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Critical Semiotics

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

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

Lecture One: The Lingua Franca of Semioticians

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

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

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

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

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

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

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). Peirce's triad of signs based on their relation to the thing they represent - icon, index and symbol serves as a convenient illustration of easy and imprecise appropriation in the discussion of semiotics. Even though Peirce has noted that they can intertwine in potentially subtle and complex ways, and therefore do not stand as distinctly different categories as much as interdependent gradations, they nevertheless are frequently used as though they were separate entities. (This also happens with Saussure's concept of the signifier and the signified.) To take one example: the icon. At one point, 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, and which it possesses, just the same, whether any such Object actually exists or not . . . Anything whatever, be it quality, existent individual, or law, is an Icon of anything, in so far as it is like that thing and used as a sign of it" (2.247). In the course of their attempts to make vague definitions like this one more precise, 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. Joseph Ransdell, in this fashion, identifies the mechanism of the icon as that of conceptual "likeness" (F 248). Charles Morris says it's "any sign which is similar in some respects to what it denotes" (quoted in E 192). Eco adds that "iconic signs do not possess the 'same' physical properties as do their objects but they rely on the 'same' perceptual 'structure', 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). This "surrogate stimuli" (E 194) is seen in a sign based on onomatopoeia that essentially signifies something by imitating, and thus reproducing, it, he asserts. (Eco even presents an extensive "critique of iconism" in E 191-217.) What these efforts to "clarify" the icon lead to, though, is the aforementioned conceptual myopia that fails to retain the multiplicitous relation that Peirce apparently had in mind. After all, consider the icon in this way: in order to render an icon intelligible, you have to know (through experience, etc.) that there is some meaningful relation between it and the thing it stands for. This would draw upon the index. Additionally, these relations are culturally determined so that the symbol component of this function would need to be considered at the same time. Thus, 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. The IG discussion, as I have characterized it here, tends to reify this presumed autonomy, often at the expense of a much more dynamic view of semiosis. 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, or a string of signs, transmitted from a sign-producer, or source, to a sign-receiver, or destination" (F 36). To Sebeok, the "sign" is something concrete that is "transmitted" to someone, as opposed to other conceptions, such as a popular one by Peirce, which view it as a process of intellection. But, while Sebeok considers the potentially dual nature of the initiating source of a sign-process (unlike Eco's description above), he nonetheless privileges the phenomenological view at the expense of the extra-phenomenological. In order for a decoder to be figured as as "a signreceiver, or destination," the sign has to be actively originated. While Eco allows for the possibility of negative agency, Sebeok makes agency a necessary component of semiosis. This 9

view of the sign presupposes a sign-creator (or encoder) of some kind, 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. Along these lines, 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," so it is assumed that somebody, some agent, must be doing this constructing and passing (E 8, emphasis added). The cloud-rain connection as a "sign" of possible rain would, indeed, lack both a sender and a message-goal (correlatives of Sebeok's "sign-producer, or source" and "sign-receiver, or destination"). But, admittedly, one could argue for the existence of a "natural" phenomenon as a sort of "signproducer, or source" in this case and the "sign-receiver, or destination" serving to designate whoever might encounter the cloud and make a connection that produces an intelligible sign indicating potential rain. Working With the Lingua Franca In order to make most models of the sign fully workable, you typically have to refine and extrapolate from their conceptual components to accommodate exceptional instances and conceptual flaws overlooked by their originators. 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." This would be consistent with Deelys contention that "semiosis is above all an assimilative process" (D 102), 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, for instance, or intonation, or feedback by the encoder, or previous interaction between the encoder and the decoder. A virtually limitless array of components associated with this process can figure into the analysis of semiosis as well, according to its contours as depicted by the IG. The same is true for dealing with texts purporting to outline semiotic theory and practice, 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. Of course, parallels with the interruption of the Tower of Babel construction come to mind regarding this situation. Additional References Chandler, Daniel. (1994). "Semiotics for Beginners" web site: http://www.Music.indiana.edu/~ltomlin/semiotic.html#top Gates, Henry Louis. (1988).The Signifying Monkey: A Theory of Afro-American Literary Criticism (New York: Oxford University Press Goudge, Thomas. (1950). The Thought of C. S. Peirce. New York: Dover Publications Peirce, Charles Sanders. (1931-1935). "Division of Signs," Collected Papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, Vols. I-VI. Ed. Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press de Saussure, Ferdinand. (1959). Course de Linguistique Gnrale, ed. Charles Bally and Albert Sechehaye in collaboration with Albert Riedlinger [1916], trans. Wade Baskin as Course in General Linguistics. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co. Tejera, Victorino. "Has Eco Understood Peirce?", The American Journal of Semiotics 6.2/3 (1989), 251-264. 10

Lecture Two - Two Extensive Critiques of Semiotics.

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

social structures and forces, and their complex interrelationships together constitute the irreducible object of semiotic analysis." However, these approaches to semiotics also are vulnerable to critiques similar to the ones they offer themselves. Again, though, identifying the presumptions behind these two studies will hardly negate whatever value they offer to future semiotic discussions. To the contrary, this examination will point to areas that are ripe for explorations to come. (For those interested in more extensive critical descriptions of these books, please consult my reviews of Stewart - "The Semiotics of Post-Semiotics," The Semiotic Review of Books 7.1, January, 1996, 8-10 - and Hodge and Kress - "Reading the Social Text," The American Journal of Semiotics 7, 1-2, 1990, 145-151.) Stop Signs: Stewart John Stewart condemns semiotics for relying upon the symbol model for its basic paradigm, announces its consequent obsolescence, and asserts that the only possible hope hinges on a "post-" manifestation of semiotics. (Stewart's use of "the symbol model" refers to an eclectic assortment of paradigms sharing a common feature configured as a sign.) 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). Consequently, "semiotic accounts of the nature of language are crippled," he asserts, "by . . . serious problems of plausibility, coherence, and applicability" (xii). These "problems" result from a handful of what Stewart refers to as "theoretical commitments" that, he argues, hamper a productive and accountable analysis of the nature of linguistic communication. The commitment that most significantly hinders semiotic analysis for Stewart is the two-world "problem." This results from the belief in "a fundamental distinction between two realms or worlds, the world of the sign and the signifier, symbol and symbolized, name and named, word and thought" (6-7). Such a distinction does not "coherently" account for a comprehendable interface between two realms that cannot co-exist simultaneously, Stewart argues, and an ontological impasse results. Since these worlds dont intersect, this position must rely upon the assumption of an unnecessary plane that impedes the intelligibility of a semiotic account of language. "Distinguish[ing] . . . between two worlds alters the historical sense of the term world as the single coherent sphere that humans inhabit" (105). We don't live in the world of conceptual signs, this position holds, and as a result, we can't conceive of such a sphere. 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). The other commitments Stewart aligns with semiotics extend from this initial assertion. Stewart attacks the practice of partitioning, 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. This practice, he insists, has spurred a false assumption of primary or foundational segments in language. 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. Representationalism similarly extends the independent-unit fallacy. It posits a two-world combination that resists our tangible conception of only one existent world, the one we inhabit consciously. The particular shortcoming of this commitment arises, for Stewart, in the case of represented concepts (like negations) that would exist only in the world of representation without 12

