Everything can become open as well as closed in the universe of unlimited semiosis" (40). if the work signified a genuine sense of disorder and semiosic exhuberance. accordingly. with openness surrounded. This opposition -. that is. This dynamic pits three entities against one. the conditions for aesthetic appreciation. It's one thing to emit a meaningless." Elsewhere (as was cited earlier). "Many modern theories are unable to recognize that symbols are paradigmatically open to infinite meanings but syntagmatically. utterance." 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. For one thing. but it's another to do so in a manner that conveys significance to a decoder. 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. he adds. that Eco relies upon a fundamental distinction in his commentary on opennesss and control." 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. "One should look for the rules which allow a contextual disambiguation of the exaggerated fecundity of symbols. interpretations allowed by the context. It is important to note. The Reign of Finite Infinite Semiosis Victorino Tejera's "Eco. Of course. he situates it as a prescribed freedom that is directed on several fronts. the text then contains its own procedures for decoding it. Characteristically. 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 . "Any act of interpretation is a dialectic between openness and form. After all. but by no means infinite. Eco also distinguishes between an act of communication and noncommunication (what Tejera refers to as "communication" versus "signification" [154]). along with all the connotations of formal organization. This anchoring has considerable authority for Eco. 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 specific issue will be pursued at length in Lecture 7. As a result."). This is essential for the complemental emphasis he makes on distinguishing the artistic use of signs from instrumental uses. Eco had relied upon the invocation of rule-bound behavior by the decoder regarding this issue. the decoder faces three limitations when dealing with the sign-vehicle -.) On the other hand." he insists. initative on the part of the interpreter and contextual pressure" (Limits 21). "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). Its elements of chance and vitality are truly limited." it is nonetheless "still dependent on the most basic categories of communication (since it bases its informativeness on its formativity)" (Open 103). "it also offers us. to follow this argument. Yet.similar to the "normal" use of language versus the "poetic" use proposition -. the artistic register of a sign is. textually open only to the indefinite. then the decoder would be unable to intelligibly say anything about it that could be confirmable. or extremely open.hardly a form of open decoding. In The Limits of Interpretation he proposes that the text itself establishes an effective boundary on the decoder's practices. even though Eco is talking about openness. Even though it is an "art of chance and vitality.

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

in order to become a legitimate interpretation. (A related component of this proposal appears under the guise of context assessment. Capozzi remarks that Eco "is fully aware that the internal coherence of a text is constructed with 100 . In fact. 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). based on hypotheses and proofs. the text restricts the range of its possible interpretations" (115). Anna Longoni reveals their goal succinctly: "A hypothesis. this repeated inability to stop and be content with a reductive reading does not threaten the text's monumentality. The goal behind this web of interrelated assumptions is puzzling. (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. too. establishes the sign-vehicle as operating according to a logic derived from the paradigms of systematic reasoning. yet the sign-vehicle is described as generating a finite array of decoder responses.. and Riffaterre are headed. "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]. 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 logic is reinforced by Riffaterre's notion of "retroactive reading.. A proposition of this nature. The decoder is ever mindful of "the awareness of a semiotic transformation peculiar to the text" and this caution "causes him to re-read. as is reflected in the distinction between works that "oscillate" a lot. remaining circular." (215-6). For instance. must be built upon clear proofs given to the reader" (213). In a different context. to discover endless potential messages by interpreting the ambiguity of the meaning." Each re-reading forces him to work at retrieving the elusive significance. this instability of the decoding. Capozzi reveals a noticeable and sympathetic longing for certitude. Dolezel also suggests that "Eco's semiotics views interpretation as an interplay between the addressee and the work as an objective fact. They seem oriented toward a scenario in which the encoder has the capacity to take charge of semiosis. It's easy to see where assumptions like those by Buczynska-Garewicz. Tejera. This alternation is therefore a form of unlimited semiosis. Accordingly. 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. This assumption is widespread in semiotics. 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). Consistent with the orientation revealed by Longoni and Dolezel. "In fact Joyce imagines a reader who is able to arrange units of sense. Longoni resorts to presuming that semiosic activity can be restricted. but one that." The decoder. A component associated with encoder intention is brought into this scenario. the best evidence we have for this universal is that it manifests itself in the endless instability of reading. In the course of his assessment of Eco's orientation on this position. while this is (but always within certain limits) the intentio of Finnegans Wake " (Longoni 215). in effect. As a signification system. "the intentio of [Dante's] Commedia is not that of a never-ending reading. Paradoxically. or only a little. to double-check.) Tellingly. And where is this mechanism located? In what Eco refers to as text intention. cannot escape the orbit of the text. but one taking place within the text's closure.

overinterpretation is the "result of a free-wheeling application of associations.e. for his readers" (224).) This is certainly the case when Eco's conception of The Open Work. and evidently "unintentionally". connotations. a continuum of intermediate positions" between the two poles. (In fact. psychological.the different strategies (semantic. very carefully. and on these grounds. and potential" (76).. and directed by that something at the same time. "if signs. a social storage of world knowledge. it should become apparent that Eco reflects the majority opinion on semoisis as a controllable operation.) that an author plans. For Eco. finally. and uncontrolled unlimited semiosis" (218). This can be constructed out of boundary and craft metaphors. for Eco. "it provides a theoretical tool for identifying. any interpretation can be both implemented and legitimated -. infinite chains of signifiers. This returns to my opening discussion and the semiotic theology implict in this conception of a limited semiosis. And. the undertaking of semiotics collapses." With his emphasis on legitimation. There simply has to be a goal to semiosis from this perspective. This frequently goes unnoticed. As Capozzi suggests. I suggested 101 . 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. "At most. Eco. semiotic. "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. 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). (See Gary Genosko's related commentary on "panic semiurgy" in the "Massage and Semiury" lecture of his course on McLuhan. 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). Between the two ends of Peirce's continuum "stands a recorded thesaurus of encyclopedic competence." he argues about this notion. he says. etc. inherent intentions. sympathy. freedom from prescription. ironic. and so on" (78). "Eco gradually maximizes the connotations of the term 'open' as suggesting flexibility. 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. stylistic. similarities. however. for he is employing the term in a manner that is undeniably. 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. according to different semiosic processes. and -.most importantly -. though. openness "always carries connotations of heuristic freshness. While he appears to inhabit a middle ground on this issue. Eco shares these assumptions and relies upon institutions of empistemological consensus for incarcerating semiosis.the possibility of a semiosic "end". Again.even in the case of the most 'open' instances. doesn't the something go beyond the endless chain of unlimited semiosis?" (231). this goal has to be somehow present in the signvehicle in order for the decoder to be said to be decoding something. and only on these grounds. he bears no small responsibility for contributing to the creation of this opinion. Additionally. structural.) This orientation can be found in his discussion of interpretation and overinterpretation which similarly relies upon the presumption of programmable control of the decoder. intellectual receptivity. the encoder's careful planning and construction. as is seen in Cappozzi's remarks on internal coherence. as Peirce tells us. for if there isn't. are signs which stand for other signs which in turn stand for something in some capacity for someone. Seed demonstrates this well when he asserts that in The Open Work. Baudrillard and Cultural Theory sponsored by the Cyber Semiotic Institute. eventual finitude versus infinitude) (Philosophy of Language 3).

