Notes from New Sodom

... rantings, ravings and ramblings of strange fiction writer, THE.... Sodomite Hal Duncan!!

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Arguing With Geeks 9

Ideological Significance Mandate — There is no single universal set of conventions defining semantic associations such that an element of a work may be considered by definition to be a signifier of a certain signified. Rather there is a general set of semantic associations within the culture-at-large and a multiplicity of subsets conventionalised at a subcultural level — where X is generally taken to signify Y within a certain community even if it is not in the culture-at-large. Where the general applicability of such subsets within the wider culture is asserted on theoretical grounds (e.g. political or psychological), what we have is an Ideological Significance Mandate or ISM, a declaration of an imperative to interpret the text according to a particular subset of conventions. An ISM essentially decrees (and may well decree essentially) that X must be read as signifying Y. The validity of ISMs is much disputed. Many are grounded on theories of unconscious or subliminal coding whereby X does actually signify Y even when it is not consciously read that way — e.g. as a Freudian might assert that a pepper mill is a phallic symbol whether we are aware of it or not. Many are weighted by pragmatic and political considerations of the potential to read X as signifying Y, unconsciously, subliminally or consciously — e.g. as a feminist might assert that it is possible to read a pepper mill as a phallic symbol in a certain context, and that it is therefore necessary to do so in order to identify and counteract any negative effects born of such readings. While arguments against ISMs are often spurious (c.f. the YNSTRILT Fallacy,) it must be acknowledged that ISMs themselves may be factually wrong in essentialising the relationship of any given X and Y, in assuming a high degree of unconscious or subliminal communication, or in their models of the relationships between reading and reality. Any ideology may take the form of a categorical faith or a suppositional theory; a distinction should perhaps be made, therefore, between Absolute ISMs and Relative ISMs.

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