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

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

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

"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

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


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

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

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


Lecture Three: The Implications of Codes

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

because it is encoded. Or rather, it operates according to a system of determined or organized codes. Frye's use of "code" is largely consonant with its depiction usually offered by the code theorists discussed here. Roland Champagne, for instance, considers a code as "a network of ideas, images, and stylistic devices that have an internal cohesive principle" (35). 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, in other words, to recognize these expressions as signs" (158). It can even be taken so far as to embody an agency of governance. Umberto Eco defines "code" as "a system of rules that would involve a fixed number of elements and that would exclude some combinations while allowing others" (Open Work, 56). For Robert Hodge and Gunther Kress, it is something governed by one or more "terms" (111) that enable it to "carry" (109) significance, presumably either away from the encoder or toward the decoder. Basil Bernstein, in Class, Codes and Control, views codes from the standpoint of power and the ways in which they function as "dominant principles of interpretation" (3.24) or regulative "social principles" (3.30). In this way, a code constitutes, or acts as, an "underlying regulative principle" of an entity (1.8). Keir Elam also views codes as "rules determining the encoding or decoding of texts" (52). Additionally, it is useful to consider several code-related genres and actions identified by Elam ("code rules" [62], "code-observing, code-making and code-breaking" [55]) and Roman Jakobson ("code signs" ["Aspects," 102] and "code units" ["Translation," 430]). Robert Scholes says that "there are rules governing text production and interpretation" (Semiotics, 1) and "the semiotic [literary] critic" "looks for the generic or discursive structures that enable and constrain meaning." From this perspective, the code could be seen, metaphorically, as the ground on which communication is erected. In the case of Jakobson's model (also appropriated from information theory), codes are visually portrayed as functioning like the fulcrum of a lever, or perhaps more fittingly, a fulcrum for a seesaw as signs are passed back and forth between encoder and decoder ("Linguistics," 66): CONTEXT ADDRESSER MESSAGE CONTACT CODE This is reinforced by Jakobson's definition of "code" as information "fully, or at least partially, common to the addresser and addressee (or in other words, to the encoder and decoder of the message)" ("Linguistics," 66). Jurij Lotman echoes this view by asserting that "the receiver and sender use a common code. The common nature of the artistic language is unconditionally assumed, and only the message is new" (24). In both renderings, the code is considered beyond substantive control of either the encoder and decoder. Neither one can structurally alter the code itself; rather, they both have to use the code as it was codified prior to their engagement with it. Thomas Sebeok extends this common ground to a neat, expressed understanding, defining the code as "an agreed transformation, or set of unambiguous rules, whereby messages are converted from one representation to another" (465). Sebeok's definition reflects a widespread inclination in 25 ADDRESSEE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--- "Introduction to the Structural Analysis of Narratives," The Semiotic Challenge, Trans. Richard Howard (New York: Hill and Wang, 1988): 95-135. --- "Myth Today," Mythologies, Ed. and Trans. Annette Lavers (New York: Noonday Press, 1972): 109-159. --- "On S/Z and Empire of Signs," The Grain of the Voice, 68-87. --- Roland Barthes by Roland Barthes, Trans. Richard Howard (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977). --- "The Structuralist Activity," Critical Essays, Trans. Richard Howard (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1972): 213-220. --- "The Struggle with the Angel: Textual analysis of Genesis 32:22-32," Image Music Text, Ed and Trans. Stephen Heath (New York: Hill and Wang, 1977): 125-141. --- S/Z (Paris: ditions du Seuil, 1970). Bernstein, Basil. Class, Codes and Control, 3 vols. (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd, 19731975) Blondel, Eric. "Interpreting Texts With and Without Nietzsche," Transforming the Hermeneutic Context: From Nietzsche to Nancy, Ed. Gayle L. Ormiston and Alan D. Schrift (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990): 69-87. Blonsky, Marshall. "When Chains of Difference Intersect: A Lesson," On Signs, Ed. Marshall Blonsky (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985): 441-443. Bruss, Elizabeth. Beautiful Theories: The Spectacle of Discourse in Contemporary Criticism (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1982). Calvet, Louis-Jean. Roland Barthes: A Biography, Trans. Sarah Wykes (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995). Champagne, Roland. Literary History in the Wake of Roland Barthes: Re-Defining the Myths of Reading (Birmingham: Summa Publications, Inc., 1984). Chatman, Seymour. Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1978). Culler, Jonathan. The Pursuit of Signs: Semiotics, Literature, Deconstruction (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1981). --- Roland Barthes (New York: Oxford University Press, 1983). --- "The Semiotics of Tourism," Framing the Sign: Criticism and Its Institutions (Norman: Univeristy of Oklahoma Press, 1988): 153-167. Derrida, Jacques. "Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences," Writing and Difference, Trans. Alan Bass (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978): 278-294. Detweiler, Robert. Story, Sign, and Self: Phenomenology and Structuralism as Literary Critical Methods (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1978). Eco, Umberto. The Open Work, Trans. Anna Cancogni (Cambridge: Harvard University Presss, 1989). --- A Theory of Semiotics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976). Elam, Keir. The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama (London: Metheun, 1980). Frank, Manfred. "The Interpretation of a Text," Transforming the Hermeneutic Context , 145176. Frye, Northrop. The Great Code: The Bible and Literature (New York: Harcourt Brave Jovanovich, 1982). Halliday, M. A. K. Language as Social Semiotic: The Social Interpretation of Language and Meaning (Baltimore: University Park Press, 1978). Hodge, Robert and Gunther Kress, Social Semiotics (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988). Jakobson, Roman. "Linguistics and Poetics," Language in Literature, Ed. Krystyna Pomorska and Stephen Rudy (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1987): 62-94. --- "On Linguistic Aspects of Translation," Language in Literature , 428-435. 42

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


Lecture Four: The "problem" of controlling the decoder.

