• Theory and Practice of Sociocriticism, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, (Coll. Theory and History of Literature, vol. 53 )1988]
  • “Foundations for a Sociocriticism. Methodological Presuppositions ans Their Applications to La región más transparente by Carlos Fuentes” [Translated by Gerald Guinness] On Text and Context. Methodological Approaches to the Contexts of Literature (edited by Eduardo Forastieri-Braschi, Gerald Guinness and Humberto López Morales), PuertoRico, Editorial universitaria, 1980, pp.75-94
  • “About Interdiscursiveness”, Sociocriticism, 1985, n°1, Theories and Perspectives I, pp.15-29
  • " The values of Liberalism in El Periquillo sarniento, Sociocriticism ,1985, n°2, Theories and Perspectives II,pp.85-109
  • “Social Practices and intratextual Mediations. Towards a Typologies of Ideosemes”, Soiocriticism1985, n°2, Theory and Perspectives II, pp.124-14
  • “Space and Textual Genetics. Magical Consciousness and Ideology in Cumandá”, Sociocriticism, n°s 4-5, Space and Ideology,1986-1987,pp. 37-72
  • “Towards a Sociocritical Theory of the Text” in Hans Lauge Hansen (ed.) Disciplines and Interdisciplinarity in Foreign Langauage Studies, Museum Tusculanum Press, University of Copenhagen, 2004, pp. 121-130
  • More (before 1997) on:- Monique Carcaud- Macaire (édit.), Questionnements des formes, Questionnement du sens, Pour Edmond Cros, Montpellier, CERS, 1997, 2 Tomes [ Bibliographie: T. II, pp. 1023-1032]

Textual Functions I

This article presents some theorical notions from M.Bakhtin and L. Godmann necessary for understanding how is working the process of semiotic transformation that links the textual structures with the social structures.

Textual Functions I

Transformational Processes and Codes

A Materialist Philosophy of Discourse Every literary text is the product of a phenomenon of consciousness or, rather, a series of phenomena of consciousness. Consciousness does not constitute a preexisting immanent reality but, on the contrary, as Mikhail Bakhtin writes, “a socioideological fact” that “can only arise and assert itself as a reality through material embodiment in signs.”1 It is insepa-rable from the whole set of semiotic markers configuring it and causing it to exist. There is no consciousness apart from the sign understood in the broad sense, since semiotic material also comprises “every gesture or process of the organism: breathing, the circulation of the blood, the movements of the body, articulate speech, interior discourse, mimicry, reactions to external stimuli (light, for example), in short, everything that takes place in the organism can become material for the expression of psychic activity, given the fact that anything may acquire semiotic value, may become expressive.”2 The word, however, is the privileged material of inner life: “For a psychism which is to any extent developed and differentiated a subtle and flexible semiotic material is indispensable, and it is essential, moreover, that this material lend itself to formalization and differentiation in the social context, in the process of exteriorized expression.”3 Whether or not at any given time the semiotic operation concretizing mental activity is organized around the word, this expression arises, in any event, outside consciousness. and without this external contribution of the sign no psychic activity is possible. The sign is essentially social; it can be exchanged only by individuals belonging to a particular community possessing specific structures; it materializes a communication, and investing consciousness, it consequently traces within it the markers of a certain type of sociality.4

Using this hypothesis, and limiting the discussion to the problem of language. I assume, for a start, three levels of consciousness (the clear consciousness, the nonconscious, the subconscious),5 structured essentially by and around acquired signs, which means that not each one of these signs has thus transferred its valence intact, but that, on the contrary, the valence has been redistributed inside and by this new system. In this sense, semiotic expressions form a system only through the modalities of their assimilation. Consistent with what I said earlier, but quite apart from Goldmann, I shall add that the transindividual subject invests the individual consciousness of each individual participating in it by means of specific microsemiotics. These microsemiotics transcribe in signs the totality of aspirations, frustrations, and vital problems of each of the groups involved. They provide a kind of “readout” of the ways each group is immersed in history. Each of us belongs, at any given moment of our lives, to a series of collective subjects (generation, family, geographic origin. profession, etc.); we pass through many of them in the course of our existence, even though we may be marked more specifically by the one that, in the last analysis, conditions the whole of our activities, namely our social class. These different collective subjects, when we pass through them, offer us their values and world visions through the materialization of the semiotic, gestural, or verbal expressions characterizing them (social roles, set phrases, hierarchical organization of paradigmatic axes, etc.). On the one hand, the whole set of these materializations is available to organize our inner life every bit as much as our external circuits of communication, and on the other hand, the expression of every phenomenon of consciousness organizes certain of these signs around a specific configuration corresponding to a particular situation. An initial conclusion may he drawn that, though obvious, deserves to be emphasized, if we are to base a critical approach to the cultural artifact upon a materialist philosophy of language: the text selects its signs not within language but within the totality of semiotic expressions acquired/proposed by collective subjects. (We shall see that other centers of selection must be specified.) Thus we may refute Saussure’s distinction between language (langue) and speech (parole) or, more precisely. the criteria advanced in order to establish this distinction:

"By separating language from speech, one separates in one stroke: first, what is social from what is individual; second, what is essential from what is accessory and more or less accidental. Language is not a function of the speaking subject: it is a product that the individual passively records. . . . Speech is, on the contrary, an individual act of will and intelligence in which one should distinguish, first, the combinations through which the speaking subject uses the code of the language with a view to expressing his personal thought, and second, the psychophysical mechanisms which permit him to exteriorize these combinations.6

The concept of langue is an abstraction that exists only for the historian. The individual passively records not a language but a multiplicity of discourses. which are essentially assimilated within enunciative contexts along with their potential variations. These variations are closely dependent on the situation of communication conveying them and thereby c-onferring upon them their social and ideological valence. The sign is acquired “in a situation” and remains a bearer of sociality and interaction: it keeps in its memory the dialogic space from which it arose.

The act of speech is an individual response to a given circumstance, but speech it-self is essentially a product derived from a collective subject (the Nous). This does not mean that one may isolate a proletarian discourse from a bourgeois discourse, or that there are class languages and grammars, which would contradict the definition of social classes7 and the concept of discourse to which we have just referred. Discourse, whatever the col-lective subject whose aspirations, frustrations, or values it expresses, transcribes with these aspirations, frustrations, or values, and through their very mediation contradictory elements that are contiguous or complementary to other transindividual subjects. In our sense of the term, there is no ideologically pure discourse, but more specifically, there are discursive traces capable of reconstituting themselves in meaningful microsemiotic systems that mark an utterance more or less strongly, and these traces are sometimes capable of giving it a sociohistorical meaning. Within the spaces of contradiction that discourse, whichever one it may be, enacts, it reconstructs at its own level, and according to modalities appropriate to it, the contradictions in the social formation upon which the corresponding collective subject depends. I have given several examples elsewhere of these semiotic systems organized contradictorily within the same utterance;8 here I shall cite the example of taqiyya (“a term that designates the act by which a Muslim isolated in a hostile group refrains from practicing his own religion, pretending to adopt externally the religion imposed upon him”), concerning which L. Cardaillac quotes an aljamiado text reporting the reply of a mufti of Oran to the moriscos of Grenada, who are questioning him about the practice of their religion: “What must the morisco do when he is obliged to renounce his faith . . . ? If, for example, the Christians force the Muslims to blaspheme the prophet, they will then have to pronounce his name Hamed, as the Christians do. . . . As far as prayers are concerned, when the morisco finds that he is obliged to go to Church at the very moment when he should be saying his Muslim prayer, he will be dispensed from doing so. . . . In like fashion, if he cannot say his prayer during the day, let him do it at night.”9 This casuistry is part of the countercasuistry of the Manual of the Inquisitors, which warns judges against the dissimulation in the replies of the accused (“the heretics have ten ways of deceiving inquisitors who interrogate them . . . as when we speak to them of the true body of Christ and they respond: of his mystical body: or if we ask them if this is the body of Christ, they answer yes, meaning by that their own body, a nearby stone, in the sense in which all the bodies on Earth are of God”).10 These two intertwined discourses show how a dominant ideology integrates into its own system of representations the spaces that the dominated ideology attempts to infiltrate, and in the case of the taqiyya, how the dominated ideology allows the dominating structure to show through. Thus, each of the discourses, in turn, invests the discursive space confronting it and envelops its principal components.

