Modern Literary Theory and Criticism
How I Understand Post-Structuralism; Texts and Works and Barthes
Something must have died in the ventilation system a few weeks ago. The office smells as if it is missing some fresh air. I think of the smell: a mouse or something, but certainly it is dead. The smell reeks of death, of decomposition, of something that is gone but still here. Went bloated, exploded, and now it is just dried flesh and fur. I think of all those sick ones around me. How they cough and wheeze, sniffle and sneeze, they try to infect me. Oh NO!
After catching the cold and becoming sick for a bit, I think I’ll die too. I think we all will die someday. I just hope I don’t die from the common cold; One, because the common cold sounds like a whore, Two, because the common whore sounds like a cold. Then this common death whore cold and the decomposing rodent leave my head. I forget about the moment as a middle-aged French woman, Doctor proper, with posture, walks up, and with a smile hiding a secret she asks me about some material. I can help her with her request. This, that, and the other; with the smell still in my nose, eyes met, horizontal, even, I chat on. I make sure no one notices what I had noticed before. That “event” is over.
I am speaking of this, or rather others are speaking of this through me because, if we break it down textually, that is to say (as Barthes says), well, actually do the reading and such, as we all say, we really say it all, that’s what the reading is saying. The words “common” and “cold” mean so many things. Common in Shakespearean plays means “whore”, or “peasant” (I guess, well truly), as called Gertrude by Hamlet, “common” [Mother]. We can look for answers before that as well, considering Shakespearean plays are (as we now know) made up of strands (branches) of other texts, forming an intersection of concepts, to produce one (1) apparent concept, which we all agree on, right? No, not so fast. Well, let’s go with it anyway: That all of Shakespeare’s works are from a single mastermind genius, that person being Shakespeare, The Bard himself. Okay, now I take that back… Shakespeare writes the plays, gives us the language, but the language speaks for him, he is not the language, he is a host for the language.
Language is like a virus, it does what it wants. HIV (the virus) has meaning, but it does what it wants. It means if you get it you are fucked. It also means people have been affected by such a virus; it makes ME think of Freddie Mercury, Heroin, a Nascar Driver from the 80’s (Tim Richmond), and probably the Gay Community. If we are infected, we die. HIV is labeled as a killer, but it means so much more in the eyes of different people. HIV read as a work leaves nothing to explore (it’s been defined, discretely), and it means you are dead, or seriously ill- about to die (you could even die from the common cold!). HIV read as a text gives us every reason to understand it better, to make a statement about it to others, and to pose a cure. Better understanding means better preventative tactics i.e. not getting HIV, not getting fucked, and or turning into above said mouse. I think of Freddie Mercury, and how sad it is that he expired from such a thing. I think, wow, I don’t wish for that to happen to me. The same rules apply to language; get some bad language in you, some mixed up concepts, and you die-fact. Language (as I have been told) carries sediment, that sediment is the itinerary of the language. You follow? I do. I learned all of this in a Modern Literary Theory and Criticism class, from one person with many very thought-provoking ideas.
So the next time someone comes up to you and says they’ve read a text, and they know what it is about, ask them if they do. And if that person gives you an interpretation rather than a reading, smile, wait a few moments, look away, and then slap them right in their fucking face as hard as you can, literally (which now also means metaphorically, ironically).
That’s not to say that’s it on the topic. It is only to say that is only a portion of what one needs to know to actually read a text. When I say “text”, I mean other than “work”, which is the other, and I mean one is better than the other, or rather we are trying to learn from that, in that we are learning from that. They are the same just designated differently, or poorly designated. I would venture to guess we use language wrong in a lot of ways. That being said, one object with one concept does not mean one object with one concept. Each object carries over concepts and meaning from its past (history). We cannot build an absolutely new object because we are constructing it of parts of the old object. We use the same words as Shakespeare did, so how can we possibly come up with completely new concepts without using the old ones, or rather old tools of the old concepts. We live in a world where language has an origin, but that origin happened so long ago that specific words hold no meaning- none what so ever, but still hold all meaning with too much power and too little understanding. This misunderstanding being set in place by those in power who seldom understand the words they use. Language is out of control, and it is spewing from our mouths. We are made up of things we do not understand.
And this story is a pile of shit for you all to read: