Media Representations of Language

Oct 28, 2018 | 3:15 PM - 4:45 PM | Studio Theatre

Will Best, MA University of Calgary

Digital Modernist Authority: The Semiotic Spectrality of Facebook

Early last year, Thomas Stearns Eliot sent me a friend request on Facebook, sparking an investigation of the author’s presence in social media. As of May 2017, there were 13 T.S. Eliots, 10 Marianne Moores, 25 James Joyces, and a whopping 152 Virginia Woolfs. These counts are exclusively profiles seeking to represent and speak as the Modernist authors. The goal, it seems, of these highly biographical profiles is to create an authentic authorial persona which could inform readers about the authors’ texts despite the fact that these texts explicitly problematize (both rejecting and accepting) authoritative biographical hermeneutics – notably, T.S. Eliot (“Tradition and the Individual Talent,” The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism, and The Waste Land), Marianne Moore (her literary reviews for “little magazines” and her heavily allusive poems like “Marriage” and “An Octopus”), Virginia Woolf (“Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown”), and James Joyce (the “Scylla and Charybdis” episode of Ulysses).

However, the very plurality and curation of these profiles undermines their attempts at authorial authenticity, and thereby reflects the same problematic approach these authors have toward authoritative readings. Primarily using Derrida’s archive theory and hauntology, as well as Foucault’s author-function, I argue that the biographical profiles textually disperse authority and destabilize authenticity such that the authentic identity that they seek to codify is revealed as a necessarily malleable intertextual network, and thereby provide a new theoretical model for unpacking Modernist arguments over textual authority. I further argue that this aporia between static, authentic identity and intertextual malleability is indeed fundamental to Facebook as a platform, and that Facebook itself is therefore a useful model for analyzing the relationship of authorial biography and authorial works in digital spaces.

Jaqueline McLeod-Rogers, PhD University of Winnipeg

McLuhan's Language Theory: Away with Words

I will emphasize the role of language in the model of change that McLuhan applied to explain culture, media and communication. In relation to how humans use language, he argued for there being discernible global shifts from major phases of orality and memory, to literacy and reason, leading in his day (and still in ours) to a new phase that favors communication by discontinuous images and short text, circulated and mediated via a techno process occurring outside the body.

To illustrate his point that we have abandoned patterns he ascribed to the period of literacy, he himself moved from disseminating reasoned arguments in traditional essay form to communicating in shorter “probes,” often collaged with images. On the level of words and meaning, he often cited  Joyce’s language play as accurately conveying the fluid, variable, discontinuous nature of semiotic capture—for him, the ascendancy of alphabet language was dissolving and meanings were loosening; by way of example he noted Joyce’s references to “Lewd’s Carol” (for Lewis Carrol, of course, Letters  298) to illustrate how we have gone through the looking glass and, with this dis- or re-orientation, let go of order and precision, by so doing access in new possibilities for making connection and meaning. Media are for him the technological apparatus—the constructed gadgetry-- that assist our acts of perception, each incrementally replacing the work of our senses. In Understanding Media, he speculates that we may be approaching mediated post-literacy, and with this phase abandoning speech and words to rely instead on shared and expanded consciousness communicated via telepathy— “that [we] might render language walls obsolescent. . . [and] by pass speech in a kind of massive extra-sensory perception” (176).  A modest version of this change in communicative style is enacted by our current reliance on networked information and algorithmic expression in place of oral communication or self-expressive print language.

Allison Bumsted, MA Liverpool Hope University

Which side are you on McCartney? A reassessment of rock criticism, the  rock-pop divide, and Wings within the popular music pres

In the spring of 2013 both Wings’ film Rock Show and album, Wings Over America, were re-released. Each re-release received many rave reviews from the press via internet or tabloid. In the midst of the positive press, this writer decided to consider original various Wings’ press from the 1970s. After examining, through qualitative research, the newly reevaluated and original texts written during Wings’ existence, there seems to be an inconstancy of opinion from the 1970s to the present regarding the rock music press’ reception of Wings. It seems as if serious evaluations of Wings are scarce, but rather existing texts only provide historical narratives with a shortage of theory and analysis, thus using Wings as a case study would appear to be of value. Moreover, 1970s rock critics seem to have deemed Wings as a meaningless pop band, suggesting a contrast or a divide between rock and pop, thus, raising many questions over the use of language, authenticity, genre, and meaning in the 1970s rock press. So, an analysis of the reviews of and responses to Wings and/or Paul McCartney and Wings in the popular music press of the 1970s is necessary to reassess how the press received Wings.

Dr. Bill Scalia, PhD St. Mary’s Seminary and University

Words on Film: Signification and Predication of the Word-Image

A word’s signification is referential.  An image, however, is not a reference to a thing but is the thing itself, captured. But, what do we make of a word captured as an image?  Do words on film signify as language or image? My essay will first consider the distinctions between language signification and image signification.  A word on film appearing in a diagesic context, I will assert, signifies as language, while a word captured as a non-diagetic image signifies as a thing.  However, some image-words do both; in that hybrid capacity of signification / reference the word-image might be said to be poetic, in the Heidegerian sense: the word brings a thing into being, but manages a shared sense of both being and non-being.  This unique sense of signification of the word-image determines, in some ways, how the word-image is predicative in a narrative context.