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

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

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

Boler asserts that a developmental accretion takes place for the decoder in the process of undergoing a semiosic experience. To the contrary." he adds. In effect. Likewise. Eco relies upon this acceptance of infinitude only as a means for introducing the accumulation of knowledge into this scenario. our way of acting within the world is either transitorily or permanently changed. since our daily life is interwoven with those habit mutations)." Clarification and indefinite specificity are radically opposed concepts. or rather one which is clarified by successive systems of conventions that explain each other. The exchange of signs produces modifications of the experience. consistent with Eco's desire for a finality in all this.. semiosic flow doesn't have to rely upon an explanatory capacity in order to produce intelligible signification. though. 105 . "Peirce knows perfectly well that being indeterminate is not a flaw in a sign but just the way it ought to be" (394)." But. As Boler remarks. paradoxical as it may be. 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.argue otherwise. "As a matter of fact. however. that this sense of development is illusory and paves the way for the gratuitous importation of finitude discussed above. and it's apparent that Boler can't have it both ways. Language would then be an auto-clarificatory system. the interpretant becoming in turn a sign. As a consequence.the site where semiosis halts. To make semiosis safe for the human sciences. Another vantage point to this situation exists. That is. "At this point. 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". Eco is representative of those who have to drag epistemological progress into the picture. this openness is closed substantially in between these points. While Eco seems to accurately describe the necessity of unlimited semiosis when he suggests that metaphors can't be conceived without it." he suggests. after having received a series of signs and having variously interpreted them. 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. Boler is compelled to retreat to an emphasis on determinacy. "the unlimited semiosis stops (and this stopping is not final in a chronological sense. 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. "This means that." (Theory 69) Although this passage begins and ends on a note of infinitude." An experience of this nature stands for Eco's rendition of "the final interpretant" -. this does not imply that semiosic constraint has to accompany it. 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. which. 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). and so on ad infinitum. "An absolutely determinate sign is no more desirable than an absolutely frictionless surface. it is the indeterminateness of a sign that allows it to signify. is the only guarantee for the foundation of a semiotic system capable of checking itself entirely by its own means." Boler echoes this orientation when he exclaims that Peirce's account of semiosis doesn't presuppose "an endless parade of interpretants" (389).. he apparently incorporates the latter to lessen the rigidity of the former. Essentially. Like Eco.

always changes. for whom a sign can't communicate unless its signifying field has a limit of some kind." he declares. For example. Or.Peirce's talk of infinite series does not imply that thought cannot be completed or that signs are essentially inadequate. 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"). No wonder that Eco's reliance upon closure-oriented paradigms so seldom receives comment. "After each successive oscillation a sign (or text) never remains identical with itself. of signs. every text. "allows us to maintain the idea that any particular system and any particular theory constitutes only an approximation. justified whole that cannot be broken. it arises again like the Phoenix" (Role 195). (394) Ever attempting to heighten paradox in his semiotic conceptualizations. plurivocal signified that leaves us at once satisfied and disappointed with the first phase of comprehension precisely because of its variety. meter. Either way (among the two illustrations given here). Semiosis dies at every moment. the need for versimilitude. it can manifest itself as an acquired literary competence coupled with cultural discernment. and accompanying this time differential is a degree of change in space. "Every sign." This fluid sense of the "truth" generated by semiosis conflicts significantly with the stance of those like Eco. Eco could either come across as a champion of unlimited semiosis. Depending upon which pole of this schematic that one prefers to emphasize. not the inadequacy. Still. Without this limit. as soon as it dies. 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). it is never exactly what it previously was. this reining in of the decoder is conceived as a necessity for meaningful semiosis to occur. 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). "The result" of this interaction directed by the aesthetic sign-vehicle "is a multiform. "In light of the oscillatory nature of sign and text perception. "Form is perceived as a necessary. "But. This view of unlimited semiosis. 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." Someone like Ruhl would be quick to point out. with each transition from 'inside' to 'outside' there has been a time differential. or equally as one of its sternest guardians. The would-be (for all its futurism) reflects the power. signs are bound by a necessity that is rooted in the perceptual habits of the addressee (otherwise known as his taste): rhyme. a more of less conventional sense of proportion. to become something other than what it was or could otherwise have been" (Foundations 146). only noise takes place. only a relative truth. This constraint can assume substantially different forms. that this polysemy is of the "bogus" kind. Infinite divisibility shows the presence of a habit. 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. every statement. however fundamental it may be. "In a field of aesthetic stimuli. however. with successive readings and under different circumstances. no matter how small. in light of these frequent problematic vacillations in his own orientation. its 106 . "The final interpretant is not final in a chronological sense. it can reside in a material manifestation. Unable to isolate referents. Eco returns to Peirce's admission of this finality serving only as a temporary way station before semiosis oscillates again. in fact. 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." he says.

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

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

intelligibility. the aesthetic message possesses all the characteristics proper to the source of a normal informative chain. on the other hand. since the message he has received is in itself another source of possible information. 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. 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. (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)." this freedom is mediated by the work which "provokes" it (Open 103).not absolute disorder but nonetheless disorder in relation to the order that has preceded it." he declares (Open 65)." Significantly. In an effort to maximize this "risk". Eco posits a delicate balance between dis-order and disorder. Eco repeatedly insists that a decoder who disregards any caution is not actually functioning as a legitimate decoder. Eco proposes that a residue of intelligible organization is passed on from the encoder to the decoder. "but is also appreciating 109 . 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. Eco portrays this experience as negatively onanistic. As a new source of information. Eco proposes the possibility of being able to "recognize a system of indeterminacy whereby information decreases as intelligibility increases" (65). is minimal. But Eco situates this a simultaneous reinstigation of semiosis. totally devoid of all possibility of aesthetic pleasure." The viewer. Eco constructs a procedure by which even this delinquent can still be mediated by the message and its concomitantly imposed limits. To enact control over the uncooperative decoder. this semiotic salvation can come only as a consequence of the boundaries erected through the process of a dialectic. 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. A System of Indeterminacy Within a conception of the "plural aspect of the artistic communication" (Open 95). "Only a dialectics of oscillation can save the composer of an open work. interpreted. accordingly." Evidently. This would evidently be especially germaine for aesthetic semiosis which is initiated by a sign-vehicle that is artistically ambiguous. "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. If the viewer of the "new" painting "abandons himself to the free play of reactions. thereby introducing an initiating constraint that remains as a means of directing the decoder's practice. the concept of finite semiosis will serve as a "filter" of this nature to avoid the danger attendant with too much openness. albeit a source of information that is yet to be filtered." Consistent with using "open" in a negative way. "The distance between a plurality of formal worlds and undifferentiated chaos. is "not only enjoying his own personal experience" within this scenario. The decoder. rather than an acquiescent reception. out of an initial disorder -. This is where the final stage of semiosis begins. he similarly frames "vitality" as a bacchanalian indulgence of sensation without measure. he argues. should be seen as the first step of a new chain of communication. While considerable pleasure can be derived from untethered semosis.