The Word’s Plurality of Accent and the Spaces of Dialogue

When we undertake a more precise analysis of the word, as Bakhtin does, we find a space fraught with conflicts. Bakhtin speaks, in this connection, of the pluriaccentuation of the word, “which makes it a living thing”:

“The possible contexts of one and the same word are often in opposition with each other. The replies in a dialogue are a classic example. Here, the same word figures in two contexts struggling against each other. It is true that the dialogue constitutes a particularly glaring example of contexts that are oriented differently. It may be said, however, that every real utterance, whatever its form, always contains a more or less clear indication of agreement with something or refusal of something. Contexts are not merely juxtaposed, as though they were indifferent to each other, but are in a situation of interaction and of intense, uninterrupted struggle. The shift in a word’s value accent from one context to another is totally ignored by linguistics. . . . Although value accents are lacking in substance, it is the plurality of a word’s accents that makes it come alive. The problem of pluriaccentuation must be closely linked to that of polysemy.”11

What is problematic in this case is the univocality of the word, which, when it enters into the enunciation of a textual message, undergoes the effects of semantic reduction. How then can it restore its original plurality of accent while inserted in only one context? One might expect, in fact, two levels: on the one hand, by the elaboration of semiotic systems;12 on the other hand, by the reconstitution of the microsemiotic systems acquired by the speaking subject.13 To clarify the problem, I refer the reader to two texts. In the example of Scarface, what is involved is not a word but a sign14 –the St. An-drew’s cross– that is related to a sensationalist type of journalistic writing whose objective is to expose the facts, and that represents one of the modes of transcription of a new, urban, immigrant culture turned toward collective action and mass communication. At the same time, however, it is a sign of interdiction belonging to a “rhetoric of silence and concealment” that materializes within the film the presence of the Hays Code, that repressive code of censorship weighing heavily against the film industry, a product of the mental structures of an older rural, conservative, and Protestant America. These contradictory connotations of the same sign can be restored only as the sign is put back into the context of the two chains of meaning functioning in the film’s text. We are at an intersection of two voices testifying to a situation of conflict, speaking within the text through two contiguous semiotic systems. The case of Guzmán deAlfarache is more complex.15 In this text, the glorification of the Earth’s generosity begins with the mention of a series of products it offers spontane-ously (“It gives us precious stones, gold, silver, and other metals which we need so much and for which we thirst”). The term thirst enters into a microsemiotic that transcribes within textuality the mark of one of the traditional topics of the Golden Age, namely the description of the first human beings, who have only elementary needs to satisfy and who live in a world that generously provided for them. Within this microsemiotic, thirst relates to other signs such as “necessity, herbs, fruit, water, drink, sheep, milk, wool,” and so on. But it also belongs to a second microsemiotic of exchange and mercantilism (gold, silver, commerce, etc.), of products of a second order of need (cloth for decoration, etc.); in this context, the accent is placed on another value of sed, namely avidity. In this term two thoughts intersect, which, to borrow Pierre Vilar’s words, “have coexisted and fought one another” over the role of gold and precious metals in the prosperity of a State. Is gold the “sole sign . . . of the greatness of States,” or on the contrary, is it the “seed of dissolution of true wealth that consists only in the production of goods necessary for life”?16 In a first reading, apparently set within a semantic reduction that makes it a sign of cupidity and the textual index of a moral discourse on mercantilism, the word is here somehow destabilized in the framework of textual semantics, and also says something else –namely the opposite of its first meaning. In this sense, it represents a crossing of voices, a space of conflict.

What I have just said about the word remains valid at the level of the broader units that enter into the combinatorial structure of the genotext. I refer here to the Buscón, in which, as we shall see, the representation of sociopolitical reality takes place through the inscription in the text of the two social practices: the feast of Carnival and the repressive ac-tions of the Inquisition. These practices are invested in the text by means of semiotic systems resting in turn upon contradictory value systems that we may consider as phantasmal projections of social Destructuration and Restructuration. When we investigate the mechanisms that permit the system to swing from one semiotic system to another and, consequently, from one space to an opposite space, we observe that the point of coincidence is the polyvalent concept of mask, the tragic mask behind which forbidden rites, especially, hide and which the inquisitorial procedure strives to remove, or the festive disguises that permit marginal people to express themselves. The fact that, in a burlesque context, these masks reproduce the features of the established authorities, as is frequently the case at Carnival time, or that in the dramatic masquerades of the autos da fé, they reproduce, because they are obliged to do so. the ritual practices of the dominant society, shows how the discursive spaces of marginality coincide with the structures producing situations of exclusion.17 The comparison between this analysis and the preceding analyses of the sign in Scarface and the word in Guzmán deAlfarache suggests a generalization: every textual element inserted at the heart of the production of meaning can function only in a polyvalent form. Returning to our central problem, we see that it is impossible to conceive of dis-courses of transindividual subjects functioning autonomously. Every act of speech sets in motion an interdiscourse that marks in the text the discursive traces of an ideological for-mation and. in this way, refers us to a social formation. That is why this utterance must be considered in turn as polyvalent, which requires reconstituting often contradictory vectors of meaning that transcribe the social interests of the different transindividual subjects in-volved. These different vectors of meaning carve up one and the same reality in myriad ways and create polysemic spaces of reading. To say implicitly that the phenomena of consciousness that generate texts are not reducible to the category of the individual does not mean that we have rejected the notion of a text’s originality, for speech always redistributes these different voices in particular ways. These voices have themselves shaped consciousness in a unique mode by giving it a specific configuration.

NOTES 1. Mikhail Bakhtin, Le Marxisme et la philosophie du langage; Essais d’application de la méthode sociologique en linguistique (Paris: Minuit. 1977), pp. 27, 30. 2. Ibid., pp. 50-51; Bakhtin’s italics. 3. Ibid. 4. See Theory and Practice of Sociocriticism, Chapter 9. 5. On this point, see, Ibid. Chapter 1. 6. F. de Saussure, Curso de lingüística general (Barcelona: Planeta, 1985), p. 27. My italics. 7. “Class . . . cannot be conceived as static, passive, in itself, but in its relation to other classes” (Jean Guichard, Le Marxisme: Théorie de la pratique révolutionnaire [Lyons: Chronique Sociale de France], p. 193). 8. Edmond Cros, “Effets sur la génétique textuelle de la situation marginalisée du sujet,” Imprévue, 1 (1980), 23-30. 9. L. Cardaillac, Moriscos y cristianos: un enfrentamiento polémico (Madrid: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1979), ch. 2. The term aljamiado refers to a text in Castilian but writ-ten in Arabic characters. 10. Nicolav Eimeric and Francisco Peña, El Manual de los Inquisidores (Barcelona: Muchnick editores [Colección Archivos de la herejía por R. Muñoz Suay], 1983), p. 148. 11. Bakhtin, Le Marxisme, p. 116. On the same problem, see also Bakhtin’s La Poétique de Dostoievski (Paris: Seuil), ch. 5. 12. See Theory an History… Chapter 6. 13. See Ibid., Chapter 1. 14. See Ibid., Chapter 8, pp. 133-136. 15. See Ibid., Chapter 10, pp. 190-207. 16. Pierre Vilar, Or et monnaie dans l’histoire (Paris: Flammarion, 1974), p. 192. 17. See E. Cros, “Pratiques idéologiques et pratiques rituelles. Rendre I’illisible lisible,” Imprévue, 1 (1980), 129-137.

