What’s in a Word

In “Signifier,” there is a point in the text where the narrator is on the hood of the car with the “Guy”‘s friend and the Guy is standing in the treeline. “He was standing at the woods’ edge. He was looking at us like I don’t know what. Like, Fuck you two. Like, I will kill you two” (Steinberg 55-56). What is interesting about this scene is the fact that it takes place inside of a story entitled “Signifier.” In thinking along the lines Ferdinand de Saussure’s work on semiology and the role of the signifier and the signified, along with W.J.T. Mitchell’s work on iconic, indexical, and symbolic representations, this scene is doing a lot within that framework that ties together with Barthes.

In regards to the Barthes essay and our class discussion on the meaningfulness/less of words, I found it interesting when thinking, how do we define words? How do we define what our love for someone is? In my thinking, it appears that we define our love for someone by listing what it is that we do for that person and with that person. Words’ meanings come from the actions associated with them. In this scene from “Signifier,” Steinberg operates with her narrative in this way. Because, as we have noted, this text deals so much with the expressionless aspects of life, it is fitting that this story is called “Signifier,” as everything about Spectacle is operating in hopes of reaching the purely signified (that which can only be represented). So, in the story, the “friend” and the narrator on the car is an action which the narrator is unable to signify, while the “guy” standing in the woods is impossibly signified with the narrator’s attempts at signifying it: “Like, Fuck you two. Like, I will kill you two” (Steinberg 56).

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