Moreover. in turn. a source of the creative dynamism that it exudes. and in enjoying this new awareness..e." he says. the exhilarating infinitude of the Barthesian Text is an instance of noise for Eco." he says.the very quality of the form. becomes an integral part of the work. At this point. "Quantitative information. Barthes's "From Work to Text" sheds light on Eco's strategy here: Eco is essentially arguing that.. on the other hand. what for Barthes is a Text." 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. This awareness of the project that underlies the work will. one of the components that the work has fused into its own unity and. "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." Aesthetic information. not creative. This can be taken to the extreme so that "even an art that upholds the values of vitality." Given the encoder and sign-vehicle control over this process. 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." This freedom is paradoxically acomplished as "the rules of rhyme restrain him but at the same time liberate him. "consists in drawing as many suggestions as possible out of a totality of signs -.. then it has experienced a systemic condition of exit and is outside the arena of an aesthetic signvehicle (i. since it will lead us to an ever-growing knowledge of the personal world and cultural background of the artist. in seizing. "A work of art can be open only insofar as it remains a work. For. movement. the viewer can savor. its aesthetic quality. consists in referring the results drawn from [quantitative nformation] back to their original organic qualities. a work)." This voluntary restriction is accepted "not out of masochism. so that the viewer's ostensibly autonomous actions are actually constrained by it: the free play of associations. it becomes mere noise" (100). and chance rests on the dialectics between the work itself and the 'openness' of the 'readings' it invites" (100). "beyond a certain boundary." By adhering to these "conventions". in charging these signs with all the personal reactions that might be compatible with the intentions of the author. a conscious organization. the value of a work that is open precisely because it is a work. intelligibly open.the value of the work itself. action. the way an Ace bandage restrains the movement of an ankle or a knee while allowing the runner to run 110 . the viewer's enjoyment is derivative." he suggests. Thus. behind the suggestive wealth we exploit. becomes constrained. (104) Eco identifies this dynamic as enforcing a controlled semiosic environment in which "the dialectics between work and openness. with them. a formative intention. Eco's view of the work configures it as possessing what he calls "aesthetic information" (Open 103). brute matter. If a text is not granted this status. once it is recognized as originating from the disposition of the signs. the very persistence of the work is itself a guarantee of both communication and aesthetic pleasure. Eco asserts that rhyme encompasses "a number of stylistic patterns and conventions. 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). be another inexhaustible source of pleasure and surprise. only if it is granted the status of a Work. This distinction allows Eco to reinforce his ordinary/aesthetic sign division. Eco declares.that is.

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

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

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

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

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). Eco's stress on openness reflects what Robey identifies as his manifest "urge to system and order" (Open xvi). not to use it as a mere vehicle. their openness is intentional. and extreme" (39). not to mention desirable. But." Implied within this assertion. as "begging relentlessly to be decoded." (The sign-vehicle becomes "totally irrelevant once he [the decoder] has grasped the content it is carrying. "whatever the number of 'pragmatic' reactions that such a plurality of understandings can entail." Eco says (Limits 148)." It is. This. is the belief in privileged multi-direction and limited multi-vocality. then. In this genre.but rather to see it as a constant source of continually shifting meanings. While Eco positions this as a hypothesis. This yearning for control is revealed in Eco's insistence that semiosis can be reined in by "intentional 'openness'. admittedly. As his position on ambiguity reveals. his believe in the impact of internal constraint is far greater than Eco admits here.containment of the decoder. "But infinite conjecture does not mean any possible conjecture. for Eco says that in The Open Work he wants to analyze "how every work of art can be said to be 'open. for example.' how this openness manifests itself structurally. in a bizarre use of anthropomorphism. it is clear that he believes such containment is obtainable through the construction of "an oriented production of open possibilities" (218)." as is indicated by the rule of ambiguation (24). ambiguous communication affects the total organization of the discourse and determines both the density of its resonance and its provocative power" (41). and to what extent structural differences entail different levels of openness" (24). And undeniably Eco has a lot of sympathizers with this position.. for without these restrictions. Actually. however. therefore. this view is pitted against a hopelessly bleak alternative of communication rendered entirely impossible otherwise.that is to say. this criterion of the "open" is internal. crafted his perspective on textual control in a manner that seems to inhabit the far end of openness. this is evident when he asserts that "the desire to produce an open. He cites as an example the sentence: "The train for Rome 115 .fashion. Eco says. Eco has. Eco says that in a speech situation. 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). For instance. the "typical structure" of the sign-vehicle is conceived.. Later on.") Moreover. he notes: "the referential diversity of the proposition (and. a tonal center." This positioning is strategic. And yet the capacity to vary is not totally extraneous to the proposition" (31). personalize -. allows for loose -. most commentators on even an "open" perspective of literary semiotics. "contemporary open works" reveal that "in most cases. Additionally. that would allow the listener to predict the development of the composition in a particular direction. "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. in his observations about personalized decoding. of its conceptual value) resides not in the proposition itself but in the addressee. it is still possible to keep a referential proposition under control by reducing the understanding of different receivers to a single pattern" (30). tend to happily accept the notion that some degree of semiosic enforcement is capable of being obtained. Typically. After all." 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).but firm and decisive -. "A text can foresee a Model Reader entitled to try infinite conjectures. one would be faced with a "closed" work (in Eco's sense of the term). From this perspective. "each addressee will automatically complicate -. explicit. "what is missing is a rule.