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

consider Eco's elaborate discussion of the semiosic trail that leads from the common word "Neanderthal" to Joyce's construction: "meandertale". Eco somewhat naively conjectures about the "original components" (S 74) of the word and conceives a semiotic web of associations that, he argues, derive from "Neanderthal". While Eco points out that "Neanderthal" is literally "not found as such in the text," he hazards an outline of the echoes of "association" of "Neanderthal" that, from a systemic standpoint, evidently demonstrates how the word could be said to "appear" in the text. It is "there" in the sense that the associative system logically, or discernibly, or even naturally, leads the decoder (Eco, in this case) to it through the attempt to "deduce" its "component words." While, again, Eco models these linkages on the spatial concept of the web as opposed to a rigidly deterministic linear, causal plane, his model hardly avoids the pitfalls of a reductively associative claim that "each term is explained by other terms." He acknowledges this, though, noting that his diagram "has a purely orientative value, in the sense that it impoverishes the associations in terms of both number and dimension" (76). Still, this acknowledgement functions as a strategy like the one he uses in his Preface. It appears to make only a provisional, tentative claim, while it simultaneoulsly reinforces his declarations about encoder/text authority over the decoder. At this juncture Eco makes his pitch for textual restraint. Because "all the lexemes" he associates with "meandertale" "are only those which are to be found in the text of FW," he accords this evidence the status of decoder regimentation (S 76). "The reader of FW," he asserts, "controlled by the text, is... led into a game of associations that were previously suggested to him by the cotext". (While he doesn't elaborate on the concept of the "co-text," he appears to mean a text consisting of an "associative series" [76] dependent on "the text in front of us" [85].) The implications he derives from this are that "every text, however 'open' it is, is constituted, not as the place of all possibilities, but rather as the field of oriented possibilities." So, while the decoder is at liberty to generate individual combinations of these "possibilities", they always remain "oriented" by the encoder/text. A Sophisticated Perspective: The Later Chapters As is the case with all of the later chapters, "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. Eco notes early on that from the standpoint of "compositional analysis," "semiotic expression (be it a verbal item or any type of physical utterance) conveys, according to linguistic conventions, an organized and analyzable content, formed by the aggregation (or hierarchy) of semantic features" (176). Eco, while discussing Peirce's commentary on the "ground", cites one instance in which the involvement of the decoder (or "interpreter") isn't necessary at all to establish semiosis. Eco's reading of Peirce on this issue is that "the interpretant," at least in selected passages such as 1.339 from his Collected Papers, "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). Eco doesn't explain this addendum (and, in fact, cites 1.338 instead of 1.339, a choice which doesn't make sense), but it appears that he is trying to situate the decoder as something supererogatory to the process of semiosis itself. In effect, Eco asserts that sign activity is not materially affected by the impact of the decoder. Let's look closely at 1.339, in which Peirce writes: "A sign stands for something to the idea which it produces, or modifies. Or, it is a vehicle conveying into the mind something from without." The decoder isn't explictly referred to here, thus seemingly confirming Eco's argument. But 57

consider the decoder's implied presence. Somebody has to be present to generate "the idea which [the sign] produces." It is the same conscious entity that the sign is "conveying into the mind" of. Eco would have us accept his automaton model under these circumstances to eliminate any active participation - and potential freedom - by the decoder, but clearly Peirce's passage suggests otherwise. Peirce, in fact, much more frequently is inclined to explicitly identify the decoder as a functional agent of semiosis, as in this famous passage: "A sign, or representamen, is something that stands to somebody for something in some respect or capacity. It addresses somebody, that is, it creates in the mind of that person an equivalent sign, or perhaps a more developed sign" (2.228). 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). Ultimately, Eco "retain[s] only a precise aspect" of it that, not surprisingly, serves his purposes. He tries to accomplish this by focusing specifically on the materiality of the interpretant (i.e., its "content") as opposed to Peirce's view which, in some definitions, situates the interpretant as "mental events." Moreover, this substance of the interpretant is established through a paradigm of consensus derived from habituated sign interaction. This approach saves the interpretant from a fate that would otherwise configure it as "an ungraspable platonic abstraction or an undetectable mental event," Eco maintains (197). Somewhat ironically, this corroboration is derived from a given interpretant's establishment through its relation to other signs. "Once the interpretant is equated with any coded intentional property of the content," he contends, "since these properties cannot be isolated but under the form of the other signs (that is, other representamens), the element of the content becomes something physically testable." "Testability" has the status of a confirmation apparatus in Eco's configuration of semiosis. A legacy of the scientific method, it can be employed - as Eco uses it here - to suggest a form of corroboration that consequently raises hypotheses about the Model Reader to a higher level of proof beyond that of mere conjecture or the recorded experience of one reader (as in Barthes' S/Z) or as many as five (as in Norman Holland's 5 Readers Reading). Like I. A. Richards' survey of numerous actual readers (as recounted in Practical Criticism), The Role is presented as an empirically informed accounting of systematic decoder practice. Eco posits the establishment of a storehouse of these mutually validating correlations that serves to socially maintain semiotic consensus. "A given culture displays, in any of its activities, accepted correlations between representamens (or expressions), each becoming in turn the interpretant of the other" (F 197). Through the example of an interpretation of a literary text, Eco proposes the corroboration - with such cross-confirmation - of its "internal structure" derived from the "testable critical statements" that confirm its signifying status. The specific text, then, "is recognized as the interpretant of the statements [about it] by force of concrete and testable correlations, 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, accepted by the museums, and reproduced as a caption in innumerable books on art history." This institutionalized group confirmation "frees" the intepretant "from any psychological misunderstanding" (198). Eco thus attempts to portray interpretants as "the testable and describable correspondents associated by public agreement to another." Accordingly, potential assignment of a given interpretant is wrested from the decoder. "The analysis of content becomes," instead, "a cultural operation which works only on physically testable cultural products, that is, other signs and their reciprocal correlations." I have cited Eco's repetitive claims excessively here to make a point. Notice the extent to which, in the course of a few closing paragraphs of this chapter, he repeatedly resorts to confirmability via a community of decoders in order to, in a seemingly desperate fashion of 58

