A Primer for the Reading of White Noise At It’s core: semiotics is the study of signs and how they work. Semiotics is concerned with how we make meaning and find patterns of organization. Atomistic Reality is composed of discrete, irreducible units more real than the whole. VS Organic Reality is a totality where the parts are real only in how they relate to the whole. PLATO (427-347 BC) Words name concepts and ideas Words designate essences Words denote what all things in that category have in common (in this example: “treeness” We call them trees . . . Because that’s what they are!!!! Are you crazy or something? PLATONIC HEAVEN: the place of eternal, unchanging truths where the “real” exists and where we perceive only pale copies here on earth. THIS IS NOT A DESK “For Plato, there is some natural connection between words and concepts. Just as the word “writing” is like the idea of writing, so is the word “dog” somehow like the idea of a dog” -Donald Palmer • • • • Universal Meanings Absolute Meanings Unchanging Meanings TRUTH exists (where does it come from? That would be a silly question from this type of mindset) Semiotics: Now For Something Completely Different! Ferdinand De Saussure (1857-1913) • • • • Language is made up of signs Signified + Signifier =Sign Signifier= a sound or image Signified = an idea or a concept This could be a “desk.” The sign is completely arbitrary. There is no logical reason this has to be a tree. “Tr-ee” is a phonetic sound that has been agreed upon in social, historical, and cultural contexts to signify this thing. Ramifications: • Meaning can change over time (“patriotism,” “marriage,” “life”) • Meaning is not contained in a word or a thing itself but in the relationship to an entire system (more soon!) A Desk This doesn’t have to be red. These pieces essentially “mean” nothing. They only mean once they’re in the context of a chess board. And even then, they only mean something (i.e., a bishop moves diagonally) if people sitting at the board have a consensus that this is what they mean. • Meaning is always absent • Meaning is always dependent The KEY on an underlying system based on negative relationships of difference This is not a bishop because IT IS a bishop. It’s a bishop because it’s NOT a knight. It’s NOT a Queen. It’s NOT a pawn. It means “diagonal movement” because other pieces don’t do that in the context of a chess game. Modernism • • • • • • • • • • • Form Purpose Design Hierarchy Art Object/Finished Work Distance Presence Interpretation/Reading Narrative Paranoia/Alienation Transcendence Modernism (late 19th century to mid 20th century) was a cultural movement, or set of tendencies, which rejected the earlier “Enlightenment Project” which focused on pure reason and scientific method as the source of all knowledge. The modernist believed in “creative destruction.” They feared the institutions and morals of history were stagnant and not in line with an increasingly global and technological world. In response, they pursued utopic goals based on radical new forms (experimental fiction), tones (irony, satire), and a foundational belief that high art and reflection/analysis were the only ways to understand (and live in) an increasingly fractured world. Roland Barthes 1915-1980 There are no “facts.” No “have-to’s” No “TRUTH.” (how could there be? Where does it come from? Even if we pretend it exists, we can only access it through language whose meanings are never present) Connotation • Puppy • Satan All that exists are signs and social/personal systems of encoding and decoding signs. Nietzsche “On Truth and Lie in an Extra-Moral Sense” • Enlightenment Project has failed • The focus on intellect and reason ignores the fact that the intellect and reason operate through language; therefore, even these things are merely constructions that cannot reach an absolute truth • Any “truth” will have a limited value. It can not be “true in an of itself” or true apart from man. • Our declarations and concepts are based in tautology. We call a person “honest.” And when asked why he is honest we reply, “He does honest things.” We have no access to anything that is pure or true honesty- we operate on individual instances and overlook anything that doesn’t fit with out lived experience. “What, then, is truth? A mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthromorphomisms- in short, a sum of human relations which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are; metaphors which are worn out and without sensuous power, coins which have lost their pictures and now matter only as metal, no longer as coins.” “Man has an unconquerable tendency to let himself be deceived and he is if enchanted with happiness when the rhapsodist tells him epic legends are true or the actor plays the king more regally than any real monarch does. As long as it can deceive without harm, the intellect, that master of deception, is free and released.” It Gets Worse That’s too easy. Too tidy. Although Saussure was somewhat correct; his ideas suggest a system of language and meaning that Is too closed and stable. Derrida Welcome to Post-Structuralism! Leave any Hopes for Absolute Truth, Structures, or Clear Communication at the Door Saussure saw a direct and neat connection between the sign and the signifier. A desk may lead to different interpretations and connotations but you can always count on the system of language connecting the signifier “apple” with the signified of the spherical, tart fruit. In post-structuralism, such order is no longer guaranteed or present. Meaning is the slippery play of endless signifiers signifying something else. So meaning can never truly be ascertained… just assumed or self-deluded LOVE 1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person. 