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

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

rather than configuring the encoder as a master abductor. of his own free will. Unfortunately. the likely responses of competent decoders (again. "We then confront a message that deliberately violates or. 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. at least. "to give a direction to the freedom" of the decoder (99). unable to control his rampaging creation. Sophocles. While grudgingly accepting this minor obeisance to the decoder by the encoder." "organization." Nor is the encoder spared from this systemic incarceration. 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. Surprisingly. The Benefits of Control As the previous discussion has proposed. Eco portrays this calculation as a form of mental projection like that explained by Edgar Allan Poe's Dupin in "The Purloined Letter." etc. Eco describes him in terms of Godlike generation.order as system of probability -." Eco adds (Open 66)." But. a pictorial nature that. Eco asserts. not very plausible. Pretending that it is. but of a nature whose signs still reveal the hand of a creator. If the new musician.). "aims at both maximum dis-order and maximum information. (Open 70) This "free will" commentary is extended further. then a degree of closedness must be accepted as a necessary sacrifice to systemic indeterminacy. accordingly in Eco's view. if the encoder wants to produce aesthetic openness. As with explanations of the system of fate and prophecy in classical literature (Homer. quite frankly. this analysis of encoder and anticipation of the decoder's likely selection amid an array of "open" choices is. "tries to retain the freedom of nature. provides numerous participants in the IG discussion of semiotics with the material to erect an enormous edifice of sign theory and practice. for example. like the nature of medieval metaphysics. Although the transmission of signs conceived according to a rigorous code. In order for the encoder to viably produce the desired open effect. a voluntary acceptance of a semiotically civilized confinement. "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. can be explained without having to depend on the interpretive intervention of the receiver. the inherent relative impossibility of accomplishing this hasn't deterred its numerous adherents from 118 . It is necessary. he will have to sacrifice some of his freedom and introduce a few modules of order into his work. Virgil. etc. selects a message and endows it with a probability that is certainly already there but only one probability among many. based on conventional values. Model Readers) have to be taken into account and likewise serve as a restraint. is a constant reminder of the original act of Creation" (102). despite his extensive efforts to make a convincing argument for the encoder-as-deity. Eco argues. the possibility of controlling semiosis in some fashion has considerable attraction to many participants in the discussion of semiotics. 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. to some extent. the very order -. questions that very system. Even action painting. organized" (Open 65).to which it refers. And. 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.mechanics of intention. But Eco cloaks this sacrifice in terms suggesting autonomy based on rationality ("free choice. however.).

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

the indeterminate at its wildest -. "the reader eventually escapes the control of the work" (Open 93)." The only way to prevent this vision of semiotic meaninglessness (i. The consensual corroboration of allowable meaning that Eco proposes simplifies a far more complex situation than he is willing to admit here. including that of the author. Nothing keeps him in check.challenged. Yet the happy community of decoders that he imagines undeniably carries with it an attractive. or is it a limitation of the work that it should play a role similar to that of mescaline?" Either way. "What remains then is no longer a field of possibilities but rather the indistinct. the decoder can -. because.. 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." It's important to note here Eco's denigration of a vitalistic response to a text. he will have to put more emphasis on a certain kind of suggestion. "To avoid unnecessary semantic dispersion. without this constraining order.e. the primary. so as to reiterate the desired stimulus by means of analogous references. 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). if what we're presented with by a response of this nature isn't actually "a limitation of this particular 'reader'"? (93). 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. either every discerned meaning is valid. is anarchy for Eco. aberrant decoder running amuck with the encoder's sign-vehicle. the very clear and calculated way in which it is suggested to me. "the work eventually escapes everybody's control. this is exactly what he's condemning about Audiberti's reaction. if somewhat acquiescent. the very precision of the mechanism that charms me with 120 . and are merely personal divagations induced by the view of certain signs. Is Audiberti "more involved with the games of his own imagination than with the work. "Half of his reactions have nothing to do with an aesthetic effect. Eco concludes. predictably. "In this sense the internal textual coherence controls the otherwise uncontrollable drift of the reader" (149). this decoder response "gives us a clear example of the kind of exultation that can be derived from conjectural freedom. placidity for those threatened by the alternative." The result of this development. the more allusive speaker will have to give his audience a particular direction" (Open 32). "This would be quite easy if his proposition had a strictly denotative value. from the unlimited discovery of contrasts and oppositions that keep multiplying with every new look. Eco cites an example of a impressionistic response by Jacques Audiberti to Camille Bryen's paintings. Eco -. and starts blabbing away like a crazed computer. 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. For. And why? This really isn't reading the work. Eco cites an instance of just such an alternative that he posits as a semiotic horror story. by another portion of the same text." he argues. Within this once everything and nothing.say nothing concrete about the signvehicle (silence) or say anything about it with equal validity (chaos). If this is allowed to continue without some authority to appeal to. then. He asks." Eco charges (Open 93)." Eco says. 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. This is the work of an antic. "But when it is meant to provoke a response that is at once undefined and yet circumscribed within a particular frame of reference." Eco imagines a scenario in which the dramatist Jean Racine was capable of doing this in his Phaedra.

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

"This balance marks the limit between the undifferentiated realm of utter potential and a field of possibilities. signification stops to prevent an embarrassment of overabundance." This economy of balance and miracles is merely symptomatic of the need for rationality that Eco contends is characteristic of Western cultures. Alternative approaches -. the fulfillment or the frustration of certain expectations and certain goals" (Open 100).. Merrell undeniably has his own fears and ideological investments judge it as a means to an end.. (Of course.richest because most open -. polymorphous triumph of the All. "Not only do we have to be pushed to enjoy our freedom to enjoy.. "Theoretically. at the very moment of its occurrence." Another way that Eco establishes the necessity of a recognizable formation for creating The Open Work is that of pavement. he contends.. while directing them and controlling them. this reaction" by the decoder when confronting the sign-vehicle "is endless." he argues.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. In a strange conclusion to this scenario. To Merrell. as he views it as "creative" and "evolutionary" (44). Our conceptual recognition of pavement "is again evidence that the richest form of communication -.requires a delicate balance permitting the merest order within the maximum the "Eastern" one fostered by Floyd Merrell in Signs Grow: Semiosis and Life Processes's just that they don't have to entail the Pyrrhic victory acceptable to those in the IG discussion. This movement reaches "a sort of saturation point" after which our "overexercised sensibility can now rest. a cloying that would dangerously totter on the brink of uncontainable sign flux. however. Merrell's diction in Semiosis in the Postmodern Age reveals his stance toward semoisis." Finally." 122 . "at once process and result. once the decoder has had a reasonable amount of this clearly mediated pleasure. "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). this compromise really isn't necessary. In the West. semiosis "provides a fruitful vision of ongoing sign generativity. he attempts to add them to an overall sense of it as a heterogeneously inclusive process. "He can sit and blissfully contemplate the unchecked potential of the surrounding world.) 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. "Our civilization is still far from accepting the unconditional abandonment to vital forces advocated by the Zen sage." he argues (Open 98). 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. Eco portrays this moment of semiosic satiation as akin to physical exhaustion." Despite its prevalence in semiotics. and its object.And to him everything is a confirmation of the endless. ceasing only when the form ceases to stimulate the aesthetic sensibility of the addressee" (Open 37). but we are also asked to evaluate our enjoyment.into play and turns them into the necessary condition for its subsistence and its success. "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. Eco insists on a judgmental drive which is responsible for registering this "superior" form of the pleasure of the work. In other words." he remarks." This is not the case for the guidance-dependent Westerner.