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


References Abrams, M. H. "Rationality and Imagination in Cultural History: A Reply to Wayne Booth," Critical Inquiry 2,3 (Spring 1976): 447-464. Barthes, Roland. S/Z: An Essay, Trans. Richard Miller (New York: Hill and Wang, 1974). Capozzi, Rocco. "Interpretation and Overinterpretation: The Rights of Texts, Readers, and Implied Authors," Reading Eco: An Anthology, Ed. Rocco Capozzi (Indiana: University of Indiana Press, 1997), 217-234. Corti, Maria. An Introduction to Literary Semiotics, Trans. Margherita Bogat and Allen Mandelbaum (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1978). Culler, Jonathan. "Literary Competence," Reader-Response Criticism: From Formalism to PostStructuralism, Ed. Jane Tompkins (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1980), Dolezel, Lubomir. "The Themata of Eco's Semiotics of Literature," Reading Eco, 111-120. Eco, Umberto. "An Author and His Interpreters", Reading Eco, 59-70. ---. Interpretation and Overinterpretation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992). ---. The Limits of Interpretation (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990). ---. The Open Work, Trans. Anna Cancogni (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989). ---. Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984). ---. "Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language," Reading Eco, 1-13. ---. A Theory of Semiotics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976). Elam, Keir. The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama (London: Metheun, 1980). Fish, Stanley. "Interpreting the Variorum," Reader-Response Criticism, 164-184. ---. "Literature in the Reader: Effective Stylistics," Reader-Response Criticism, 70-100. Gibson, Walker. "Authors, Speakers, Readers, and Mock Readers," Reader-Response Criticism, 1-6. Hodge, Robert and Gunther Kress, Social Semiotics (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1988). Holland, Norman. 5 Readers Reading (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1975). Iser, Wolfgang. "The Reading Process: A Phenomenological Approach," Reader-Response Criticism, 50-69. Longoni, Anna. "Esoteric Conspiracies and the Interpretative Strategy," Reading Eco, 210-216. Peirce, Charles Sanders. Collected Papers, vol.s I-VI, ed. Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1931). Petrilli, Susan. "Towards Interpretation Semiotics," Reading Eco, 121- 136. Richards, I. A. Practical Criticism: A Study of Literary Judgment (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc., 1968) Riffaterre, Michael. "The Interpretant in Literary Semiotics," in Reading Eco, 173-184. Samson, Basil. The Camp at Wallaby Cross: Aboriginal Fringe Dwellers in Darwin (Caberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, 1980). Scholes, Robert. Semiotics and Interpretation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982). Sebeok, Thomas. "Pandora's Box: How and Why to Communicate 10,000 Years into the Future," On Signs, Ed. Marshall Blonsky (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1985): 448- 466. Seed, David. "The Open Work in Theory and Practice," Reading Eco, 73-81. Simpkins, Scott. "'The Infinite Game': Cortzar's Hopscotch," The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association, 23.1 (Spring, 1990): 61-74. Tejera, Victorino. "Eco, Peirce and the Necessity of Interpretation," Reading Eco, 147-162. Volosinov, V. N. Marxism and the Philosophy of Language, Trans. Ladislav Matejka and I. R. Titunik (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973).


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

found in speech activity and when stated must adequately account for such activity. Science should not impose systems on languages, it should look for systems in speech activity, and, having found them, state the facts in a suitable language.("Semantics" 144) Eco, on the other hand, expresses considerable alarm over this threat to the neatly limiting implications of systemicity. His response is to call this type of decoding "hermetic drift," which he depicts as an "interpretive habit...based on principles of universal analogy and sympathy, 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). A system like this would hardly provide the organizing harmony usually posited by systemicists. To the contrary, the "main feature" of this sense of drift, he insists, "seems to be the uncontrolled ability to shift from meaning to meaning, from similarity to similarity, from a connection to another" (26-27). Not unexpectedly, Eco portrays this as semiotic anarchy. "This world perfused with signatures, ruled, as it pretends, by the principle of universal significance, results in producing a perennial shift and deferral of any possible meaning" (Limits 27). Eco can barely contain his contempt for the non-systemicity of a system of unrestricted semiosis and "pretend" rules. Not only does "Hermetic semiosis [transform] the whole world into a mere linguistic phenomenon," he concludes with alarm, it also "devoids language of any communicative power" (27). And, finally, "in the most extreme cases of Hermetic drift, no contextual stricture holds any longer" (30). "Connotations proliferate like a cancer and at every step the previous sign is forgotten, obliterated, 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). This can even taint the system itself since "aspects" of texts can be "polluted and obscured" by "too many uncontrolled intentions of the readers" (62). A debacle of this nature is particularly likely in the case of the systemic nihilism of Eco's favorite villain: deconstruction. "The most radical practices of deconstruction privilege the initiative of the reader," Eco declares (52). As a consequence, these practices "reduce the text to an ambiguous bunch of still unshaped possibilities, thus transforming texts into mere stimuli for the interpretive drift." A carcinogenic mlange of cheap pleasure, aimless drift, 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, systemicists like Eco aren't conflating structure with system in this debate - at least on the surface, anyway. 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. 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, card games, road signals, iconological codes, and so on) and the processes in the course of which the users practically apply the rules of these systems in order to communicate, that is, to designate states of possible worlds or to criticize and modify the structure of the systems themselves.(Limits 207) Careful scrutiny reveals that this conception of process is really merely a semantic displacement of "structure" for "system" and "system" for "process", however. For, Eco cannot go beyond systemic control in a manner that is also comfortably systematic - even in his most "open" 80

