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Reviews245 So, in what probably constitutes her boldest move, Suleiman draws on both structuralism and deconstruction. Specifically, she shows how one can use the procedures of the two interpretive conventions without adhering too rigidly to the postulates in which these conventions are grounded. She constructs a model, elaborates a typology, and examines a functioning, but she does not endorse the presuppositions of coherence and homogeneity which usually support the structuralist endeavor. Likewise, she reveals the lacks or the incompleteness of the texts she is considering, but she does not restrict her inquiry to establishing how these texts do not work or "deconstruct themselves." Because, among other things, of this flexibility and ecumenism, Authoritarian Fictions is a most valuable study. It makes a significant contribution to theory of narrative, theory of reading, and to scholarship on French literature of the twentieth century. University of VermontPhilippe Carrard Semiotics and the Philosophy of Language, by Umberto Eco; ix & 242 pp. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984, $25.00. Eco's latest book, his most important effort since the seminal A Theory of Semiotics (1976), treats central problems in the philosophy of language from the perspective of a general semiotics grounded in the Peircean notion of "unlimited semiosis." While readers familiar with Eco's earlier work will here meet with no major surprises, they will find important extensions and clarifications of Eco's theory presented in a refreshingly lively and readable style (something that cannot be said of A Theory of Semiotics). Eco continues to draw on a wide range of contemporary thinkers, but in this book he adds a historical dimension to his theorization not always evident in his other works, examining in detail texts from Aristotle, the Stoics, Augustine, Aquinas, Tesauro, and Vico (among others). What emerges is a compelling demonstration of the usefulness of semiotics as a framework for linguistic analysis and for understanding the history of the philosophy of language. The first three chapters, "Signs," "Dictionary vs. Encyclopedia," and "Metaphor," are the most closely interrelated and most important chapters of the book. The sign is generally seen as an expression of a relationship of either equivalence or inference, Eco shows, and the linguistic sign has historically been treated as one of equivalence. But Eco argues that beneath every supposed equivalence is a latent cultural inference, and hence that "the understanding of signs is not a mere matter of recognition (of a stable equivalence); it is a matter of interpretation" (p.43). The dictionary purports to define words by equivalence 246Philosophy and Literature and to organize them in finite and hierarchical Porphyrian trees, but Eco demonstrates that such trees are stable only if limited by implicit cultural and contextual assumptions and that the dictionary is finally "a disguised encyclopedia " (p. 68), whose mode is inferential, and whose model is the labyrinth. The dictionary, he concludes, is a pragmatic tool for stabilizing a semantic field within the encyclopedia, which is open, infinite, and, though structured, incapable of global systematization. Metaphor, argues Eco, can only be understood in terms of a complex manipulation of dictionary and encyclopedia, and it is on this basis that he constructs a convincing theory of the production and interpretation of metaphor (one of whose virtues is to open the way to a more logical characterization of synecdoche and metonymy). Eco's next three chapters — all stimulating and useful, though somewhat less venturesome that the first three — deal with the various senses and possible categorizations of the terms symbol, code, and isotopy. In a final and rather tangential chapter, Eco discusses the question of whether mirrors produce signs. Although his conclusion that a mirror image is not a sign seems intuitively correct , his characterization of the specular image as a double raises serious questions about repetition, representation and the sign that are unfortunately left unaddressed. The international and interdisciplinary scope of Eco's work, which coordinates diverse views within a theory that seeks formalization without totalization , is impressive and invigorating. Whatever the ultimate fate of his grand semiotic synthesis, we should be thankful that at least within his work the disparate and scattered voices of contemporary theory are brought together and engaged in a single discussion. University of GeorgiaRonald L. Bogue...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 245-246
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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