[From Edmond Cros, Theory and Practice of Sociocriticism, Translation by Jerome Schwartz, Foreword by Jürgen Link and Ursula Link- Heer, University of Minnnesota Press, Minneapolis, Theory and History of Literature, Volume 53, 1987]

Textual Functions II — Textual Processes of Transformation and Codes of Mediation (Continuation)

The process of transformation of the observable reality setts off not only an already elaborated linguistic material but also new intermediary structures that somehow are capable of displacing signs and homogenizing them within an identical code, named “Transformational Code” by Edmond Cros. This article ilustrates such process with the analysis of the first sequence of “Citizen Kane” (Welles, 1941), “La vida del buscón” (F. de Quevedo, 1626) and, more briefly, “La Región más transparente” (Carlos Fuentes, 1958), the Litin’s film “Viva el Presidente” (from Alejo Carpentier’s "El Recurso del método“1975) a Velazquez’s painting,”La Túnica".

Processes of Transformation and Codes of Mediation

Textual production itself is not reducible to phenomena of consciousness. Indeed, it sets off complex processes of semantic transformation: in the first place, an already elaborated linguistic material, an “already said” that supports meaning, in which it simultaneously deconstructs itself, at every level:

(1) First at the discursive level (which refers us back to the preceding point) of the pre-asserted, set syntagmatic groups and lexies in which every human community mate-rializes the particular modalities of its historic, spatial, and social insertion. (2) Then at the textual level, as in the well-known thesis of intertextuality1 Contrary to other critics, such as R. Barthes2 or Michael Riffaterre, who conceive of the in-tertext from the reader’s point of view,3 we place it within the context of the work of writing. Taking up, though from a different point of view, a suggestion of Riffaterre’s –who himself borrows the term from Charles S. Peirce4– I emphasize that it is not the intertext that is deconstructed, but more precisely its interpretant, that is, a certain idea of this intertext; it is not a previous textuality that is deconstructed within the new one, but in some way a certain manner of reading this earlier text. This decoding is provided, in the context of a grammar of reception, by the same semiotic apparatus that informs interdiscourse in another sense, unless one assumes –which would probably be more precise– that this decoding, none other than the interpretant, is but an effect of meaning produced by the genotext. (3) At the level of myth (see in Theory and Practice of Sociocriticism the analysis of a text from Guzmán de Alfarache that rewrites the different components of the Golden Age myth), traditions of gesture and language in folklore (see inTheory and Practice of Sociocriticism the studies on the La Vida delBuscón and La hora de todos), that is, a broader domain of “social imagery.” (4) At the level of archaic schemas deeply embedded within a cultural context and re-distributed under the effect of particular historical circumstances (see Ibid., pp. 225-230).

With respect to interdiscourse (speech), in which we see a primary modeling system, we see that these preconstructeds –or rather preconstraints– represent a number of secondary modeling systems. However, it is not only the media that intervene in the process of transforming observable reality, and it is necessary to conceive, on another level, of the existence of new intermediary structures that somehow are capable of displacing signs and homogenizing them within an identical code. Let us take the case of the first sequence of Citizen Kane, the representation of the character’s death. The camera, after showing the sign forbidding entrance to the palace, travels the length of the gate and enters a garden of exotic plants; the silhouette of the castle stands out in the background; a light in a window –the only one that is lit– suddenly goes out, at the same time that the musical accompaniment falls silent. Now inside the house, we perceive a recumbent body, then a snow-covered house inside a glass globe, held in a hand that drops the object; it rolls down some steps and breaks. In a closeup, two lips pronounce the word Rosebud; in a distorted vision, a nurse coming to cover the face of the dead man is seen walking through a doorway. If we try to go beyond the anecdotal level, we observe, throughout this series of frames, the functioning of the concept of passage, crossing, or transgression: first, in the crossing of the surrounding enclosure, followed by the invasive entry into the room in which Kane has just died, but also, in a subtler, more meaningful way. as our gaze, at first fixed upon this microcosm of the glass ball, leaves it and then gives us an external view of it; finally, in the discourse on time, punctuated by two flashbacks, so that the precise mo-ment of the character’s death is signified three times (interruption of light and music –shattering of glass– veiling of the face). The image of death is thus linked to the reversal of the flow of time, which is linear during the camera’s progress toward the castle and is then, as it were, refracted and regresses to the precise instant when consciousness expires. Insofar as this recurrence is perceived within the context of an analogical series, the flash-back hides its syntactic function (which is to coordinate frames) to its own advantage. No doubt it reverses the events, but it tells us above all that it is reversing them; it draws atten-tion to its nature from a double point of view, both metalinguistic and poetic. Here the concept of crossing is effected by the evocation of a sort of barrier against which temporal linearity stumbles and breaks, and can now only bend back toward the past. In this sense, the flashback is integrated into a semiotic text that, apparently semanticized by the anecdotal, represents death as a transitus mortis.

This first observation is an index of a key to the decoding of the text and with re-spect to which other facts emerge. Thus, the entrance to Xanadu is shown as a sudden irruption into a haunted universe, devoid of any human presence, inhabited only by a light, which will soon go out. Emphasizing the temporal closure I have just described, the nesting of these closed spaces (property lines, high walls of the castle, the bedroom of the dying man, the crystal globe) betrays, at the same time, their emptiness and represents a theater abandoned by its actors, a shell definitively emptied of all content since the reign of darkness. It is in this context of emptiness that we perceive the central image of the rosebud, a dense focus of abundance rich with promise. We readily recognize in these phenomena a religious symbolism all the more clear since, at another level, Rosebud inscribes the theme of transience, fragility, and ephemerality, a message reinforced by the silhouette of the unfinished and ridiculous palace, signifying that, perceived from this point of closure, all is vanity. The shattering of the glass ball after a brief run down the stairs says it also, an evident symbol of the rapidity with which we reach the end of our existence, evoking the classical metaphor of the road of life. This first sequence is thus a meditation on death governed completely by Christian topoi. They will be noted in later frames that evoke a demiurge whose proud accomplishments (economic and journalistic empires, residences, etc.) are threatened by destruction. In the second sequence, The News on the March, this topos is expressed especially through the myths of Genesis and the Tower of Babel, which are there only to be deconstructed. These myths are not precisely what is in question in the first sequence, where, indeed, an entire cultural stratum seems to be filtering, generating, or displacing the images. This topos filters down into the hollows of the anecdotal pretext whose logic and programming it rejects for its own benefit. Thus emerges what will be one of the cinematic text’s major codes of transformation.

