My burn is better; I think I can leave the bandage off today. But my cold is back and worse; started coughing again last night and have been coughing all morning. Big nuisance. Almost started coughing during the reading last night, but managed to stave that off with sips of water.
The reading went quite well. I actually spent a while beforehand hanging out with Peter (new grad student from Italy, very cute, unfortunately gay and has a boyfriend (unfortunately for me, obviously, not for him :-)) and going over his theory paper. I hope I didn't discourage him; I basically advised him to rewrite the whole thing -- there was a lot of good stuff in it, but he was making like four different interesting arguments when I know Howard only wants one, or at most two. So he needed to trim, focus, and reorganize. Which isn't as much work as it sounds, I think. Anyway, we worked on that, then chatted a bit, then I printed out my story and had dinner, then the reading. People seemed to like "Monsoon Day" -- Steve told me that it's his favorite of my stories. :-) Now if I can just convince some publisher to like it... It's sitting at The New Yorker now -- has been since June. Hopefully they'll respond soon -- they took six months last time, so I'm not going to worry about it 'til January. After that, I'll send it to Atlantic Monthly, I think. I'm a little dubious about it having a shot at either place; I suspect it'll find its home in a little literary magazine somewhere. But y'know the drill -- don't reject the story, let the editor reject the story. :-) I have to give the New Yorker editors the exciting opportunity to reject my story themselves...
The rest of the reading was a lot of fun too. I enjoyed everyone's work (which isn't always the case!) -- generally, it's just so nice being in a good program and being able to honestly appreciate your colleagues and their work. So lovely.
Anyway, enough procrastination. Onward, to Saussure!
9:00. Okay, got an intro. If you happen to be awake and reading this, and feel like telling me where I fail to be coherent, that'd be appreciated. (Assuming you do it in the next three hours, that is. :-) I know this stuff backwards and forwards at this point...which means that it's really easy for me to skip steps. And I shouldn't just rely on the professor filling them in; if you don't understand it, I've done something wrong. So lemme know!
Ferdinand de Saussure, in his Course on General Linguistics, examines linguistic theory in an attempt to determine how people create meaning out of language. He claims that linguistic meaning is created through the connection between the signified (concept) and the signifier (sound-image), which together become the linguistic sign. Saussure states the arbitrary nature of the sign; he concludes that there is no necessary connection binding a particular signifier with a particular signified. He notes the immutability of the sign, in that the signifier, despite being arbitrary, "is fixed, not free, with respect to the linguistic community that uses it" (71). The community cannot change the signifier at will; in this respect, it is immutable. The sign is, of course, also mutable; over time, we, the linguistic community, see rapid change of linguistic signs. Yet Saussure argues that we will continue to be able to comprehend the sign's meaning, because that change remains within the sign system, and we construct meaning through our perception of the difference between signs. The basic insight of structuralism is that meaning is constructed as a function of differential relations between signs. This insight may intially have seemed purely linguistic in scope, but in the end, it has profound philosophical consequences for our understanding of how we perceive and construct meaning throughout human society.
11:30. All done! Showered too, and in a few minutes I'll catch a bus to campus and drop it off. It is *so* not a profound paper. It is barely analytical at all. But it does recap Saussure, which seemed to be what he was asking for. If he wanted something more analytical...well, I'll catch it in revision, I guess. We'll see. He rather liked my Ben Franklin paper, so at least he's not likely to conclude I'm a doofus just from this one.
Before I run off, I want to show you my beautiful surprise. In the midst of paper-writing this morning, there was a knock at the door. A UPS guy, holding a little box. And in the box, a lovely Indian bag, and in the bag, a little package, gorgeously wrapped, and in the package, a necklace and bracelet, black stones and silver. The accompanying letter told me that it was a birthday present from journal-reader Jim, who wanted to wait until I was definitely back in Utah before sending it. How lovely! How unexpected! What a wonderful boost to my paper-writing mood! :-) Thank you, Jim -- I love it.