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What is the nature of the production of meaning and intertextuality in Nathanial Hawthorn's Young Goodman Brown?
How is meaning produced with reversible textual elements by the reader in relation to the non-sequential codes in Nathanial Hawthorn's Young Goodman Brown?
Why meaning is produced with reversible textual elements by the reader in relation to the codes of semes, symbols and cultures in Nathanial Hawthorn's Young Goodman Brown?
Roland Barthes's Theory of Text
Julia Kristeva introduced the work of Russian sociolinguist Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975) in 1966 for the first time in Europe, which had an immense influence on linguistics, literary theory, philosophy, sociology and other disciplines and laid a foundation for the theory of literary text. The most important contribution to the theory of text in the works of Bakhtin as explored in detail by Kristeva is the dialogic nature of language, as having 'polysmy' or multiplicity of meaning. Kristeva takes Bakhtin's dialogic account of language and develops from it a new theory of literary language in terms of intersexuality.
Intertextuality is a very important concept in the theory of text devised by Roland Barthes as it begins to describe literary text outside the traditional boundaries of authorship and approaches the author as a mere compiler of intertextual meanings and relations. In his own words,
"the writer can only imitate an ever anterior, never original gesture; his sole power is to mingle writings, to counter some by others, so as never to rely on just one; if he seeks to express himself, at least he knows that the interior 'thing' he claims to 'translate' is itself no more than a ready-made lexicon, whose words can be explained only through other words, and this ad infinitum.
(Barthes: Selected Writing: 1982: 53)
Intertextuality challenges, questions and destroys the traditional logo and long held metaphysical view of the origin of meaning, whether it is viewed from the relationship of a sign with a 'presumed stable signified' or in the author, as a presumed 'God-like creator of meaning'. The nature of any literary text is considered intertextual because it always comprises pre-existing textual elements, a 'tissue of quotation' and the role of the author as the originator of meaning is no longer there because meaning has no origin.
According to Barthes, 'the birth of the reader must be requited by the death of the Author' (RL: 55). The reader described by Barthes, never approaches the meaning of the text as a stable self-contained thing but rather a 'methodological field', rejecting the traditional author-based held view of the work with the text, and argues that the existence of the text is associated with the production of meaning by the new reader: 'the Text is experienced only in an activity, in a production' (RL: 58). According to Barthes, Text is an ancient world, which involves the concept of 'spinning and weaving': it is the word from which the new reader derives the word for 'manufactured cloth or textiles'. The phenomenon of spinning and weaving in the text is made from 'quotations, references, echoes', which is potentially infinite making it impossible to arrive at the sources and origins of text but rather give direction with the already written and already said: 'the quotations a text is made of are anonymous, irrecoverable, and yet already read: they are quotations without quotations marks' (RL: 60). The reading of a modern love poem will certainly involve understanding the thoughts and feelings of the author from the presumed signs in the work and the love life of the author it takes and the signified of the signifiers of the poem. To read the same poem as a text may include understanding the network of codes and conventions, discourses and genres, which results in the making of the modern and the traditional concepts of love and love poetry. The signifiers of the text emanate and direct our focus towards the vast field of cultural discourses on love, which can barely function as a signified. The reader opens the intertextual threads of the text and produces a limited structure, which is in the words of Barthes, structuration. The structure of the text is produced by the reader according to Barthes: 'the unity of a text is not in its origin but in its destination' (RL: 54).
Roland Barthes's Textual Analysis
Roland Barthes adopts a term to his 'theory of text' that is previously used by Julia Kristeva to explore the nature of meaning in the text. According to Barthes, if the term, signification is related to the perceived concept of the sign, as signifiers leading to stable signified, then significance relates to the meaning produced by the reader. Signification is related to all those interpretive approaches which search for the final signified behind all the signifiers of the text. Barthes further states that apart from the author as a signified, there are other approaches to find a centre, and origin of the text: Marxist criticism, Barthes adds: 'the text is treated as if it were the storehouse of an objective signification, and this signification appears as preserved in the work-as-product'. However, as Barthes writes:
once the text is conceived as production (and no longer as product), 'signification' is no longer an adequate concept. As soon as the text is conceived as a polysemic space where the paths of several possible meanings intersect, it is necessary to cast off the monological, legal status of signification, and to pluralise it. (TT: 37)
Significance according to Barthes is related to the text as something in production, that is produced as much by the reader as by the text itself (TT: 37-8).
Barthes emphasizes in a number of his essays, the need for textual analysis and the way in which this activity comes in contact with the production of text merely by analyzing significance rather than signification. The essays published in The Semiotic Challenge, draws a clear division between textual analysis and structural analysis of narritives. According to Barthes, the structural analysis of narratives looks at how a text is constructed; whereas textual analysis looks at the 'avenues of meaning' in the text, and find out the manner in which meaning 'explodes and scatters' (SC: 262) The greatest example of textual analysis by Roland Barthes and his comprehensive account of the theory of text can by seen in S/Z, an analysis of the short story Sarrasine, written by Balzac.
The textual analysis of this interesting short story by Roland Barthes covers more than two hundred pages. It involves a careful bit-by-bit structuration of the story, which is combined with convincing theoretical consideration on textuality, realism,, language, literature, narrative and other features of Barthesian themes. The structuration of the text, according to Barthes, involves a method of dividing the text up into small bits of meaning or lexias, which is an arbitary unit of meaning rather than a stable one. Other reader may also certainly discover alternative lexias. Lexias are the units in which the readers discover the explosion and scattering of meaning when they are actively producing the text. These units of reading enable the reader to discover a group of connotation within the signifier. (S/Z: 13-14)
Barthes makes use of five codes in order to find out the production and dispersion of meaning in the text. The first two codes are sequential and produce irreversibility in the text. The hermeneutic code (HER) is related with the way in which the narrative produces itself. The function of this code is to pose a question, and then provide a response or comprise a mystery and leads to its solution. The code of actions is related to the actions and their consequence in the text having a generic name, for example, praying, courtship, assassination.
The three non-sequential codes produce reversibility in the text and break the narrative allowing the reader to relate the text with other cultural text. The symbolic code (SYM) is related to all the patterns of symbols such as antithesis and opposition in the text. The code of semes (SEM) takes into account all the connotations that makes up the attributes of characters or action. The cultural codes (REF) as described by Barthes as 'reference codes' highlighting the dominant cultural discourse.
Readerly and Writerly Text
Roland Barthes devises a theory concerning lisible (readerly) text and scriptable (writerly) text due to the differentiation between irreversible and reversible textual elements. The reader doesn't have any productive work with the text in the irreversible textual elements of readerly text and it is the reversible textual elements of writerly text which makes the reader productive. This differentiation is often viewed in a straightforward historical manner; classical, pre-modern texts are considered readerly and hence irreversible; modern, avant-garde texts are considered writerly and hence completely reversible. However, Barthes also comments that writerly text can be found in some old works, whereas, many contemporary works lack writerly text. The reader of purely readerly text is left with no work of text production and hence the role is confined to either acceptation or rejection of the text. According to Barthes, the aim literary work is to make a reader not a consumer but a producer of text. (RL: 4).