To examine this condition, my paper will consider a similar scene from two films: the struggle of left-hand / right-hand from Night of the Hunter (1955) and Do the Right Thing (1989).  In Night of the Hunter, a convict posing as a preacher, Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum), relates the story of left hand / right hand within a narrative context bound to his body (the words “love” and “hate” are tattooed on his fingers), and within a perceived corporate framework. In Do the Right Thing, Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) wears the words “love” and “hate” as elaborate rings; the words are imaged as things in themselves.  Radio Raheem’s story is external to any corporal framework, and is thus an inversion of Powell’s relation of the story.  While Powell’s corporate narrative frames fixes the text and closes predication, Radio Raheem’s breaks the corporate frame and opens predication.


Will Best, MA

Will Best is a PhD candidate in the Department of English at the University of Calgary. His research focuses on digital editions of Modernist texts through a New Media and Post-structuralist theoretical approach. He has also taught courses on Philosophy in Literature, Late-Modern Short Fiction, and Rhet./Comp., and is currently the Assistant to the Editor-in-Chief for Symposium: The Canadian Journal of Continental Philosophy. His essay, "The Tyrrany of (W)rote: Archiving Robert Kroetsch's Fiction," is slated for publication in the forthcoming book, Robert Kroetsch: Essayist, Novelist, Poet, edited by David Staines, University of Ottawa Press.

Jaqueline McLeod-Rogers, PhD

Dr. Jacquelin McLeod-Rogers is a feminist scholar with a long-term commitment to developing and promoting writing-and language-based education course responsive to cultural diversity at the University of Winnipeg. Her central research interest in is urban rhetorics, which aims at developing the language of relationship and revealing complex relational networks. Her interest in language, identity, and community informs all of her mostly collaborative research projects, such as studies that take up questions about how digital media affects our scholarly and cultural practices; an editing project that links McLuhan to contemporary communications theory and practice; a study to local responses to CMHR; and an alliance-building project to support women transitioning from prison. She has co-edited a collection of original articles on Marshall McLuhan, Finding McLuhan: the Mind, the Man, the Message, University of Regina Press, May 2014, with T.Whalen and C. Taylor. Sole author entries: McLeod Rogers, J. “McLuhan and the City.” 144-63. McLeod Rogers J. “Conducting the Interviews: Legacy Memory/Imagination” 254-57. McLeod Rogers, J. ”Michael McLuhan : Protecting the legacy” 258-70. McLeod Rogers, J. ”Eric McLuhan : Living the legacy” 271-79. McLeod Rogers, J. “Douglas Coupland: Writing McLuhan” 280-87. McLeod Rogers, Jaqueline. “Self and the City: Teaching Sensory Perception and Integration in McLuhan‘s City as Classroom.” [Pedagogy article] Media Ecology Association.Jacques Ellul special edition. Volume 15.No 3 and 4: 287-302. McLeod Rogers, Jaqueline and Tracy Whalen. “Staking Claims and Cultivating Local Publics: The Billboards of the CMHR.” Topia. 37 (2017) 87-110. Peer-reviewed co-edited Journal ( with co-written “Introduction” 20 pp.) Marshall McLuhan and the Arts, with A. Lauder. special edition Imaginations, 8-3 ( December 6, 2017)

Allison Bumsted, MA

Allison Bumsted is a Popular Music MPhil student at Liverpool Hope University, on a path to PhD Candidate status. She previously studied an MA at Liverpool Hope in the Beatles, Popular Music, and Society, and an undergraduate in Political Science and History at Texas State University.

Bill Scalia, PhD

Bill Scalia earned his PhD in American Literature from Louisiana State University in 2002.  Since then, he has published critical essays on film and literature, focusing on aesthetics and ethics.  He regularly publishes reviews of contemporary poetry, and as well has published selections from his own poems. Dr Scalia currently teaches philosophical writing and literature at St Mary’s Seminary & University in Baltimore, Maryland. His numerous publications include: “Nature and the Mind of God: Emerson’s Transcendental Aesthetic.” Perichoresis (forthcoming, Spring 2016); “Toward a Semiotics of Poetry and Film: Meaning-Making and Extra-Linguistic Signification.” Literature / Film Quarterly 40:1 (January 2012); “Bergman’s Trilogy of Faith and Persona: Faith and Visual Narrative.” Chapter One of Faith and Spirituality in Masters of World Cinema (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2008); Volume Editor / Selection Headnotes.  Contemporary Critical Views: Emerson (Facts on File / Chelsea House, 2007); “Sampson Reed: A Swedenborgian at Harvard and Early Emerson Colleague.” Emerson Society Papers 18:1 (Spring 2007);   “Contrasting Visions of a Saint: Carl Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc and Luc Besson’s The Messenger.”  Literature / Film Quarterly 32:3 (July 2004); “Re-Figuring Jesus: Christ and Christ-Figures in Jesus of Montréal.” Religion and Literature 33:1 (Spring 2001) and several published poems including: “Love in the Trial of Belief.”  Poem cyclePomona Valley Review 9 (July 2015).; Seven poems.  Puzzles of Faith and Patterns of Doubt: Short Stories and Poems. Editions Bibliotekos, February 2013; “Poem of Farmerville, Louisiana.”  Crossroads: A Southern Culture Annual. Mercer University Press, 2005