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

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

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

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

Significantly, this leads Greimas to emphasize what R. W. Bailey identifies as a defining characteristic of systemic linguistics: "the idea of 'levels' as a root metaphor for language behavior," 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). Greimas says that "all discourse - and especially narrative discourse - has a multiplanar organization" consisting of "undeniable delimitations, which are sometimes situated at one or other levels of discourse" (1). Accordingly, Greimas proposes to begin with "spatio-temporal criteria of segmentation" of the text. "Pragmatic discourse," he adds, details a "series of 'events' or 'things' which are necessarily inscribed in a system of spatio-temporal co-ordinates." A "temporal infrastructure" (Maupassant 2) is being established in Maupassant's opening paragraph, Greimas argues, 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, a "spatial setting" is established through the Paris reference, spurring an axiological relation in accordance with Greimas's schema: /enclosed/ vs /enclosing/ __________ ___________ "Paris" (non-Paris)

Without pursuing this excessively, it should be apparent where Greimas is going with this analysis. He suggests, for instance, that the opening sequence is "composed of four co-ordinated propositions, each having a different subject: 'Paris', the 'sparrows', 'the sewers' and the 'People'" (3). Or, 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, 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. Barthes on Poe Despite the a-systemic manifesto that Barthes develops as a disclaimer in his "Textual Analysis: Poe's 'Valdemar'," his actual analysis is not all that different from Greimas's. Admittedly, though, Barthes is on the outer limits of systemics, while Greimas inhabits a comfortable central position within it. Barthes limits his procedure very specifically: "in analysing the 'signifiance' of a text, we shall abstain voluntarily from dealing with certain problems" (174). Among these exclusions, Barthes says, are consideration of the author, the larger literary historical context within which 85

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Lecture Six: Finite Infinite Semiosis.

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

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

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

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

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

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

then that even someone like Peirce, who provides a threatening conception of semiosis, found himself unable to live with its logical extensions. "Referentiality without end" evidently was too much for him and, like many following in his wake in the IG discussion, "he could not abandon sign systems to what appeared to be an abyss of endless displacement" (R 153). After all, "if the activity of a system of semiosis is viewed as constantly mutable and highly unstable, the goal of analytical security -- or 'order' -- is unattainable." 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, many semioticians have attempted to cope through a related strategy. For them, a reasonable way out of this dilemma is found in the faith that "signs eventually stop signifying at some grand point" (153-154). The usual justification for this strategy is drawn from the seemingly undeniable "reality" of at least partially successful communication. "In other words, if we can exchange information with others at a moderately successful rate, then it is indeed likely that signs do halt their otherwise infinite slippage (even if this happens only for a scant moment)" (154). As was seen with contentions like those raised by Eco and Tejera, the belief in communication is difficult to refute. In fact, this issue is often raised as a means of denigrating the emphasis on play in some deconstructionist viewpoints. 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. "The notion of value is based on comprehension and without this potential, communication is a hopeless venture. Belief in sign stoppage provides support for the contention of logical coherence, with the implication that satisfactory information exchange is possible, if not probable" (R 154). A situation not unlike that which fuels the motives for systemics develops as a consequence of this acceptance. For, if a semiotically meaningful exchange "does take place with regularity, then it can be analyzed and schematized and consequently better understood through semiotic analysis." Charles Ruhl, for one, "reflects this notion when he concedes that 'monosemy is theoretically preferable to polysemy' in that it provides a stronger ground, a systematic stability, for semiotic analysis" (154). 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. The plastic, generative quality of sign oscillation, in other words, is required for the construction and use of signs. Signs that are static and unmalleable couldn't be manipulated for communicative purposes by individual encoders. Out of necessity, signs have to be permanently subject to alteration as they reverberate in the larger arena of semiosis. What this means, then, is that "although signs never stop signifying, they are by no means useless. On the contrary, it is exactly this potential that allows them to signify" (R 156). Peirce bears a significant portion of responsibility for the anxiety associated with unlimited semiosis, as depicted in his description of ongoing signification: The meaning of a representation, can be nothing but a representation. In fact, it is nothing but the representation itself conceived as stripped of irrelevant clothing. But this clothing never can be completely stripped off; it is only changed for something more diaphanous. So there is an infinite regression here. Finally, the interpretant is nothing but another representation to which the torch of truth is handed along; and as a representation, it has its interpretant again. Lo, another infinite series. (c.1875: 1.339) This "nothing but..." has been the source of a lot of hand-wringing about Peirce's contention, although it can be taken in ways that alleviate this uneasiness. After all, "nothing but a 102

representation" is not nothing; a representation just has a status that is different from that of entities inhabiting the material realm. (John Stewart, it may be recalled from Lecture 2, attacks this perspective for its presumption of a two-worlds view.) Still, the knee-jerk reaction to this assertion always seems to predominate. 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). What could be conceived of as a source of limitless growth is, instead, given a modality aligned with pestilence through Boler's frame. In a typical follow up to this negative presentation of semiosis, Peirce adds this sentence to the quote above: "But an endless series of representations, each representing the one behind it, may be conceived to have an absolute object at its limit" (c.1875: 1.339). As this addition attests, Peirce, like semioticians such as Boler, cannot satisfactorily accept a semiosic landscape grounded by a presumed groundlessness. Nonetheless, at least "from Peirce's perspective, this 'absolute object' is ultimately only another representation. While he allows for the conceptualization of the end of semiosis, he does so only under the condition that such a 'limit' is extremely fleeting. Accordingly, once this conclusion is reached, it itself becomes a representation which finds its meaning in another representation and so on all over again" (R 160). 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. To many, though, the potential destruction of semiotics goes hand in hand with this acknowledgement. "After all, if signs never halt in their progression of semiosis, how can they be studied and analyzed with any degree of finality?" (R 168). Boler echoes Peirce's depiction of ongoing semiosis when he asserts that it "raises the spectre of infinite regress and, what I think is more important, creates the suspicion that all signs are somehow shoddy or incomplete" because "a sign is always open to further interpretants" (382). "The acceptance of this condition often appears as a type of defeat, an admission of futility for the semiotic project: if signs and signification cannot be conceptually accepted as describable (due to their fluidity), then a subject is lacking for semiotic inquiry" (R 158). 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. Eco supports this view, although somewhat vaguely, when he concedes that "semiosis is potentially unlimited, but our cognitive purpose organizes, frames and reduces such an undetermined and infinite series of possibilities" ["Unlimited" 5]. The nature of our "cognitive purpose" is something this current lecture explores. In fact, Andrew R. Smith offers a plausible explanation in his discussion of the "the ideology of communication exchange" (202). This orientation, he suggests, is "built on the creation and satisfaction of the dominant need for property and propriety" (203). Additionally, it hinges on the notion that things can be "explained according to rational lights" (202). As a result, within this paradigm, "the reality of the unverifiable or indeterminate is denied or suppressed" (203). Smith compellingly traces the origin of this drive to the tradition of Platonic rhetoric and its quest for knowledge and truth. The Platonists, he observes, were "determined to get the better of signs, 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). (Presumably, with the weaker aligned with the false, and vice versa. Lectures 7 and 8 will extend this distinction in terms of the implications of favoring the "weaker" orientation of this nature.)


