Archive for January, 2007

After reading Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics, I felt like I had a fair understanding of what he was saying. However, when I began writing this I started questioning myself again completely changing my original thoughts sending me back to recent weeks where I was continually stuck in a rut of misunderstanding about what these authors were trying to say. But here goes an attempt and hopefully I understood this as well as I first thought I did.

I’m going to jump right to Saussure’s explanation of signs and semiology because this is what I felt I understood most. Saussure states, “Language is a system of signs that express ideas, and is therefore comparable to a system of writing” the signs being written words, I’m guessing? This brings us semiology, “a science that studies the life of signs”. He proposes that we study language in itself in order to really grasp this science of semiology. However, as explained language is often analyzed along with other things. This seems to pose a problem which seems to be why “semiological systems in general and of language in particular are completely ignored”.

Moving on to the Sign, Signified, Signifier, What is Saussure really trying to explain here? I recognized this as the relationship between a word and the thing it is related to and how it can all be different across different languages, pronunciation, etc. But these words and names in Saussure’s view become concepts and sound-images, or signified and signifier and as a whole they are a sign.

For some reason this is what I grasped most. The association between a word or the name given to something and that object when put together are seen as one, a sign. OK! I’ve got that much. He then goes into how these signs are not arbitrary because of Onomatopoeias and Interjections. Each of these alters the bond between the signified and the signifier or concept and sound-image. It seemed to me that from these two things in both cases either the signified or the signifier were altered in some way. This resulted in a lack of combination or a sign causing the signified and signifier to be individually not arbitrary as opposed to arbitrary as a whole.

I really liked how he went on to describe linkages between thought and sound and idea and sound in language. The reason I enjoyed this was because to me it doesn’t seem like there should be any other connection. Thoughts and ideas foster the language or sound we produce, in my opinion, and without these things you have no basis for sound. Saussure presented this in a different way. He states “Without language, thought is a vague, uncharted nebula”, but for me language is there and thought is what puts it to use. Although we share different views on this, their combination is Linguistics. This then goes beyond just linking a sound with a concept.


He goes more in depth with all of these sound and concept, signified and signifier ideas and how they are separate and combined, but what really grabbed my attention were the things listed above. Overall, I didn’t feel this was that bad of a read, and there were some parts that I enjoyed and really got me thinking.


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This is my attempt to discuss what I understood in both of these readings and what left me a puzzled.

What I found most interesting in Williams whole essay was the last line on page 1567 when he states, “Indeed the special property of ‘literature’ as a concept is that it claims this kind of importance and priority” and he goes on to discuss how it can all be explained in two ways: “theoretically and historically” (1168). This brief history Williams enlightens us with really helped. This was most interesting to me as an English major because literature is exactly as explained above, important!

To go further with this insight on literatures history it got even better. Literature, in the common early spelling, was then in effect a condition of reading: of being able to read and of having read” (1569). After reading this I could only image it having the same meaning. What I have always known literature to be was not its original meaning. For me the early meaning of literature is what took me back to its importance. Because it stems from the ability to read it fostered the importance of what literature is today. It became “a category of use and condition rather than of production” (1569). To create a piece of literature is not an easy task, it wasn’t when it was first introduced into the English language in the fourteenth century as the ability to read and still isn’t as its definition today. Perhaps this was William’s reason for tying social class in with literature.

As for the essay on rhizome this is when wording became an issue. Things started out smoothly with a discussion on straying away from individuality and making ourselves “unrecognizable” to, “A book has neither object nor subject; it is made of variously formed matters, and very different dates and speeds” (1601). This all appears to make a good amount of sense considering when an author writes a book it is not completed in one sitting. It is put together by a number of writings done on different days at different times, hence the “very different dates and speeds”. If I’m on the right track here I think I know what Deleuze and Guattari are trying to say.

I could also draw some connection to Deleuze and Guattari when they state, “The world has become chaos, but the book remains the image of the world” (1604) and I would tie this with a book acting as a “little machine” (1602). The book is the little machine that could! It keeps everything going when the world is at an all time low. I can understand how in the past a book could be the image of the world, but considering the technology we have today things are different. On the other hand, it may still be a good way for people even today, who read to keep busy or to relax, to take themselves to another place. Others use a book to take them out of their own lives, put themselves in a character’s shoes for a sense of adventure or just a different experience. I can even go as far as saying I understood the talk about Chomsky’s grammatical trees starting with the letter S and so on…, thanks to the Language and Linguistics class I took last semester.

Beyond that point I found myself a little lost when relating the lines of literature to trees, roots, stems, bulbs, and tubers. As for bulbs and tubers, rats, and burrows all being rhizomes, I’m not afraid to say that I was completely lost. The plateaus brought back a tiny bit of understanding, aside from the lines moving around on the page and the hallucinations… And then it finished off with an entertaining rhyme time on Old Man River. This completely lost all significance to what Deleuze and Guattari were trying to explain being that it followed the nth power and the n-1 power which was really throwing me off. I couldn’t figure out whether this essay was a discussion on the lines of a book, a science lesson, or maybe math.

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For me this reading was difficult in more than one way. As soon as I felt like I was understanding what Bakhtin was trying to say, the next sentence would completely throw me off and make me think I had no idea what I had previously read. To take a stab at what he was discussing in this essay I am going to try and touch upon his discussion of the language of a novel. He first introduces language to this essay when he states, “The separation of style and language from the question of genre has been largely responsible for a situation in which only individual and period-bound overtones of a style are the privileged subjects of study, while its basic social tones is ignored” (1190). If there is one thing I understand in this extensive sentence it is that style and language are separate in the question of genre.

In further discussing language, Bakhtin really grabbed my attention in discussing the different types of language found in a novel. Language is the core of a piece of writing and holds importance because it is what ties it together as a whole. This is explained well by Bakhtin when he discusses how a novels language has many different elements. When writing a work an author first has to determine how the novel will be narrated, whether to use first person, third person, or maybe even write it as a journal or perhaps a letter. Each of these presents a different language for whatever the piece may be and this is what I gathered Bakhtin was arguing about the style and genre of a novel.

He goes on further to say that, “The novel can be defined as a diversity of social speech types (sometimes even diversity of languages) and a diversity of individual voice,” (1192), and I find myself agreeing with this. The reason for this is because almost everyone has a different way of speaking and this is typically displayed in their writing. When a teen speaks it is usually different from when an adult speaks so when this is displayed in writing the dialects will and should be different. This brings about uniqueness which will not only make the language in a novel different but the way it is written as well.

The stylistics of a novel along with the difference in language, speech types, and utterances, among other things, is the basis of what I could say I understood from this reading. Bakhtin probably raised many other good points but it was bit difficult for me to understand at times. The rest of the essay outside the style of the author and the language of the novel was unfortunately, sort of a blur for me. I hope that tomorrow in class I can gain a better understanding of what Bakhtin was really trying to argue.

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Introduction- Theory 330

I chose to study English when I realize how much of a passion I had for the subject. In high school I had a ninth grade teacher that was so intriguing when she spoke of authors like Shakespeare and Homer. She brought life to a subject that most students dread because it was “boring”. After ninth grade, English was something I really liked and did well in, and that was when I decided I wanted to be an English teacher. I began to discover why English was so fascinating and I really think its because it opens doors for so much outside knowledge. Reading other writers work places you in their thoughts and this is exactly what I hoped to gain from studying English. Many writers in time were very brilliant individuals and that is extremely inspiring. If it wasn’t for a number of authors in history a majority of views people hold today may not exist. I dont think I have fully realised what I hope to gain from studying English, but I do believe I’m getting rather close. Since my freshmen year in college I’ve noticed that what I thought of as English has expanded greatly and it will probably always be expanding. For that reason its almost as though I’ll be achieving my hopes just as fast as they continue to increase.

The authors I studied in high school were mainly people like Shakespeare, Chaucer, Homer, Jonathan Swift, and George Orwell, to name a few. Many of my classes shifted in the types of Novels we read so because of this every year the similarity of books we read related for that year. One year was focused on famous poets and american authors where as the next was mostly fiction novels. My senior year, for example, mainly focused on Novels such as, Lord of the Flies, Gullivers Travels, and The Hobbit. The relation of these are very clear, but throught every year of high school the over all relation the literature we read has in common would have to be that it was all famous literature from past years.

English being an insight into an authors various thoughts and emotions has taught me many things about literature. One thing this has definitely taught me is how to develop my own thoughts and styles which has pushed me along in my study of English. As I said before English is a subject that is continually expanding and because of this there is always more to be taught. I feel as though my previous study has prepared me for what more there will be to learn.

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