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April 6, 2007

We de Man a Sign!

de Man, ''Semilogy and Rhetoric'' -- Jerz EL312 (Literary Criticism)
“The sign is to be interpreted if we are to understand the idea it is to convey, and this is so because the sign is not the thing but a meaning derived from the thing by a process here called representation that is simply not generative, i. e. dependent on a univocal origin.” (367)

Well, now, in lit. study we’d call that a sentence without breath. You bet your Uncle Joe (everyone seems to have one of those) that the green underline popped up when I typed this on my ghetto computer at home. I must say, I’m loving de Man just a little. He starts off with calling formalism the “prison house of language” and just keeps spouting off clever little one-liners that actually make sense. He discussed the way French critics are in comparison to us and by the time he hit Archie Bunker talk, I was laughing. What really made this reading for me, was that he gave a much clearer definition of rhetoric through a variety of examples rather than just quoting lengthy passages of Benito Cereno and saying “Looky-here Jim-Bob, this is semiotics.” He actually gave me the impression that perhaps rhetoric is just like a series of those Russian dolls (you know, the one big one that you open and a bunch of little ones are inside…kinda creepy). One question opens up a series of more narrow ones until you get to the very origin. You ask someone a question and they answer you back and while you think they are being a smart-ass, they are just opening your mind up for more discussion and you are sent on a treasure hunt to find the “sign” it originated from. We may never get there, but we may find new ways of criticism along the way, thus further breaking away from our number one prison-bitch, good ol’ formalism. At least he’s reliable, and to tell you the truth, we don’t have to interpret the signs as much with him. He’s more of an action man.

Posted by ErinWaite at April 6, 2007 11:35 AM


Russian dolls...I love it! That's a great way to describe it, and I'm sure de Man would appreciate it too. It's like you can never tell exactly what someone (let's use me as an example- I'm so sarcastic, people are often second guessing what I tell them) is saying, or writing. That's the difficulty/fun of our language- keeps you guessing.

Posted by: Nessa at April 6, 2007 3:58 PM

Thanks Nessa! The way you inflect the end of sentence can make or break whatever you are saying to someone else. Who knew it would be so easy to offend or make others happy just by opening your mouth.

Posted by: Erin at April 10, 2007 12:03 PM

I'm not so sure that I agree with you when you say, "thus further breaking away from our number one prison-bitch, good ol’ formalism." I actually think that the study of semiotics brings us closer to formalism. While the study is really a breaking down of signs one must first read between the lines of the work in order to find the sign and that is formalism. It is important that formalism be a part of this study in my mind because the work is important in interpreting the sign. However, here again is what you brought up in Vanessa's entry on this very subject. Everything seems to be tying together in a neat little package, but it really isn't. It just forces us to ask yet more questions. This is something to think about for sure.

Posted by: Tiffany at April 11, 2007 11:08 AM

I didn't think of it that way, Tiffany. Good point! I realize now that we need formalism to interpret signs to begin with.

Posted by: Erin at April 11, 2007 2:31 PM

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