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

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

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

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

even Frye.. communication). to return to Eco's distinction.. but Finnegans Wake takes language beyond any boundary of communicability. "that it is the reader who achieves the quest. for it highlights the concern here for stability in a semiotic universe that otherwise seems alarmingly chaotic. to the extent that he masters [Finnegans Wake]. a recognizable dis-order. is able to look down on its rotation." Eco says (Aesthetics 61). but Finnegans Wake passes even this limit. As I mentioned earlier. it takes limited unlimited semiosis to turn semiosis into something "more than" the noise of unsystemically colliding signifiers. however 'open' it is. Here we have limited ourselves to this type of response. nevertheless resorts to mastery metaphors in the process. again. is constituted. because the reader of FW. is in fact led into a game of associations that were previously suggested by the co-text (which means that every text. Consistent with the belief in the possibility of encoding semiosic control. In other words." It is necessary to note here that Multhaup relies upon the same communication emphasis that Eco employs. "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. But. or can only do so with the aid of industriously compiled concordances of all kinds. 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 -. and see its form as something more than rotation" (323-4). who recognizes the contribution that the decoder makes to semiosis." Multhaup asserts. "It may seem that Ulysses demonstrates all the possibilities of language. 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. (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. controlled by the text. "the reader is carefully prepared or conditioned to understand the meaning of Joyce's poetic or linguistic adventures. not how it is read). but rather as a field of oriented possibilities). A faith that the sign. in other words. is capable of being possessed in some fashion by the astute decoder. "It may seem that Ulysses violates the techniques of the novel beyond all limit." he maintains. communicatively -." Although it's apparent that Eco isn't emphasizing the last word in this observation. other equally plausible responses. it does point to the necessity for obtainment that accompanies this using proper framing devices. finally. "In A Portrait and Ulysses. the disorder of FW becomes. "Eventually it dawns on us" in the course of reading the novel. 127 .that is. the need for believing in semiosic limitation appears to be motivated by a frightening alternative.. not only because it is the Joycean one (in which case the experiment would seek to understand only how the pun is born. Thus. in addition. through Joyce's blending of the particular uses to which he has put words with their conventional meaning. and for the same apparent goals. in another subject. Again. [FW] constitutes the most terrifying document of formal instability and semantic ambiguity that we possess. not as the place of all possibilities. the reader who. Eco is hardly alone in this endeavor to keep FW under wraps.The same psycholinguistic test might have generated. Uwe Multhaup reflects this position by asserting that The danger imminent [in Finnegans Wake] is the breakdown of communication. but also for reasons of economy and. (141-142) Eco's reference to orientation is hardly insignificant. a new meaning potential of these same words is created. he adds that Joyce had been capable earlier of avoiding this potential crisis. this "rotation" is not unlike the infinite view of unlimited semiosis.

(The earlier discussion regarding Eco's use of Peirce's "habit" also applies here. but the world as a centered text apprehended safely and indifferently from the vantage point of aesthetic distance.) In a revealing development. Joseph Buttigieg reveals this development when he proclaims that "Joyce's texts have themselves become familiar [to even the semi-initiate. it should be evident that these paradoxical formulations of finite infinitude evidently are thought to gain increasing credibility simply through repetition. 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)." he contends. and develops the potentialities that have always been inherent in words for conveying multiple ideas and forming elaborate. "Ironically." From the emphasis on 'system' in her title onward. Weir provides a mechanism for imposing constraint on all literary texts.) With the exception of Eco." Despite his awareness of this tendency. "'The Infinite Game. grasped.e." this conventionalized assumption carries with it a vestige of authority simply because few can allow themselves to seriously question it." she suggests. to it before he can 'place' it and determine its position in the literary canon" (147). we acquire competence in its operation/s. . if not unlimited. "A work has to be managed. at least inexhaustible. . localized meaning. in following its encoded programs according to text-directives. and for the very goal that Buttigieg desires. (See Simpkins. Weir's approach involves a heavy emphasis on systemics. The only way. "Obviously words cannot be bound in this type of 'traditional service' due to the uncontrollable factors that influence decoding practices.not the world teeming with difference and characterized by change.] they have been tamed and neutralized to a very significant degree" (117). Through this form of analysis. a desire of this nature can be fulfilled only through consensual discussion that treats certain presuppositions as given. By endeavoring to comprehend the entire system of literary semiosis. Buttigieg displays his own complicity in this development when he identifies as Joyce's "last manageable work" his novel. a sender in a textual transmission is no more capable of 'emancipating' a text than 'enslaving' it. not just FW. "It shows that the possibilities of verbal expression are far greater than they seem. many-tiered structures. "In processing the system. Joyce's use of language "emancipates the word from its traditional service to a focused. Ulysses. in other words. but simultaneously promoting a much larger domestication that is characteristic of prevalent orientations in literary semiotics. doesn't possess this capacity for manageability to Buttigieg. to get a grasp on semiosis is to agree that it is graspable in nature. In this way. FW. that they are. "Once the Joyce text has been domesticated. closed heuristic" (R 165). as was mentioned earlier. Weir constantly endeavors to arrest semiosis in Joyce's work in order to produce a simulacrum of stasis for her analysis.'" on this point. she contends. "it serves the purpose of a guidebook through which one can look at the world -." he argues. Because 128 . "we learn to configure the system by achieving facility in its maneuvers" (6). however. she is admittedly eschewing the domesticating force so prevalent in FW criticism. Such a technique offers considerable allure. Buttigieg embraces a position repeatedly found in the concerted efforts among semioticians to agree upon certain key systemic constraints. possessed. on the other hand. Since this systemic urge is patently flawed. 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). Moreover." By now. "i. Weir's strategy for accomplishing this goal simply involves denying the decoder/reader and privileging the text as an autotelic.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). 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. Like a semiotic version of "the big lie." he notes. the critic must be habitualized .