What is at issue will appear more clearly if I reduce the global signified of the set of images we have studied to the following schematic formulation: “Death came to X at home.” I have not been specific about the nature of this residence on purpose; indeed, I would be led, in the contrary case, to consider the narrative in terms of a puzzle and to mortgage, as it were, my analysis by introducing circumstantial aspects that relate either to the narrative or to the text, I am not sure which (X apparently dies alone, in a sumptuous castle: is this solitude connected with the religious text informing the film, or does it correspond, in the fictional context, to the authenticity of the character’s experience?). Reducing the first sequence to this formula, I bring out the arrangement of the visual material used to signify death: thus, on the first point, a series of symbols (interrupted light and music, shattering of the globe, veiling of the corpse’s face), but these first symbols themselves, whose neutral, banal, and somehow “secular” character is obvious, describe two points of view, by evoking not only contemplated death (recumbent body, dead man’s face covered by a sheet) but also experienced death, as the invasion of consciousness by silence and darkness. By this evident appeal to a process of identification, the text, going beyond the mere anecdotal pretext, interpellates me, insofar as this first signifier (the series of symbols mentioned above) acquires its autonomy: this death is henceforth no longer that of X but mine, ours. Textuality opens onto another dimension. The imaginary element brought into play to lend support to the narrative calls attention to itself and afterward develops, through an effect of contiguity, its own universe and its own text. The images chosen to signify the death of Kane are transformed by signifying a philosophical and religious conception of life, which is exteriorized in the iconic forms of the rose and the racing of the globe, a functioning that can be schematically represented as in the accompanying diagram. [Note that Se denotes Signifié (signified) and Sa denotes Signifiant (signifier).]

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX cuadro que insertar

Between Se1 and Se2 an ideological function is operating for which the fact of death is the occasion for a meditation on human existence and for setting rules for living. The trans-formational code I mentioned earlier corresponds to the ways this ideological instance in-tervenes in the production of meaning.

This ideological instance is expressed not only at elementary linguistic and visual levels. It also commands the syntagmatic ordering of signs and controls the narrative’s points of focalization, that is, the points of reference with which writing provides itself in order to organize the architecture of its signs. Thus, as we have also seen, the approach to Xanadu. exactly like the functioning of insert and flashback, concretizes at the phenotextual level the concept of crossing, which is semanticized in turn by the point of anecdotal focalization, as a modulation of the thematics of transitus mortis. Beyond the framework of this first sequence the same voice is operating through interventions of a perceptibly different nature. The reconstruction furnished by the news-reel (The News on the March) is effectively organized around the growth of Kane’s power (its display, its extent, its origin) through a significant figurative language articulated, as we have said, essentially around two myths –Genesis and the Tower of Babel. The first of these myths, which is explicitly invested in the cinematic text by a landscape in which the boundaries between water and earth appear indistinct, develops as the background of a thematics dealing with the artificial construction of a second universe characterized by the accumulation of resources, economic means, and wealth. This sacred text, originally presented as the basis for a certain type of spirituality, functions here as the index of a point of reference in relation to which we are being invited to form a judgment on Kane’s undertaking. The presence of this text and the modalities of its deconstruction denounce, in the organization of this new Noah’s ark, the absence of any reference to God. The spiritual dimension inscribed in the text of Genesis reveals what is to be condemned in this project of reification; it points up, by a countermovement, precisely what was involved in the con-cept of vacancy in the initial frames. The textualization of the building of Xanadu, reconstructed in three stages (the creation of a mountain in a geographical environment –the flat stretches of Florida– which makes it appear as the work of a madman, the silhouette of a multistoried tower, the castle itself), contributes to a similar condemnation. A new series of indexes reinforces the preceding one: the symbolic nature of the mountain, a sacred site; the systematic use of low-angle shots, which are then semanticized by the whole semiotic text, and which organize its frames; the enumeration of the different titles –in every language– of the newspapers on the planet; the unfinished look of Xanadu, which, however, is already developing cracks; the fact that this castle has twice been likened to a tomb, the first time explicitly, the second time by analogy to the pyramids. The myth of the Tower of Babel is functioning, in that case, as the reverse of the myth of Genesis: contrary to Genesis, which acts as a foil, by analogy, Babel fits Kane’s project perfectly. It reveals the other side of the myth of Genesis, resolving its possible ambiguities. Thus the ideological authority reinforces its message through both of them.

Once these initial phenomena have been clarified, they, in turn, throw light on the role of the newsreel commentator’s voice –the exaggeration in which he cloaks himself, his way of distancing himself from his subject, his critical attitude. We should not attribute any merit to the journalist who presumably presents this obituary, remembering that all Kane’s projects, whether political or sentimental, have fallen into ruin, and that his predictions have proven false (on the Second World War, for example). All of Kane’s creations bear in them, at the same time, the mark of their nonconformist character with respect to ideological criteria and, as a consequence, the premonitory sign of the annihilation toward which they are heading. We see, then, how the ideological instance intervenes in the production of meaning through the mediation of a transformational code. Thus far we have been grouping together phenomena that do not belong to the same category. The first refer to an obviously figurative language already recognized as such, as in the case of the mythical elements we have recognized, which are bearers of diegesis, according to the accompanying schema:


Clearly, figurative language feeds two strata of textuality, allowing us to clarify the func-tioning of the deconstruction in both cases. At the same time the text is being constructed, it is organizing the ideological reference points permitting it to be read. However, as we have seen, this figurative language also controls the text in the form of a kind of secondary symbolization especially apparent in the first sequence, and that coincides only with the first level of symbolization by means of an internal focus of semanticization. This is true of the fall of the glass globe or the words spoken by the dying man. It is a question here no longer of the mere reproduction of a symbolic code repeated verbatim in the text but of a new concretization of the same code. This refers us to a textual instance that manipulates this first code but cannot be confused with it. It is this instance that semanticizes the syntactic axis and enters the combinatory genetics it creates, among other things, by systematically reproducing the category of the crossing, the implicit bearer of the vision of the transitus mortis. Consequently, I shall distinguish between the decon-structed symbolic material (Genesis, Tower of Babel) and the active principle of its decon-struction (the textual instance in question). We thus oppose the code of symbolization, understood as a figurative language conveying the signified, to the code of transformation that manipulates it and that is the active center of meaning.

If this distinction is problematic in the case of Citizen Kane, it is because the two codes coincide for the most part, but the reasons for this coincidence must be investigated. It will be clearer if we take the example of Guzmán de Alfarache. The text I study in Part II of Theory and Practice of Sociocriticism employs, in order to signify the Earth’s generosity, the myth of the Golden Age and of a Nature that spontaneously offers Man its products. This classical figurative language, conveying a nostalgic vision of the past, especially condemns com-mercial agitation and activity. After having fragmented the elements of this nostalgic vision, which now claim autonomy, the text of Mateo Alemán, under the probable effect of a code of transformation that remains to be described and defined, perverts this code of symbolization by inscribing in it themes of modernity (the overseas adventure, for example) and by transgressing the interdiction that, in all preceding texts, was imposed against trade; the latter thus comes to occupy the whole textual space.

