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150 letters in canada 2002 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 Marina Roy. Sign after the X Advance Artspeak. vii, 220. $18.95 It is amazing to realize how much meaning a single letter can have in today=s image-conscious pop culture. It seems that everything from movies to sports names is being marketed with the same twenty-fourth letter of the alphabet B the letter >X.= There is Nissan=s X-Terra model; there are X-treme sports; there is the action hero >Triple X=; there are XXX movies; and the list could go and on. In effect, the letter X has become synonymous with youth, danger, excitement. But its signifying power is not an invention of pop culture. X has been around for centuries as the mathematical variable par excellence, as a signature used by those who cannot write, as a blasphemous letter assigned to cartoon bottles of alcohol and boxes of dynamite, and as a symbol marking treasure on a pirate=s map. In a word, X has always constituted a pictography of danger and the unknown from times that predate X-treme sports and X-File TV programs. Sign after the X is an enjoyable and insightful investigation of this pictography, reminding us that it continues to be a fundamental means of making meaning. Marina Roy looks at the various uses to which X has been put across the ages, focusing on its present abuses. X is symbolically powerful because it conjures up images of things that are just beyond the realm of decency and goodness. In today=s sexually charged culture, X means >Look at me, I=m X-rated and X-citing.= X is, in a phrase, one of the most provocative symbols of contemporary pop culture, defining it in a compact yet effective way. And the reason is, ultimately, because it reverberates with mythical symbolism that reaches back to the origin of pictography as a craft controlled by those in power. It is a modern-day hieroglyph. The only way to explain why we extract so much meaning from a simple letter is, in fact, to see it as a product of an unconscious pattern of pictorial symbolism that continues to have emotional hold on the modern mind. Its particular cross design reverberates with contradiction and opposition. No wonder that advertisers and image-makers have adopted it as a symbol of >cool.= Sign after the X is an antidote to this brilliant ploy, showing by illustration how extensive the use of X has become in our youth-obsessed pop culture. One can approach the study of pop culture from the standpoint of ideology and other trendy viewpoints. But, there is nothing more effective than deconstructing it by illustration. As an artist, Roy understands this well. By showcasing the ingenious uses of X with her own drawings, her lexical examples, and her truly insightful annotations, she has been able to convey a much more subversive warning than any >radical= pundit ever has about the inanity of a lifestyle that is all superficial humanities 151 university of toronto quarterly, volume 73, number 1, winter 2003/4 symbolism and little depth. (MARCEL DANESI) Robert E. Babe. Canadian Communication Thought: Ten Foundational Writers University of Toronto Press 2000. 448. $75.00, $29.95 The idea that Canada has what Robert Babe describes as >a rich heritage of communication thought= is familiar to students of Canadian intellectual history. Babe=s book on the subject is welcome nonetheless, though its subtitle, promising to identify ten >foundational writers= of Canadian communication theory, is misleading: several of the individuals surveyed thought of themselves (and are thought of today) as social scientists, political analysts, economists, or literary theorists. A more accurate subtitle would have been >the theme of communication in ten Canadian thinkers.= Babe=s opening, a broad introduction to communication thought, argues that the American political economist Thorstein Veblen, was B because of his central insight that consumer goods had taken on >communicatory as opposed to utilitarian properties= B not only generally an important influence on early theories, but also a crucial influence on the development of Canadian thought (but not on later American theory...


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