2. a feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend. 3. sexual passion or desire. 4. a person toward whom love is felt; beloved person; sweetheart. Situationally Dependent Connotations: • • • • Romance Fear Roses Commitment AFFECTION 1. fond attachment, devotion, or love: the affection of a parent for an only child. 2. Often, affections. a. emotion; feeling; sentiment: over and above our reason and affections. b. the emotional realm of love: a place in his affections. 3. Pathology . a disease, or the condition of being diseased; abnormal state of body or mind: a gouty affection. Situationally Dependent Connotations: • Pre-conscious • Terror ATTACHMENT 1. an act of attaching or the state of being attached. 2. a feeling that binds one to a person, thing, cause, ideal, or the like; devotion; regard: a fond attachment to his cousin; a profound attachment to the cause of peace. 3. something that attaches; a fastening or tie: the attachments of a harness; the attachments of a pair of skis. 4. an additional or supplementary device: attachments for an electric drill. Situationally Dependent Connotations: • Work • Claustophobia Tender, Sex, Pathology, Desire, Work, Commitment, Fear, Romance, Emotion, Fondness, Claustrophobia, Unconscious, Sacrifice, Heart, Life, Blood, Mortality, etc. etc. etc. Mcdonalds can’t control this play of meanings. Once language or signs are public the speaker/writer loses control. “Nothing is ever fully present in signs. It is an illusion for me to believe that I can ever be fully present to you in what I say or write, because to use signs at all entails that my meaning is always somehow dispersed, divided, and never quite at one with itself. Not only my meaning, indeed, but me: since language is something that I am made out of, rather then merely a convenient tool that I use, the whole idea that I am a stable, unified entity must also be a fiction. Not only can I never be fully present to you, but I can never be fully present to myself either. I still need to use signs when I look into my own mind or search my soul, and this means that I never experience any “full communion” with myself. It is not that I can have a pure, unblemished meaning, intention or experience which then gets distorted and refracted by the flawed medium of language because language is the very air I breath. I can never have a pure, unblemished meaning or experience at all.” -Terry Eagelton Modernism versus Post-modernsim • • • • • • • • • • • Form Purpose Design Hierarchy Art Object/Finished Work Distance Presence Interpretation/Reading Narrative Paranoia/Alienation Transcendence • • • • • • • • • • • Anti-form Play Chance Anarchy Process/Becoming Participation Absence Misreading Anti-narrative Schizophrenia Immanence The End of Hermeneutics and the Waning of Affect Van Gough (Modern) Warhol (Post-Modern) The Commodified Image Itself, NOT a Representation of a Real Munch’s “The Scream.” A Classic Image of Modern Art Pomo Response: Calm down scared, alienated dude. You don’t really possess a “self” that is cohesive enough to get so bent out of shape. The intensity of your emotion is not owned by you; rather, it is free floating and impersonal. In other words, chill out. YOU are not that important. Historicism Effaces History History: A sense of a lifeless re-telling of things that happened in the past- told with the notion that the past can be looked back at objectively as it “actually happened” and might possess universal truths that are applicable to us now. Historicism: The notion that to tell history is always to recreate history from one’s own biased and subjective viewpoint. History is the basis of META-NARRATIVES & pomo, at its core (if it had a core), is marked by incredulity to meta-narratives. Meta-Narrative: Any story we tell ourselves about ourselves to make sense of the world, to give us something to believe in, to organize chaos, to get us through the often unfaceable thought that there might be no truth, no absolute meaning, no purpose, etc. etc. And This is The World of White Noise • What happens in a world that is a constant bombardment of signs from all directions at all moments? • What happens when these signs broadcast through the media (especially television)? • What happens when there is no universal truth or center to look towards in understanding this potentially overwhelming amount of signs? • What happens when your own identity is nothing but language and signs that are unstable, fluid, and (like writing) beyond your control or access? All of these combined and put differently: • What happens when language is all we really have (to think through, to communicate through, to think, pray, love, hate, persuade, etc.), but language itself is only signs referring to other signs that will forever prevent us any access to anything real, true, or absolute.