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

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

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

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

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

intelligibility." Evidently, the concept of finite semiosis will serve as a "filter" of this nature to avoid the danger attendant with too much openness. In an effort to maximize this "risk", Eco posits a delicate balance between dis-order and disorder, 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. "The distance between a plurality of formal worlds and undifferentiated chaos, totally devoid of all possibility of aesthetic pleasure, is minimal," he declares (Open 65). "Only a dialectics of oscillation can save the composer of an open work." Significantly, this semiotic salvation can come only as a consequence of the boundaries erected through the process of a dialectic. A System of Indeterminacy Within a conception of the "plural aspect of the artistic communication" (Open 95), Eco proposes the possibility of being able to "recognize a system of indeterminacy whereby information decreases as intelligibility increases" (65). Lecture 5 highlights the operation Eco is establishing here as he posits a systemic containment of sign movement as a constituting force behind the concept of semiosis itself. This would evidently be especially germaine for aesthetic semiosis which is initiated by a sign-vehicle that is artistically ambiguous. Eco proposes that a residue of intelligible organization is passed on from the encoder to the decoder, thereby introducing an initiating constraint that remains as a means of directing the decoder's practice. This is where the final stage of semiosis begins. But Eco situates this a simultaneous reinstigation of semiosis, rather than an acquiescent reception. The decoder, he argues, should be seen as the first step of a new chain of communication, since the message he has received is in itself another source of possible information, albeit a source of information that is yet to be filtered, interpreted, out of an initial disorder -- not absolute disorder but nonetheless disorder in relation to the order that has preceded it. As a new source of information, the aesthetic message possesses all the characteristics proper to the source of a normal informative chain. (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). While considerable pleasure can be derived from untethered semosis, Eco portrays this experience as negatively onanistic. "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." Consistent with using "open" in a negative way, he similarly frames "vitality" as a bacchanalian indulgence of sensation without measure. Eco repeatedly insists that a decoder who disregards any caution is not actually functioning as a legitimate decoder. 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. To enact control over the uncooperative decoder, on the other hand, Eco constructs a procedure by which even this delinquent can still be mediated by the message and its concomitantly imposed limits. If the viewer of the "new" painting "abandons himself to the free play of reactions," this freedom is mediated by the work which "provokes" it (Open 103). 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." The viewer, accordingly, is "not only enjoying his own personal experience" within this scenario, "but is also appreciating 109

the value of the work itself, its aesthetic quality." Given the encoder and sign-vehicle control over this process, the viewer's enjoyment is derivative, not creative. For, Eco proposes that this direction by the text somehow incorporates unlimited semiosis into the sphere of the text, so that the viewer's ostensibly autonomous actions are actually constrained by it: the free play of associations, once it is recognized as originating from the disposition of the signs, becomes an integral part of the work, one of the components that the work has fused into its own unity and, with them, a source of the creative dynamism that it exudes. At this point, the viewer can savor...the very quality of the form, the value of a work that is open precisely because it is a work. This can be taken to the extreme so that "even an art that upholds the values of vitality, action, movement, brute matter, and chance rests on the dialectics between the work itself and the 'openness' of the 'readings' it invites" (100). If a text is not granted this status, Eco declares, then it has experienced a systemic condition of exit and is outside the arena of an aesthetic signvehicle (i.e., a work). This distinction allows Eco to reinforce his ordinary/aesthetic sign division. "A work of art can be open only insofar as it remains a work;" he says, "beyond a certain boundary, it becomes mere noise" (100). Barthes's "From Work to Text" sheds light on Eco's strategy here: Eco is essentially arguing that, what for Barthes is a Text, becomes constrained, intelligibly open, only if it is granted the status of a Work. Thus, the exhilarating infinitude of the Barthesian Text is an instance of noise for Eco. Moreover, Eco's view of the work configures it as possessing what he calls "aesthetic information" (Open 103). "Quantitative information," he says, "consists in drawing as many suggestions as possible out of a totality of signs -- that is, in charging these signs with all the personal reactions that might be compatible with the intentions of the author." Aesthetic information, on the other hand, consists in referring the results drawn from [quantitative nformation] back to their original organic qualities, in seizing, behind the suggestive wealth we exploit, a conscious organization, a formative intention, and in enjoying this new awareness. This awareness of the project that underlies the work will, in turn, be another inexhaustible source of pleasure and surprise, since it will lead us to an ever-growing knowledge of the personal world and cultural background of the artist. (104) Eco identifies this dynamic as enforcing a controlled semiosic environment in which "the dialectics between work and openness, the very persistence of the work is itself a guarantee of both communication and aesthetic pleasure." 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. 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). Eco asserts that rhyme encompasses "a number of stylistic patterns and conventions." This voluntary restriction is accepted "not out of masochism," he suggests, "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." By adhering to these "conventions", the rhymer "is no longer the victim or the prisoner of his enthusiasms and emotions." This freedom is paradoxically acomplished as "the rules of rhyme restrain him but at the same time liberate him, the way an Ace bandage restrains the movement of an ankle or a knee while allowing the runner to run 110