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

"It is possible to judge the strength of political power by its legislation on noise and the effectiveness of its control over it" (122). 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. except that Eco's reliance upon exact meaning and semiosic permission reveals his desire for relative restraint. In an indirectly related account. Attali traces the historical development of socially organized noise control.could be altered to fit the present discussion as the "monosemy of power" (9). instead of opening it too much" ("Unlimited" 13).in the sense of "polysemy" as a limited.and managed -. "Thus my purpose was not so much to say what unlimited semiosis is. The widespread paternalism apparent in the discussion of semiotics suggests that this -. normative agreements along these lines have been established as well (like the "basics" of semiotics discussed in Lecture 1). In fact.) 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. He says." In order to curb the cancer of unlimited semiosis. "The right to make noise was a natural right." this by no means has to suggest that "they never remain empty. This also parallels what Attali describes as the reactionary response to wild." This sounds like a different rendition of FW altogether. an affirmation of each individual's autonomy" (122-3). 130 . it is easier to recognize the bad more likely to continue as long as current preferences remain firmly entrenched. Attali posits this relationship as a criterion for assessing the degree of hegemony within a given social opposed to an unbinding of semiosis -." While recounting the etiology of this yearning. but at least what it is not and cannot be" (19). Then came the "campaign against noise" under the guise of doing so "for the protection of the public peace" (123). Yet. (Actually. manageable -. it's not his description of the dialogue that is peculiar so much as is his emotional response to it. 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 -. there existed no legislation for the suppression of noise and commotion. Indeed. beats the texts into a shape which will serve their own purposes" (18)." he observes. unchecked growth of messages which seemingly necessitates the establishment of semiosic "norms" and "the stockpiling of signs" (131). readings of several puns. This leads to Eco's efforts at "beating (respectfully)" Peirce's concept. 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. Eco (and most of the other commentators on FW is not always reductive in his characterization of the novel's polysemy. for instance.polyvalence. he allows that while "symbols grow. and indeed impossible. "it is not necessary that the reader understand the exact meaning of every word and phrase" of it (Aesthetics 67). "sound prevention" in semiotics has experienced a comparable form of widespread efforts to tame semiosis. "Before the Industrial Revolution. Echoing Peirce. to use [Richard] Rorty's metaphor. "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." he notes. "If it is difficult to decide if a given interpretation is a good one. in keeping with Eco's peculiar use of terms like "openness". 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. Or.

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

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

one can also choose the type of game one plays and. and Play Assigned Readings: Roland Barthes. Barbara Harlow (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Structuration. "The Death of the Author.Lecture Seven: Semiotics Based on Radical Polysemy.on an approach to signification that celebrates the potentially energizing effects of radical polysemy. however. trans. "'I have forgotten my umbrella. For. Finite and Infinite Games Voluntary Finitude Although in this assertion about finite games.ungrounded. In this lecture." characterized by "the existence of repetitive cycles of moves [or loops ] or an infinitude of positions" [46]. an alternative concern will be pursued to outline some provisional. Carse is making a point about the necessity of being able to choose to play or not. 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". (Or what James Flanigan calls "loopy games." -. here. 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." Image-Music-Text. 1977): 142-8. In the 133 . Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang.'" Spurs: Nietzsche's Styles.James Carse. Jacques Derrida. Carse is talking specifically about finite games. Libidinal Economy. trans. trans. another implication exists here as well. Jean-Fran&ccedilois Lyotard. initiating components for a semiotics geared toward what Carse identifies as infinite games. to be more precise -. 1993).) This activity will be grounded -. 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". 1979): 122-143. Iain Hamilton Grant (Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For. in this respect. in which simple intelligibility is not a matter of literary competence. I must have forgotten it somewhere. who denies the sway of the encoder over the decoder. is obeisance to the tyranny of the "obvious" reading. 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. Could Nietzsche have disposed of some more or less secret code. they look for it to come from the most intimate reaches of this author's thought. the remains of a umbrella.. "Assured that it must mean something. would have made sense of this statement? We will never know. 153 . (127) The process of reading is problematized and simultaneously each foothold becomes a compromise. its what for. The one thing this play resists. In fact. (129) Contrary to Foucault's employment of the author system. Much as a trace which has been marked in what remains of this nonfragment. "If one is going to suppose that this sentence is not 'his' through and through. I have. At hand. This is true even for a so-called literal. Nevertheless. they rehearse the indeterminate spirit of his approach to Nietzsche's sentence. (Of course. or why.) Still.. which. Derrida adds.. The citational plurality entailed in the release of a sign-vehicle is a similar problem. Derrida offers examples of a systemic approach that recalls Geoffrey Hartman's analysis of a Wordsworth poem discussed in Lecture 5. no reserve appears to mark its transparent display. an infinite play form of intelligibility -. But now I don't have it anymore. I remember my umbrella. but also shouldn't receive privilege merely by virtue of its obviousness. Derrida argues that the intentional context of a given sign-vehicle cannot reliably be implanted within it.argued that Derrida's use of rhetorical questions here emphasizes the open engagement of play he's ostensibly promoting. its content gives the appearance of a more than flat intelligibility. this identification would not necessarily give the decoder a firm grounding for decoding.can be bandied about fruitfully.. or identified with certainty once it is released into the whorl of semiosis. "It is even possible that it is not Nietzsche's sentence" (127). No fold. at least on the surface. "As far as the unpublished piece passes itself off for what it passes itself off for" (127). That one no longer has in hand" (131). 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. like "an umbrella perhaps." Derrida "plays" on this notion by returning to systemic resonances of Nietzsche's sentence. commonsense assessment of language. for him or for some unknown accomplice of his. Everyone knows what 'I have forgotten my umbrella' means. At least it is possible that we will never know and that powerlessness (impouvoir) must somehow be taken into account. a poor form of play that can't be denied.) Unlike Barthes. indeed a forgotten text. "working" model) -. such an account would withdraw it from any assured horizon of a hermeneutic question. etc. especially in this case where quotation marks draw attention to such a condition. But in order to be so assured.. 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). it is hardly necessary to recall the fact that this sentence appears in quotation marks in Nietzsche's text" (127).a provisional playing model (as opposed to a more serious. however. it is indeed still a matter of reading it. one must have forgotten that it is a text that is in question. I can describe it. It can function. But I forgot it. It is mine.

