Representation and meaning : the erasure of mediation in contemporary text theory.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
This thesis undertakes an examination of theories describing the generation of meaning in various forms of representation, with specific reference to literary texts, photography and cinema. Proceeding from Derrida's claim that all signification may be classed as a general form of Writing, I consider the consequences of analysing the individual forms of representation from within a general system. The classical representation of self-presence in speech is examined, and the metaphysical notions derived from the apparent proximity of voice to thought, on the basis of instantaneous production, are challenged. As a result, the claims regarding presence and atemporality in the analogical representation of the photograph and the motion picture projection are critically examined; and the closure of mediation and meaning in the speech/writing and author/text hierarchies is subjected to deconstructionist analysis. Text theory often acknowledges Lacanian psychoanalysis, and Lacan's theory of the signification of desire is evaluated for its relationship to traditional models of representation. The Lacanian influence in Barthes's work is traced through the notion of textual desire developed in SIZ, and Barthes's claims regarding the meaning of myth and code are examined for their erasure of textual mediation. With the conclusion that claims to "truth" and the original encounter of "presence" in representation are founded on erasure and the privileging of secondary phenomena, the thesis incorporates examples of texts, such as Desperately Seeking Susan, which evoke the traditionally elided material; because the label "feminine" is usually applied to the excluded features of representation, the contemporary work in this area often takes a feminist approach, challenging the phallogocentric tradition of Western society.