In the case of La Vida del Buscón, the codes of transformation of semiosis are constituted by two social practices (Carnival/Inquisition) invested in the form of textual practices. From that point on, any element of mental structure that may be related either to interdiscourse or, when materialized in a text, to intertextuality, any linguistic material, any referent will undergo this double work of transformation before it is finally encoded in textual structures. Let us take the reality from which the word originates, namely the existence of an hacedor de paño (cloth maker), who represents an economic power in Castile at the beginning of the seventeenth century and whose sociopolitical integration is being rendered problematic. The object (el hacedor de paño) is apprehended by a mental structure in the framework of an enunciative and interactive context associating him with a community that is outcast because it is linked to a religious heterodoxy (converted Jews or new Christians) and is threatening on both religious and political grounds, since it is perceived as aiming to supplant the hegemony of the dominant group (manifested by interdiscourse). Such, at least, is the interpretant that the rest of our analysis leads us to reconstitute. The disappearance of the interpretant as such is already a problem in itself, and which would deserve further inquiry. (Why this refusal to designate the adversary other than indirectly?) The interpretant itself generates (or is generated by) a series of associated meanings: as a converted Jew, the hacedor de paño is supposed to hide himself and his condemnable religious practices; because he has economic power, he imitates the ostentation of the nobility. These two elements, the already said (hacedor de paño), and the interpretant, pass. at the intertextual level, through a first medium, which is conceptist rhetoric: a lexicalized phrase is cunningly assimilated by the narrative instance to these enigmatic circumlocutions whose fashion, as Jean Molino remarks, extended at the time to all of Europe under the names of agudeza, wit, concetto.5 Behind this practice, we recognize the norm of the Ciceronian ornatus destined to enrich the noble style and functioning as an index of the locutor’s selection of a certain level of language. It is thus a question of valorizing one signified through the intermediary of translatio verbi, substituting for the first signifier a second that in some way transfigures the referent.

It so happens in this case that, on the one hand, this translatio verbi is applied to an incongruous referent, the object barber, which cannot enter the gravitational field of the elevated style, and, on the other hand, the substitute signifiers (shearer of cheeks and tailor of beards) correspond as well to pejorative signs. Clearly, we are seeing the reverse effect of the use of conceptist circumlocution, which catches the character at his most degraded and ridiculous: his desire to present an appearance and his inability to manipulate a certain type of discourse. The threat to social status inscribed in referential reality (the wool manufacturer aspiring to political hegemony) is out of place in parody, but this displacement presupposes a double encoding: an initial semiotic operation, assuming a will to disguise (Carnival/first code of transformation); a second semiotic operation that implies a demysti-fication (Inquisition/second code of transformation). Thus in this way observable reality undergoes successive mutations that add to it a “semantic surplus value.”


Our sociocritical reading would be incomplete, however, if we did not investigate the nature and origin of these codes of transformation. The reader will have observed that they are the very creations of the text, and that, for this reason, it hardly seems possible to set up their typologies. I have shown elsewhere how these codes, in the text of Quevedo, are part of the immediate context of the object at the source of the production of the text. This was self-evident in the case of descriptions of the Inquisition, which still remained closely linked to the persecution of the new Christians in Spain, but what about festive practice? Research on contemporary documents provides an answer. In early seventeenth-century Segovia the urban bourgeoisie represented by the cloth manufacturers turned the rural folkloric traditions of Carnival to their profit, as was the case elsewhere in Europe. Thus the sociohistorical situation that generated a series of phenomena of consciousness carried in its wake modalities that were destined to preside over its “textual enactment” and determined the foundations of writing. Another question emerges: did these two mediating structures have a relationship between them other than the one linking them directly to la Vida del Buscón as pretexted object? Yes, for the Carnival functions in la Vida del Buscón as the interpretant of the Inquisition, and the Inquisition functions as the interpretant of the Carnival. If these social practices are operating in textual production, the text, in return, gives voice to them, forces them to actualize their latent potentialities in the practice of writing. These observations have been confirmed by my analysis of Scarface (see Theory and Practice of Sociocriticism, Chapter 8), since journalistic writing, which enters the production of meaning in its role as mediating structure, is as much a part of the immediate context of sociohistorical and sociopolitical facts transcribed in the film (namely the questioning of the cultural model characterizing the new wave of immigration to the United States, the struggle of the dominant groups of white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestants for what they believe to be their survival) as the background of the economic crisis and the impact of its fluctuations on political life. At the heart of the new culture that is supposed to be menacing the old, the domination of the media, mass communications and especially the great power of journalism are beginning to be felt.

My demonstration and definition of the codes of mediation in the cultural object furnish a response to the irritating question that is endlessly asked by “sociological” literary criticism, yet never resolved, at least if we refuse to accept as satisfactory the hypotheses advanced by Lucien Goldmann (recourse to the notion of world vision and the concept of homology). Indeed, it appears that mediations in the text present themselves through a set of concrete and discernible semiotic traces whose modes of presence vary from the mere transposition of ideosemes to the investment by ideology and interdiscourse of textual semantics and structures.

The structures of mediation that intervene between societal structures and textual structures are thus discursive in nature, whether involving cultural texts (the gestural and linguistic traditions of carnivalesque festivals or the codes of symbolization of social prac-tices, for example) or the specific discourses of transindividual subjects. These structures of mediation always present themselves in the form of semiotic traces, signifying sets and paths of meaning that we may term intratextual microsemiotics. The following analyses, however, as well as the theoretical generalizations we have drawn from them, demonstrate how these microsemiotics function at the different levels of the text. One must, indeed, consider them as essentially dynamic sets generating deconstructions deep inside the cen-ters of textual production. These deconstructions themselves are powerful semantic loci, to the extent that the intratextual microsemiotics reveal themselves and their ideological origin. To illustrate this process I shall group a certain number of phenomena, several of which will be developed further in Part II of Theory and practice of Sociocriticism. I have often cited the case of the deconstructions affecting the conceptist metaphor in Quevedo’s Buscón. The diffraction around which the deconstructions are organized, and which requires me to simultaneously decode, behind the burlesque phrase “shearer of beards,” the traces and the rhetorical mold of noble speech, signifies both the latter’s existence and its misappropriation by a subject incapable of mastering it, that is, by an individual who, in the last analysis, intends to hide his social position by identifying himself with a social group he deems superior to his own; but this misappropriation is visible as such by the discrepancy between referenced reality (barber) and the phrase he uses to describe it. The subject unmasks himself by the very way he tries to hide himself. In this way we grasp the double function (masking vs. -unmasking) of discourse in the whole text. I have attempted to show, above, concerning codes of transformation, how within these phenomena of deconstruction the effects of two social practices (festive practice and repressive practice), themselves understood in the context of their respective cultural texts, coincide.

We shall also see in the reading of a passage from Guzmán de Alfarache how an intratextual microsemiotic, which inscribes in the text the traces of a mercantile discourse, remodels the myth of the Golden Age. The opening lines of Carlos Fuentes’ s La región más transparente attest a similar functioning. There the Christ-like image of the “crown of thorns” is deconstructed into a “crown of nopales,” in which two iconic traditions connected to different religious cultural texts coincide (Christian religion/Aztec religion). The syncretism emerging from this coincidence appears to be produced by the operation in Fuentes’s novel of a microsemiotic transcribing in the last instance the fundamental lines of force of bourgeois ideology in postrevolutionary Mexico.