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

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

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

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

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

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

information increases, endlessly expanding the message of the poem and opening up new and different perspectives." Nonetheless, this takes place "in perfect accordance with the intention of the poet who, while writing, was well aware of all the associations that an uncommon juxtaposition would provoke in the mind of the reader." Of course, Eco explains at length elsewhere how an author, in this case, could enforce this restriction (via a Model Author), yet again this argument carries with it a considerable amount of faith in its execution. Admittedly, "intention" does serve usefully to base speculation on the system of aesthetic semiosis. 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. Eco, in fact, uses intention to this end. Like the insertion of finite semiosis into the sign-vehicle, "at times...intention may assume a much more complex form, intrinsic to the configuration itself" (Open 99). Here, 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). In the case of the "new painting," he asserts that "obviously because the painting organizes crude matter, underlining its crudeness while at the same time defining it as a field of possibilities; the painting, even before becoming a field of actualizable choices, is already a field of actualized choices" (101). Eco maintains that this should be the focus of the decoder's engagement, as opposed to what the decoder brings to semiosis. "This is why, before launching into a hymn to vitality, the critic celebrates the painter and what he proposes," he adds. 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. "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, however free and casual, are nevertheless the products of an intention and, therefore, the marks of a work of art." Using Jackson Pollock's paintings on this point, Eco contends that "the disorder of the signs, the disintegration of the outlines, the explosion of the figures incite the viewer to create his own network of connections" (Open 103). Despite all this openness, constraint remains. "The original gesture, fixed by and in the sign, is in itself a direction that will eventually lead us to the discovery of the author's intention." To return to the disorder/dis-order distinction, it is apparent that this assumption is being employed to naturalize the neutralizing operation that attends Eco's sense of openness. To reiterate an earlier point: the truly open work would be a form of disorder. (In fact, it would not qualify as a "work" precisely for this reason.) This chaos can be rendered intelligible, though, by imagining a semiosic scenario in which both the encoder and (more importantly, perhaps) the decoder, are equally as informed about, and competent in, engaging sign systems characterized by controllable openness. And even more importantly, the decoder has to gracefully agree to adhere to the relevant, applicable systemic rules. In a broader sense than that specifically raised in his illustration, Eco argues that semiosis is bound by a "measurable threshold" of intelligibility that "represents an insurmountable limit" (Open 64). That is what provides Eco with a criterion of intelligibility within this distinction. "A disorder which is not specifically aimed at subjects accustomed to moving among systems of probability will not convey any information" (65). "This tendency toward disorder, characteristic of the poetics of openness," he says, "must be understood as a tendency toward controlled disorder, toward a circumscribed potential, 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). Every move by the decoder is circumscribed by Eco's network of constraints imposed, with no little irony, by conditions of "openness". And, once more, this responsibility falls upon the 117

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Colapietro, Vincent. Peirce's Approach to the Self: A Semiotic Perspective on Human Subjectivity. Albany: State University Press of New York, 1989. Dolezel, Lubomir. "The Themata of Eco's Semiotics of Literature." Reading Eco: 111-120. Eco, Umberto. The Aesthetics of Chaosmos: The Middle Ages of James Joyce. Trans. Ellen Esrock. Tulsa: University of Tulsa Monograph Series, 1982. ---. The Limits of Interpretation. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990. ---. The Role of the Reader: Explorations in the Semiotics of Texts. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979. ---.Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984. ---. A Theory of Semiotics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976. ---. "Unlimited Semiosis and Drift: Pragmaticism vs 'Pragmatism.'" C. S. Peirce Sesquicentennial Congress lecture, 1990: 1-21. Eliot, T. S. "Hamlet and His Problems." Critical Theory Since Plato. Ed. Hazard Adams. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Pub.s, 1992: 764-6. Frye, Northrop. Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays. Princeton, NJ:Princeton University Press, 1957. Korg, Jacob. Language In Modern Literature: Innovation And Experiment. New York: Barnes And Nobel, 1979. Longoni, Anna. "Esoteric Conspiracies and the Interpretative Strategy." Reading Eco: 210-216. Merrell, Floyd. Semiosis in the Postmodern Age. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 1995. ---. Semiotic Foundations: Steps toward an Epistemology of Written Texts. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982. ---. Signs Grow: Semiosis and Life Processes. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996. Multhaup, Uwe. "James Joyce and Language as Heuristic Process." Poetic Knowledge: Circumference and Centre. Ed.s Roland Habenbchle and Joseph T. Swann. Bonn: Bouvier Verlag Herbert Grundmann, 1980: 65-74. Peirce, Charles Sanders. Collected Papers,. Vol.s I-VI. Ed. Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1931. Petrilli, Susan. "Towards Interpretation Semiotics." Reading Eco: 121-136. Riffaterre, Michael. "The Interpretant in Literary Semiotics." Reading Eco: 173-184. Robey, David. "Introduction." Umberto Eco. The Open Work. Trans. Anna Cancogni. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989: VII-XXXII. Ruhl, Charles. On Monosemy: A Study in Linguistic Semantics. Albany: State University Press of New York, 1989. Seed, David. "The Open Work in Theory and Practice." Reading Eco: 73-81. Simpkins, Scott. "'The Infinite Game': Cortzar's Hopscotch ." The Journal of the Midwest Modern Language Association 23.1 (Spring, 1990): 61-74. Smith, Andrew R. "Simple Signs, Indeterminate Events: Lyotard on Sophists and Semiotics." Beyond the Symbol Model: Reflections on the Representational Nature of Language, Ed. John Stewart. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996: 201-234. Tejera, Victorino. "Eco, Peirce and the Necessity of Interpretation." Reading Eco: 147-162. Weir, Lorraine. Writing Joyce: A Semiotics of the Joyce System.Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989.


