Hyacinth Scent and Sense Making

from a while back, a letter full of speculations and musings…

Dear Friend,

Very last day of the month: time to sneak in under the wire a report some disjecta and let you know that I have continued to meditate on the theme of experience and expression.

First, the hyacinth is blooming and the smell of the six or so plants in the garden is heady. It is a temporary phenomenon all the richer because of its transiance.

Second, I found myself considering what I am inclined to call the forgetting of narration. I have observed in some examples of critical discourse that there is a tendency to speak in terms of many narrations and a single narrative. If a phenomenological perspective is introduced then narrative is not seen as a single and unique object of thought (or experience) but as the product of agreement between subjects. The diagram of a diegesis is no less a narration than the many words or images that also give access to similar constructions.

It is by agreement that we produce the same story, an agreement renegotiated at every telling.

The same story is always a new agreement. Recall children wanting to hear a favourite story with all the noises and gestures that produce the sense of the familiar. It is a language trap to insist that what returns is the same. It is familiar.

No two cups of tea taste the same yet they are recognized as cups of tea and even tea of the same flavour (but with a wee difference in the intensity due to slight shifts in steeping time).

I have been propelled to this nominalist realization of the instability of any given entity called a “narrative” by recalling a question that Professor Fitch asked at my defence so very many years ago. His question was about Ingarden’s notion of concretization. My answer then makes more sense now: a rereading produces a different concretization. Of course some readers would set concretization on the side of narration and a narrative on the side of some unchanging structure. But the structure itself is malleable. Its stability, a function of our agreements.

In Saussure’s Cours there is an illustration (referenced by Barthes in Elements of Semiology) where there are two flows and samplings from each. Below is a typographic transcription

===== < ====== > =====

………. < ……. > ……..

The famous aribitrariness of the sign is a relation between samplings. The signified is as much an incision into a flow of matter as is the signifier. All this seems rather obvious to anyone that understands the semantic field to be dynamic. If the pair narration/narrative is isomorphic with the pair signifier/signified, the slippage that is perceived in expression/experience is built in to how humans process the relations between language and reality.

And language is a part of reality.

Third of the disjecta, all these musings on the intersubjectivie nature of the stability of narrative as object of thought or experience came after a lecture by Martin Lefebvre to the Toronto Semiotic Circle where he quoted Peirce to the effect that “every fine argument is a poem or a symphony” and outlined a scheme where habit mediates between chance/origin and necessity/telos. This is getting long and convoluted. The following is very sketchy.

involution is not equivalent to self-reflexivity

involution produces a copy of the world in a given state which becomes the base state to compare subsequent states [This is similar to how a computer’s central processing unit keeps a copy in active memory to work upon — the model can be applied to the act of reading. In my thesis way back when I briefly touched upon the notion of involution in a quick look at the similarities between the semiotic square and the mathematical object called a Klein group. This in the context of positing the semiotic square as a machine…]

Someone somewhere may have already introduced the notion of states into possible world semantics. This might just give access to a poetics of impossible worlds. Impossible worlds are games (considered as moves between states). A focus that might interest those in searching to bridge the ludology versus narratology in gaming studies.

Of course I’m left with questions to ponder: How does, if it does, the pair world-state map onto the pair narrative-narration?

And so I take time to breathe and smell the fleeting hyacinth.


I am still intrigued as to how far one can push the world-state mapping.

And so for day 998

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