We may apply the same methodology of concrete modes of intratextual representa-tion of mediations to cultural objects other than literature. Take the case of Litin’s Viva el presidente , a film version of Alejo Carpentier’s novel El recurso del método. On the transhistorical axis, a number of ideological tracings, among them positivism, are being deconstructed. At the very moment the President, in a train heading for the front, puts on his official uniform, we see behind him what seems to be his motto or his country’s motto: “God, Fatherland, Order,” suggesting in the background Comte’s “Order and Progress.” The gap between the original motto and what it has become is extremely significant in that the new formulation inscribes values absolutely contradictory to those of Comte and Comtism. Indeed, not only was positivism atheist, at least in its initial phase, and preached the love of humanity, but in a certain number of cultural texts God and Fatherland are contra-dictory to the notion of Progress. Thus, in this new figuration, Comtism is being shown in a profoundly disfigured form. This principle of falsification, of inadequacy, of perversion, turns round and round in the text, and we can compare it with the thought of Marti, itself contained within Castroism, which Carpentier claims as his authority and according to which every system of centrist thought is inadequate in Latin America. But Castroist thought is presented in the film, as it is in the novel, through a set of discursive traces and paths of meaning that organize an intratextual microsemiotic producing meaning.


1. See Julia Kristeva, Semeiotiké (Paris: Seuil, 1969), pp. 191, 195, 255. 2. Roland Barthes, Le Plaisir du texte (Paris: Seuil, 1973). 3. See Michael Riffaterre, Semiotics of Poetry (Bloomington-London: Indiana University Press, 1978) and his highly suggestive study “Semiotique intertextuelle: l’Interpretant,” Rhétoriques Sémiotiques, Revue d’esthetique, 1-2 (1979), 128-150. 4. “That for which (a sign) stands is called its object: that which it conveys, its meaning; and the idea to which it gives rise, its interpretant,” C. S. Peirce, Principles of Philosophy, ed. Charles Hartshorne and Paul Weiss, vol. 1 of Collected Papers (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1931), p. 171. 5. J. Molino, F. Soublin, and J. Tamine, “Présentation: problèmes de la métaphore,” La Métaphore, Langages, 54 (June 1979), p. 14.

[From Edmond Cros, Theory and Practice of Sociocriticism, Translation by Jerome Schwartz, Foreword by Jürgen Link and Ursula Link- Heer, University of Minnnesota Press, Minneapolis, Theory and History of Literature, Volume 53, 1987]

Textual Functions III - Genotext and Phenotexts

This survey studies how the “already said” (Intertextuality, Preconstructed, preconstrained…) is working linked with the interdiscurse, the ideological and discursive formations the transformational codes, using two terms from Julia Kristeva (Genotext and Fenotext) but with a different meaning related with the Human Geography ( genotype and fenotype). Edmond Cros ilstrates this functioning in “Citizen Kane”, “La Muerte de Artemio Cruz” (Carlos Fuentes, 1962) and “Guzmán de Alfarache” (Mateo Alemán 1599- 1604).

Textual Functions III Genotext and Phenotexts The discussion in Chapter 5 demonstrates how a problem may be approached seriatim only for convenience of exposition, for obviously the textual phenomenon is the product of a complex of elements operating simultaneously. But how, precisely, does this complex of elements function and from what point in the text? Using a spatial metaphor, we may imagine the point of intersection of two axes, a vertical and a horizontal. On the first axis is interdiscourse, which materializes both mental structures and ideological formations produced by a social formation. The discourse of time upon itself is read on this axis, or, in other words, interdiscourse translates into semiotic operations, through multiple ideological traces, the sociohistorical conditions in which a speaker is immersed. On the horizontal axis is the intertext –the preasserted, the precon-structed, the preconstrained, that is, all the linguistic material destined to materialize and give shape to meaning (see the accompanying diagram). On the horizontal axis, as on the vertical, are preestablished paths of meaning offering a more or less strong resistance to textual modeling, inside which they maintain semiotic pockets, microspaces of reading capable of producing zones of conflict under the effect of the narrative instance’s possible monosemic project. It is at this intersection that we must imagine the process of transfor-mation of observable reality under the effect of codes of mediation: the complexity of the elements in play proves at once the necessary polysemy of the fictional text, the impor-tance of its distancing with respect to referential reality, as well as the resistance it offers to critical examination. Within this crucible, however, arise lines of force, centers of meaning around which new semiotic operations and semantic models are organized, that is, a whole complex of elements that thrust textuality into a state of becoming; the conceptual frame-work is thus put into place that will ensure the autonomy of the text/sign with respect both to the consciousness that is supposed to produce it and to the originally invested reality.


To borrow a term from Julia Kristeva, 1 shall call this focal point of meaning a genotext. The work of writing is a constant deconstruction of this composite in the form of phenotexts destined to actualize at every textual level the syntax of previously programmed messages, depending upon their specificity. The use of these terms can be problematic, to the extent that my use of them does not correspond to Kristeva’s,1 who borrows them herself from the generative theories of the Soviet linguist Saumjan-Soboleva.2 Kristeva introduces these notions in the context of a theory of meaning, conceived as a germination process related to semanalysis, a discipline distinct from semiotics, and confined to “gathering . . . . signifying truth.” Kristeva is concerned with distinguishing a state from its production, a signified structure from the process of generation of the same signified. If the term phenotext is clear insofar as it refers to the printed text, conceived as one of the possible actualizations of language (in the Saus-surian sense of langue), the term genotext demonstrates something more complex if not more ambiguous. Indeed, it refers in Kristeva both to a linguistic process at work in lan-guage, at an abstract level of linguistic functioning, and to a state: “the genotext is the infi-nite signifier which cannot ‘be’ a ‘this’ for it is not in the singular; it would be denoted more accurately as plural and infinitely differentiated ‘signifiers,’ with respect to which the signifier that is present here, the signifier of the present-formula-of . . . -the-said-subject, is only a milestone, a named-place, an ac=cidence (that is, an approach, an approximation added to signifiers while its own position is abandoned)” (p. 283). Kristeva’s concept of genotext, consequently, situates textual actualization within a broad and undifferentiated whole to the extent that “the genotext can be presented as the mechanism (dispositif) of the history of the language and of the signifying practices that textual actualization is capable of knowing: the potentialities of every existing and future concrete language are ‘given’ in the genotext before falling back, masked or censored, into the phenotext” (p. 284). As for printed texts, or phenotexts, these “are to be envisaged as formulas of significance in the natural language, as modifications or successive revisions of the fabric of language; formulas that would occupy a parallel position as important, if not more so, for the constitution and transformation of monumental history as discoveries in mathematics and logic” (p. 286). Thus, we can better understand why it may be claimed that “semanalysis protects itself from psychological thematics as well as from the aestheticizing idealism currently competing for the monopoly of what has been called écriture (Derrida)” (p. 279). Everything Kristeva writes on this point is extremely suggestive, but, as we have seen, it is not at this level that I intend to pose the problem. I intend to use these notions to establish a rigorous parallelism between two states of the enunciation characteristic of a text; the first functions with conceptual categories and corresponds to an ungrammatical-ized enunciation, in the sense that this enunciation is not yet formulated. It is not a struc-ture, but it is to become a structure by structuring itself within the different phenotextual actualizations of the same text. Indeed, the text opens onto different levels (narrativity; the multiple signifying wholes that are, among other things, characters and codes of symboli-zation; the chain of meanings of signifiers; etc.), in which linguistic categories and those appropriate to these levels are both operating in the framework of a signifying process tending to actualize in an apparently incoherent and fragmented way the semantic latencies of the same utterance: the genotext. This genotext exists only in these multiple and concrete actualizations –phenotexts– and it corresponds to an abstraction reconstituted by the analyst. Between these two states of the utterance (énoncé) is the functioning of the various codes of transformation, that is, the process by which the signifying system is generated, what Kristeva (by another displacement of terms) means, in part, by the notion of genotext. This conception of textual functioning, moreover, must not be confused with the distinction generative grammar introduces between deep structure and surface structure. Indeed, for Chomsky, deep structure is postulated as the archetypal reflection of performance, as Kristeva pertinently notes: “The components of depth are structurally the same as those of surface, and no transformational process, no passage from one type of component to another, from one type of logic to another, is observable in the Chomskyan model. Thus, generative grammar does not, properly speaking, generate anything at all: it is only posing the principle of generation by postulating a deep structure that is only the archetypal reflection of performance” (p. 282). In order to illustrate the type of relation I am proposing to establish between genotext and phenotext, let us return to Citizen Kane to isolate a series of phenomena to be considered as forms of reference.