And. the umbrella can be entertained as "the metaphor of a metapsychological concept. one could reflect on the myriad human paradoxes related to the inevitability of needing precisely what one has neglected to bring. "The remainder that is [this sentence] is not caught up in any circular trajectory. "Because it is structurally liberated from any living meaning. if this can be configured as a "yield" of some kind). like the famous Reizschutz of the perception-consciousness system" (131). "And psychoanalysis." These views do not restrict the text to any set. the uncertainty. they would one day be able to satisfy their interpretative expectations" (131). presumably traidic movement of semiosis. one might either have or not have any more (n'avoir plus). it can be construed as "the hermaphroditic spur (éperon ) of a phallus which is modestly enfolded in its veils. Moreover. 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). he adds. they unshackle the decoding process so that it can move beyond wholly vestigial boundaries. One must not conclude. This form of semiosic play nevertheless does not careen off into a meaningless universe. Thus. if the structural limit and the remainder of the simulacrum which has been left in writing are going to be taken into account." And.. On the contrary. "It is not only the umbrella that is recalled but also its having been forgotten. As a result. these systemic grids readily lend themselves to the abuses of finite play. 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.. Or else one still has it when it is no longer needed. It knows of no proper itinerary which would lead from its beginning to its end and back again. Derrida argues. must be carried to the furthest lengths possible. given that "the umbrella's symbolic figure is wellknown. an organ which is at once aggressive and apotropaic. this form of recollection is based on a dual operation of absence and presence. Through a personal assessment regarding potential psychoanalytical connotations. the sentence could be played from a psychoanalytical standpoint somehow grounded plausibly on Nietzsche's "idiom". Nietzsche's sentence remains free from the confines of a concrete and logical etiology of signification. In addition. whose very condition. Derrida offers a wholly subjective play connection with the sentence. Furthermore. "An umbrella is that sort of thing that. "can still continue to suspect that. if these generalities were to be articulated and narrowed and the context itself thus prudently completed. because this limit is not of the sort that circumscribes a certain knowledge even as it proclaims a beyond. a horizonal boundary that never successfully imposes itself in a totalizing fashion. familiar as it is with forgetting and phallic objects. for instance." Derrida says. Rather. Simply a question of the weather at the time (of temps. it instigates an infinite play of semiosis that attempts only to perpetuate the pleasurable transformation that its operations yield (that is. Psychoanalysts. however. the vulnerability imposed by the weather is consistent with Carse's notion of the constant variabilities of infinite play. he observes: "I remind myself of my umbrella" (129). or supposedly so" (129).Or.. moreover." Or. time and/or weather). To where the limit runs through and divides a scientific work. thus opens it up to itself.. just when it is really needed. the process of decoding. this limit. nor does its movement admit of any center. Instead...that any knowledge of [its inscrutable play] should be abandoned. might yet aspire to a hermeneutic mastery of these remains. "If Nietzsche had indeed meant to say 154 . threatening and/or threatened." However. (133) Derrida views this "limit" as nevertheless unlimiting." Derrida notes. the surprise.

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

(255-6) Does the man of intellect. richer. "That enormous structure of beams and boards of the concepts. In effect. "Man. The intellect "copies human life. This will demonstrate. never is it more luxuriant. Derrida chooses an impoverished form of play like the finite game or the leading question. is for the liberated intellect just a scaffolding and plaything for his boldest artifices. and that he is now guided not by concepts but by intuitions. and that is when it celebrates its Saturnalia. One does so "by managing to meet his main needs with foresight. After extensive commentary on the metaphorical nature of language. to which the poor man clings for dear life. who stands in "mockery for abstraction"? ("The latter being just as unreasonable as the former is unartistic" [256]. the intellect. that master of deception.) 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. disguised as illusion and beauty." he claims. neither of which is privileged. taking it for a good thing. he reveals that he does not need the emergency aid of poverty. Nietzsche closes his discussion by comparing two representative approaches to engaging this metaphoricity." Nietzsche asserts. As long as it can deceive without harm. prouder. by not seeing those needs and considering only life." find solace over the man of intuition." The intellect does not harbor any false assumptions about the truth behind this undertaking. or he speaks in sheer forbidden metaphors and unheard of conceptual compounds. The world is not made for these intuitions. is a form of decidedly finite play. no less. and then ironically puts it together again.) "Both desire to master life. (Which. 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. "has an unconquerable tendency to let himself be deceived" and will remain "enchanted with happiness" while he can sustain the illusion (255)." 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. is free and released from its usual servile tasks. to be real.(Palimpsestes 9) as part of a much larger joke: an April Fool's joke. joining the most remote and separating what is closest. in order at least by smashing and scorning the old conceptual barricades to correspond creatively to the impressions of the mighty present intuition. man falls silent when he sees them. then. more skillful and bold. He establishes this dynamic by positing the oppositions of monistic views grounded either in intellect or intuition. Derrida's essay is a joke (as my students consistently point out with disdain). the one who stands "in fear of intuition. possibly. of abstractions. that by selecting and characterizing the modality of a specific passage from Nietzsche the way he does. 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). prudence. itself. "When he smashes" this structure "apart. With creative nonchalance it scrambles the metaphors and shifts the boundary-stones of abstraction. 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")." 156 . scattering it. reliability." The other accomplishes this mastery "as an 'overjoyous' hero." he adds.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

for the horizon opens onto all that lies beyond itself. "what will undo any boundary is the awareness that it is our vision." he argues. Lyotard suggests that "if the supplement to be put into circulation is already there in some way. 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. but the important thing is that when the system is not isolated. This would be similar to Carse's commentary on playing with rules." Horizonal Semiotics Perhaps the main source of resistance to a vertigo model of semiosis is derived from the possibility of a resulting (figurative) nausea.. with the total quantity of the potential system not increasing at all" (221). through the game of interest and profit. Lyotard's vision of sign play is hyperbolically "closed" here. and not what we are viewing. "One cannot look at the horizon. obtained by inhibition. "A horizon is a phenomenon of vision. 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. As Carse suggests. whether this is through constraint or spontaneous" (222). it finds its supplements of wealth. in that Lyotard is identifying a form of accrual like that of the finite semiotician. both orientations consider the prospect of accumulation within a "commerce" of signs.undoing as a result of its closure-ridden economy. Perhaps a less disturbing model may be found in the endless extension of the "horizon". It is important to stress here that Lyotard is indeed emphasizing a movement-oriented approach to an already enclosed system. to pass into the hands of the creditors. Semiosis is thus viewed as remotely similar to playing a board game in which. In other words.. "What limits vision is rather the incompleteness of that vision. Carse contrasts the "boundary" in finite play with the "horizon" in infinite play. as opposed to playing by them.. paradoxically. not by internal inhibition. the horizon establishes a partition that is never actually manifested. in the process of "winning" (this is a finite game.) However. 165 . after all). Juliet Mitchell. one merely ends up at the same place where one once began. but he is doing so only to continue semiosic play. but would simply allow. then it is because these latter are due only to a saving.) 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 by external expansion. 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. A good example of a parallel sitatuion can be found in the work of several contemporary feminists (Hélène Cixous.. similarly. (Or. In this respect. A horizonal semiotics could clearly help to demonstrate that. "capital would not be able to grow at all. by the seizure of 'external' energetic sources. Saving of this kind "is in reality a matter of the introduction of new quantities of energy into the system. 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. etc. if it is enough to postpone the fulfilment of desire to free new energetic resources. and if one supposes a closed system of energies. yet despite its caricatural register it does accurately pinpoint the stifling "limit" of finite play. Moreover.) 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.that limits vision. "If all interest is only an advance from an energetic remainder yet to come." 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. "There is nothing in the horizon itself." he argues." Carse observes. (This connection would be similar to the shared common denominator of "play" between its infinite and finite modes. it is simply the point beyond which we cannot see" (57). "savings". energetic quantities .