Lecture Seven: Semiotics Based on Radical Polysemy, Structuration, and Play

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

something, might it not be just that limit to the will to mean, which, much as a necessarily differential will to power, is forever divided; folded and manifolded." This conclusion leads Derrida to posit that "I have forgotten my umbrella" may have a synecdochic relationship to the "totality" of Nietzsche's work. "Which is tantamount to saying," he notes, "that there is no 'totality to Nietzsche's text,' not even a fragmentary or aphoristic one" (135). But, this contention also instigates Derrida's own frame surrounding Nietzsche's sentence, which entertains the possibility of a parodic valence for it. "Suppose...that in some way the totality which I (so to speak) have presented is also an erratic, even parodying graft. What if this totality should eventually be of the same sort as an 'I have forgotten my umbrella'?" In keeping with this possibility, Derrida proposes an oddly playful encoding upon the fragment. He cites a fragment from Nietzsche's Joyful Wisdom -- "for we dwell ever closer to the lightning!" (135) -- which establishes his shift toward play that is as dangerous as it is exhilarating. "There is evidence here," he maintains, "to expose one, roofless and unprotected by a lightning rod as he is, to the thunder and lightning of an enormous clap of laughter." Additionally, he declares, "my discourse...has been every bit as clear as that" of Nietzsche's sentence. "You might even agree that it contained a certain ballast of rhetorical, pedagogical and persuasive qualities. But suppose anyway that it is cryptic." 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. Or, furthermore, that no single encoder or decoder can possess the overall capacity to designate a specific code in relation to a given sign-vehicle. In this situation, one might be tempted to side with Saussure and suggest that "one person does not make a code" (137). "To which," Derrida replies, "I could just as easily retort that the key to this text is between me and myself, according to a contract where I am more than just one." This contract is further problematized by Derrida's own mortal limit. The same would apply if a limited interpretive community of "accomplices" shared his secret. Derrida asserts that his own text is "really cryptic and parodying," yet this assertion doesn't deplete its signifying reserve. Despite his claim, one that carries with it the putative "authority" of the encoder, "the text will remain indefinitely open, cryptic and parodying." Playing again on the umbrella parallels, he concludes: "In other words, the text remains closed, at once open and closed, or each in turn, folded/unfolded (ploy/dploy), it is just an umbrella that you couldn't use (dont vous n'auriez pas l'emploi). You might just as soon forget it..." Earlier, I mentioned that Derrida identifies two "opponents' within his self-reflective discussion. The second one comes into play after the conclusion of his essay (or, rather, to complicate an easy sense of his conclusion). In the first of two postscripts, he recounts a story that he revisited when it was brought up five years after it took place. The story involves a conversation with Roger Laporte. "During this encounter," one Derrida says he can't recall, "we found ourselves, for other reasons, in disagreement with a certain hermeneut who in passing had presumed to ridicule the publication of Nietzsche's unpublished manuscripts" (139). "'They will end up...publishing his laundry notes and scraps like "I have forgotten my umbrella",'" he had complained. Derrida claims that when discussing this encounter later, others who were present could attest that it had indeed taken place. "Thus I am assured of the story's veracity, as well as the authenticity of the facts which otherwise I have no reason to doubt. Nevertheless I have no recollection of the incident. Even today." What follows, significantly, is the date: 1.4.1973. (That Derrida is using the day-month-year form of dating is suggested by the date of his second postscript: 17.5.1973. Obviously, what Derrida is doing is framing what Grard Genette refers to as a "paratext" 155

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

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

Nietzsche's text is beyond the decoder's control, and thus Derrida can say all sorts of wild things about it, or it is a joke that can be revealed monosemously and thus decoded with "success", as designated by the date of Derrida's first postscript. (Thereby allowing the decoder who also understands this joke to become a member of the winning team within this game, like Eco's "model reader.") The infinite player of this text, however, need not resort to either of these refuges. Consider's Nietzsche's sentence again from this approach. The infinite player borrows from both orientations (to keep this example simple). She can cathect onto the "real storm" an array of joyous, figurative scenarios. Yet, at the same time, she doesn't deny that the storm is materially real. She doesn't have to necessarily suffer its reality, as does the man of intellect. But, neither does she, like the intuitive man, resolutely ignore the fact that its materiality is able to impinge itself upon her in a manner that is temporarily beyond her control. She can walk slowly from beneath the storm clouds, like the man of intellect, but she doesn't do so to intensify her martyrdom, as he does. Rather, she plays with the unfortunate situation (it's raining and I've forgotten my umbrella), refusing to make it either needlessly stoic or needlessly ironic. One has to imagine the infinite player smiling as she walks away from the clouds, though well aware that she's getting wet and could have prevented it; learning a lesson, perhaps, that might lead to a different form of play the next time it rains. (Whenever it rains, I inevitably run into former students who have read this essay and make a point of reporting -- empty-handed, wet, yet also usually smiling -- that they've once again forgotten their umbrellas.) This response to umbrella forgetting would be consistent with Carse's commentary on the transformative, as well as enjoyable, component of infinite play, even though this transformation is by no means the straightforward conditioning that binds the man of intellect's future behavior. In fact, the infinite player will accept the likelihood that this forgetting will probably happen again, despite her best efforts. Forgetfulness not necessarily being an error she can learn from as much as an occasional lapse in her diligence, which if maintained, after all, 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.) A New Semiosic Order While Derrida outlines (ironically) a less-than-open form of infinite play, Floyd Merrell may offer a path that leads to a greater freedom for analyzing semiosic movement. To contextualize the potential desirability of a "true" openness, Merrell uses an example of the change in flow from a water tap as the volume is increased. What earlier might look like an orderly flow alters with this increase, but rather than destroying that earlier order, this other flow can be seen as "a new form of order" (Signs 22). Merrell conceptualizes this form of structure as "not schematic, determinable, or rigid," which, of course, is consonant with Barthes's structuration. As "a dynamic, ever-changing regime regulating the varying levels of flow," Merrell's water tap model would function as a chora-like perimeter of ineffability (as Julia Kristeva describes it). 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, Signs 22). This general class of structures, Merrell contends, consists of "dynamic interconnectedness and nonlinearity." Clearly, however, one of the main difficulties entailed in grasping this formulation resides in the challenge to articulate it. Kristeva's depiction of the chora is an apt illustration as she employs as an example an individual going through psychological constitution. 158

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Lecture Eight: A Semiotic Reading of James Thurber's "The Catbird Seat"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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