(1) The first corresponds to a sentence written on a card that appears in the newsreel sequence devoted to Kane’s death: “Last week the largest and most extraordinary funeral of 1941 took place at Xanadu.” In order to understand how this inscription is functioning, let us recall that the shooting of the film was finished on October 23, 1940, its editing was completed at the beginning of February 1941, and its first performance was scheduled for some time in mid-February. (The first performance did not take place until April 9, owing to the scandal caused by William Randolph Hearst, who claimed the film was a caricature of his own life.) The film’s first audience was thus being offered, in the framework of a newsreel, a reconstruction of Kane’s past projected into the audience’s own future (the end of 1941, implicit in the formula “the most important of the year”). We might, no doubt, observe that the film is presented to us as a pure fiction, were it not for the fact that this formula, in which the past and the future are being confused with the present time of performance, is discernible elsewhere in the film. (2) The sequence that, in Bernstein’s account, describes the move of a team of report-ers from the Chronicle to Kane’s Inquirer can be reduced to a similar schema. The reporters are shown lined up in a double row in a photograph displayed in the win-dow of the Chronicle as Leland, Kane, and Bernstein pass by. Suddenly, this pho-tograph is taken apart, each man freeing himself from the pose he had assumed. Kane’s arrival on the scene makes us understand that what is involved this time is a photo taken at the offices of the Inquirer. Six years have elapsed between the two instances of diegesis which have been evoked. In reality, what has happened. no doubt fleetingly, is that an effect of reading has been constituted to take us back to a time prior to the first photograph. This reading effect has us pass from the instant when photo 1 is perceived as already taken to the instant when it is being taken, that is, from moment 2 to moment 1, before canceling itself in a new effect which makes us understand that this anteriority is but a false anteriority insofar as this moment 1 is actually linked to photo 2. The first effect of reading corresponds, in common with photo 1, to an image of the past bearing an already accomplished future at the very moment it is perceived. Thus past and future are colliding, as it were, in a point that implies the present time of viewing. Inscribed in the past, the future presents itself as an “already there.” (3) This coincidence of the future and the past in one point, which has been semantically focused in its category of the present, will be actualized again and again in the dia-logue. I shall quote only two examples: the first is readable only in the context of the analogical series which we are in the process of reconstructing: “I am, I have always been, I shall never be anything but an ordinary American citizen.” The second, on the contrary, hardly needs to be made explicit; it concerns the words spoken by the voice-over of the newsreel journalist to describe Kane’s last years spent at Xanadu: “Alone in his never-to-be-completed [future], and already [present] cracked [past], palace, withdrawn from the world, receiving only infrequent visitors.”

Three forms of reference, we have said, but also three levels of the filmic text, if we accept the distinction between the editing (case number I) and the use in situ of the syntax of im-ages (here, the series of lap dissolves of case number 2), each of which has its own signi-fying system and rules of functioning, and which, in the very same text, do not play the same role. However, these forms of reference are all saying the same thing, and this same thing they are saying corresponds to an utterance (énoncé) of the genotext. This utterance is being deconstructed and redistributed by the specific components of each of the three levels that, in their fashion, structure phenotextual modeling. In the case of Citizen Kane, this statement, in its own schematic form, repeats –as we have just seen in these three cases– that “what will happen is already there,” a concept actualized on the level of that other textual category –narrativity– by the system of prolep-ses and all the premonitory signs of Kane’s destiny (his failures in love and politics, his lack of political insight, etc.). The same might be said about the codes of symbolization that have been chosen (Tower of Babel, Pygmalion, etc.), in which the signs of the future failure of Kane’s projects are inscribed at the very moment he undertakes them. Does the plot itself not tell us, by an effect of reversal, that the answer to our eventual query and, at any rate, to the problem that the film poses as its objective –to solve the question, Who or what is Rosebud? – was present from the very first sequences? However, the most interesting case to consider is that of the figurative language en-acted in the very first frames. Indeed, we remember how the evocation of Kane’s death is reconstructed in the perspective of a transitus mortis, which is itself concretized by re-course to the thematics of the mirror, envisaged as the dual poetic locus of transgression and diffraction; this thematic constitutes the figurative support shaping the filmic text and thus generating a systematic fragmentation. Here the mirror functions contradictorily, as a symbol of a threshold to cross and as a reflecting surface, a sort of buffer against which temporal linearity is shattered and can, henceforth, only develop in reverse. In this way, past and future merge with one another. Thus, by multiple paths, we are constantly brought back to the first statement (énoncé), the genotext. The genotext can be considered, in turn, as an ideological product. In the case of Citizen Kane we shall compare this first state of enunciation (“what will happen is already there”) with the theories of predestination (“what must happen is already there”) of a Puri-tanical society. We shall also reexamine from this perspective (relations between the ideo-logical element and the genotext) the sociocritical reading of Scarface I am proposing.