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

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

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

Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. 1961). 278-294. Alyce Taylor Cheska (West Point. it is where things pick up speed" (25). 128-149. 1994). ---. Manfred. A Thousand Plateaus. Deleuze and Guattari contend. possibly." Blake would say). it is easy to see how a perpetually accretive." Image-Music-Text.Without pursuing this too far ("Enough! or Too much. "Inaugural Lecture. Elizabeth. Play.1978). Bennington. After all. Sign. Csikszentmihalyi. ---. Teachers. 1981)." Transforming the Hermeneutic Context: From Nietzsche to Nancy. ---. As Deleuze and Guattari conclude.141." a review of Économie libidinale." Journal of Combinatorial Theory. and Games. Blanchard. on the contrary. "Contesting. 179-189. ---. 1982). Nobody's Story: The Vanishing Acts of Women Writers in the Marketplace.190-215. through the middle. This method would entail "proceeding from the middle. Mihaly. 195-209. 1986). 169 . coming and going rather than starting and finishing" (25). 155-164. 1987). Mass. and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences." Image-Music-Text. Gilles and Félix Guattari. 1988). Carse. 1981). Trans. 1987). 1974)." Image-Music-Text. Beautiful Theories: The Spectacle of Discourse in Contemporary Criticism (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.125. Finite and Infinite Games (New York: The Free Press. Linda Coverdale (New York: Hill and Wang. 9. References Barthes. "the middle is by no means an average.S/Z : An Essay. Ed. Trans. Ormiston and Alan D. Penelope and Stephen Levinson." The Grain of the Voice: Interviews 19621980. because positing a point of grounded entrance would run counter to the idea that such a ground does not exist. Roland. This practice would be spatial by nature. Gallagher. 17-29. "Slow Joins of Loopy Games. "From Work to Text." Writing and Difference. "The Interpretation of a Text. Trans. "Never Say Why?. Jacques. Geoffrey.: MIT Press. Gayle L. Collège de France." Image-Music-Text. Ed. Meyer Barash (New York: The Free Press. James. Trans. 1982). ---. "Interview: A Conversation with Roland Barthes. 1985). Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang. it is possible that a "logic of the AND" (25) could lead to the appearance of "an unexpected semiotic" (119). 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. 457-478.2 (1979). ---. Marc Eli. "Structure. Claire. Richard Howard. Trans. NY: Leisure Press. Richard Miller (New York: Hill and Wang. Farrer. Politeness: Some Universals in Language Usage (Cambridge." Play as Context. Brown." Play as Context. Susan Sontag (New York: Noonday Press. Palimpsestes (Paris: Editions du Seuil. Derrida. "Some Paradoxes in the Definition of Play. 1977). Caillois. 1670-1820. Frank. Trans. 1990): 145-176. Ed. Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. Intellectuals. 14-26. Man. Catherine. Genette. Flanigan. Roger. Deleuze. James P. Gérard." A Barthes Reader. "The Grain of the Voice. "The Struggle with the Angel. 34 (1983): 4659. "Writers. Lyotard: Writing the Event (New York: Columbia University Press. Schrift (Albany: State University of New York Press. Bruss.Diacritics. Signs 108). Trans. but it would hardly be an implicitly pointless procession (any more than infinite play is pointless in this sense).

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

" -. 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. in order to produce an arguably "open" semiotic analysis. "The Catbird Seat. 1964).. A given sonnet.. (His example is an accounting of "ahead" that refuses to accept that the body "head" is a component of the metaphor. In other words.Lecture Eight: A Semiotic Reading of James Thurber's "The Catbird Seat" Assigned Reading: James Thurber. Additionally.) While this contention is irrefutable. 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. despite its alliance with the "bizarre". 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. a specific instance of something models itself both as itself as well as an example of its genre as a whole. even though this particular text has its own obvious unique qualities. just such a "bizarre" method will be engaged here. along with the consideration of more obvious associations. 9-17.Barthes ("Struggle" 136) "A Bizarre Analysis" In his commentary on metaphor." The Thurber Carnival (New York: Dell Publishing Co. for 171 . Thus. Inc. George Lakoff argues that an explanation of the mechanics of a given metaphor that denies obvious inferential connections is clearly "a bizarre analysis" (215). Overview: "A Bizarre Analysis" A "Poor" Example The Characters The Story The Plot Metonymy. this denial of "obvious" decodings can nevertheless be entertained profitably. this individual text will be employed to make generalizations about textuality itself.

it is a fairly simplistic. Also. and wholly idiosyncratically constitutes Thurber' s "The Catbird Seat. detailed ponderings of virtually arbitrary nodes on the textual rhizome that provisionally." "The War Between Men and Women. structuration. ultimately." "A Couple of Hamburgers. structuration. which serves as a similar bibliographical code arena and establishes some context for the humorous register of this story. Still. however. structure belongs to the realm of the Work. "movements" derived from more or less randomly selected sites of readings. (On the bibliographical code. closure-ridden story designed primarily to elicit amusement. and radical polysemy. presumably." and "The Curb in the Sky" provide substantial insight into "The Catbird Seat" in this regard. in Rabelais and His World ). "The Catbird Seat. Thurber is 172 . As discussed in Lecture 5. First published in the November 14. which additionally suggests a joyous subversion of normality that offers substantial revelations about the contours of that normality. consider the phenomenon of "carnivalization" popularized subsequently from work by Mikhail Bakhtin (for example. 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). It will offer only transformative "realizations" of readings. is aligned with the economy of the Text. This analysis will follow no particular order (remaining rhizomorphous). A "Poor" Example Thurber's short story might seem an unlikely candidate for a semiotic reading based on play." will merely piece together a haphazard skein of semiosic oscillations. This would be reinforced both by the original venue where this story appeared and the later anthology. tentatively." 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. This focus will lead. Thurber is typically ranked as a "light" humorist." "The Breaking Up of the Winships.instance. stands as an illustration of its own individually and as the overall category of "the sonnet. as the catalytic force behind this reading. such stories and pieces in The Thurber Carnival as "The Unicorn in the Garden. the American writer Mark Twain. infinite play with no desired outcome other than to open new decoding possibilities to inspire future readings. choosing merely a diachronic "tour" meandering through the story with numerous tangents running forward. 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). Indeed. It will sketch out some metaphorical overlappings that such readings can further generate. as an author within the larger scheme of twentieth-century literature." The reading offered here of James Thurber's short story. additionally." "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. see Jerome McGann and David Holdeman. While during his lifetime Thurber was often compared with another carnivalizer. backward and even "outside" it. Moreover. pursue what was discussed in Lecture 7 as play with a weak goal orientation. This reading will. his works now are deemed far less substantial. The Thurber Carnival (1945).) Indeed. 1942 New Yorker. drawing upon work by figures such as Gilles Fauconnier on the concept of blended mental spaces and Lakoff on metaphorical mappings.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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