On Textual Semantics

It is important to keep in mind, as the basis of our reflections, Yuri Lotman’s definition of the text: “the text is an accomplished sign, and all the isolated signs of the broadly conceived linguistic text have been reduced to the level of elements of the sign.” This concept is based on the fact that in an artistic text “a semanticization of the extrasemantic (syntactic) elements of the natural language is produced. Instead of a clear separation of semantic elements, a complex interlacing is produced: a syntagmatic element at one hierarchical level of the artistic text becomes a semantic element at another level.” This disappearance of an opposition between the semantic and the syntactical transforms the limits of the sign, since it is the syntagmatic elements that mark these limits and “segment the text into semantic unities.”3 This argumentation entails a first consequence, namely that the text generates its own semantics, displacing and homogenizing the meaning of every element inscribed within it. To illustrate this remark of Lotman’s, I shall return to the initial frames of Citizen Kane, in which, when we approach the window at which Kane has just died, a flashback reconstructs the last moments of his agony. The last word he utters refers, we learn later, to the sled he used as a boy and to the name given it, while the snow-covered hut alludes to the second-rate guest house run by his parents when Thatcher comes to get him to give him an education worthy of his new wealth. Thus, both of these frames exteriorize the interior-ized discourse of the dying man; in this context, the flashback, which must he considered as a syntactical element in the film because it organizes the composition of shots, plays a role in the constitution of a discourse on memory and time. But a more nuanced approach to the film informs us that the myths of Genesis and the Tower of Babel are invested in it: the thematics of confusion and chaos are connected to these other centers of semanticization. They are perceived in the landscapes preceding the construction of Xanadu, in which water and earth are mingled, or in the superimposing of the various foreign-language periodicals, as much as in the unfinished nature of this demiurge’s arrogant construction projects. In the second part of the film, however (The News on the March), the opposite concept –construction, order, classification (of cultural objects, of animal species), capitalist organization– comes to the fore. Curiously, three other technical devices, also related to the syntax of images, func-tion here in a contradictory manner. The first, lap dissolve, in which, from the very first sequences, the landscape and its reflection merge, generates whole sets of superimposed, blurred, and jumbled signs in which objects lose their definition. Insert, the technique of shooting that enlarges to the point of distortion and makes it impossible to identify the ob-jects being filmed, helps to create the same effect; the insert is used in the presentation of the crystal ball in which the reality being referred to is not immediately perceptible to the eye, which can focus on it only when the lens moves back to a close-up. Consequently, one can understand how the insert and the lap dissolve, as elements converging toward the same center of meaning that they are themselves helping to establish, can have the same semantic value as other related signs (Genesis landscapes, confusion of elements, thematics of incompletion, disordered accumulation of matter, the primitive, etc.). In the allusions to the building of the palace, we see, quite the contrary, a will engaged in a creative effort, assembling and ordering this wealth in an architecture of synthesis, separating the animal species from one another, labeling them and bringing them back to life again in the secon-dary universe of culture, cataloging its objects, and defining itself as zoo or museum. In this latter case, the succession of frames is done by means of the wipe off, a device generally employed in newsreels at the time the film was made in order to arrange subjects in a series and thus punctuate the presentation of the news. These wipe offs inscribe the category of order and a certain type of rationality, in the sense that they are the markers of thematic differentiation, of the separation of shots and frames. For that very reason, they are presented in Citizen Kane as semanticized in turn by the semiotic text, which I described earlier as expressing construction, order, classification, and capitalist organization. The opposed pair of terms (chaos vs. creation) is thus actualized at the level of filmic syntax. Although, at first glance, this syntax consists of extrasemantic elements, it is apparently being semanticized by the two centers of polarization of meaning that have been brought to light. Another example is provided by the initial frames of Scarface. They are organized as a single sequence shot, which would not be significant in itself if it did not include, in succession, an exterior shot followed by an interior shot, a sequence that is generally a function of editing: without stopping the motor during the shooting, the camera, which at the start of the scene is in the street, ostensibly passes through the wall of the cabaret to get into the interior, revealing the thickness of this wall as it moves along. This is tantamount to saying that it causes a visual obstacle to appear at the very moment when it is, nevertheless, crossing and piercing it. Filmic syntax, that is. the syntagmatic chain of images and focal planes, is thus integrated into a semiotic text that problematizes the concepts of transparency and opacity. a text that is prolonged in the following sequence (the interior of the newspaper office) by means of a reversal of the givens: the glassed-in cubicles, easily discernible as so many indexes of a sort of visual continuum, are being invested as markers of a closed space, presented as such by painted letters, which, seen in reverse, are interpretable as designating spaces forbidden to the public. As far as the literary text is concerned, I shall refer to the following explication of a text from the Buscón of Quevedo, in which the grammatical actualization of aspect (that is, the contrastive use of the imperfect and the simple past, or of the imperfect and the pluper-fect) obeys the laws governing the deep structures of the text and is being semanticized by them. It thus combines them, as constitutive elements, with a semiotic text reproducing the image of a caste society in which the individual is defined as a function of his or her social origin, and group/individual relations are problematized in terms of social exclusion or assimilation. We shall see as well, in the same passage from the Buscón, a syntactic sys-tematics of inversion (aunque, sino que, solo diz que, etc.) entering, as an element semanti-cized by the corresponding center of meaning, a semiotic network signaling the modalities of investment of the language practices of Carnival within the textual fabric. Our last example is La muerte de Artemio Cruz, by Carlos Fuentes. Here the reality at the origin of the fiction is of an exemplary simplicity: a dying old man, in front of a mir-ror, remembers his life. This element, the mirror, focuses and semanticizes the entire pro-duction of meaning: the splitting into two of the narrator, who projects himself as the object of his own gaze; the systematic division of all the characters; the breakup of time into present, past and future; the correlative play of personal pronouns (I, you, he); the dislocated, contradictory, or complementary images of the facts; the fragmentation of the narrative; the modulations of the thematics of reflection by means of those other mirrors –tape recordings of the voice, memory or even writing itself. These various elements all pass through the same point –the focal point of the mirror, as it were– the consciousness of the narrator at that tragic moment of truth when Time stands still and, in standing still, loses its linearity. The mirror is, in this context, the iconic sign of consciousness, but also the metaphor of the narrative pretext, of the concept of the threshold of the beyond, of the inversion of Time, which can now only flow backward. The extrasemantic elements are effectively being semanticized here, not by the theme directly, but by its figurative treat-ment. It is not the idea of death that entails textual production (nor, moreover, a hypotheti-cal project that is autobiographical in style), but one of its iconic reproductions. Death is seen in the perspective of tránsito de la muerte, a mental representation that, in turn, is given material form in the plastic image of the mirror, as a poetic locus of crossing. At that point, every textual phenomenon creating effects of diffraction, at any level, reproduces the iconic image of agony. We shall observe in passing that referential reality (the death of Artemio Cruz) enters a transformational process governed by structures of mediation (di-dactic literature; a surrealist vision of the world supported textually by the metaphorical use of the mirror) that, inside textual structures, encode this same reality in the form of figurative language. I shall approach from this direction the problem of the establishment by fictional writing of the system that, to use Pierre Zima’s terms, “suspends the conventional (social) value of verbal signs”4 and weakens the referential dimension of language. We have just followed one of the processes that shows Lotman’s critical acuity when he writes that “signs in art do not have a conventional character, as they do in language, but an iconic, figurative character.”5 Let us reread from this point of view the text of Guzmán de Al-farache. The theme of the passage is the praise of true friendship, but this theme is treated as an apparently coherent chain of allegories; when it is read more attentively, all is not so simple. The Earth embodies friendship, we see first, only to find next that, at our death, the Earth alone will receive in its bosom our putrid corpse “while no one, not wife, not father, not son, nor friend can stand us.” Is the Earth, then, a friend or not, or something more than a friend? It would be wrong to denounce here the inconsistency or the negligence of the narrator; what has happened is that the signified has been displaced; the characteristic common to both the Earth and true friendship –stability– has now become the object of discourse. It is, thus, a new signified that selects another signifying vector, that of the Mother, whose dominant feature, abnegation, will in turn be metaphorized by the figure of the sheep. This last detour precedes a return to the maternal image in which is inscribed the desire of the subject tempted by regression to the fetal state.

Signified Friendship Signifier Earth g Signified Stability Signifier Mother g Signified Mother Signifier Lamb // Signified Mother Signifier Earth

Like the mirror in La muerte de Artemio Cruz, which is the vehicle of the surrealist concept of the passage toward the beyond, the figurative image is embedded. as it were, in textuality, where it develops centers of semanticization. The slippage from one signified to another creates strata of signification that overlap and give rise to zones of conflict. Let us pause to consider them. If we accept the interpretation of the nostalgia of a fetal state bearing the promise of a rebirth (“to bring us to a new and eternal life”) as the textual ex-pression of an infratext in which a profound feeling of insecurity is inscribed, this would mean that the “surface” text says the same thing in inverted form, or rather, in displaced form, since we have seen the value of stability foregrounded in it. Thus the Earth is op-posed to the unstable. But Guzmán de Alfarache, as we shall see, establishes an identity between money and instability, which, by turns, can he signifier and signified of each other. Textual semantics tells us that the Earth is to money as stability is to instability (Earth vs. money// stability vs. instability). There is all the more reason to see in this figurative language the signifier of a socioeconomic signified since the beginning of the text makes an obvious apology for mercantilism. In other words, figurative discourse is ordered according to a chain of meanings which problematizes the more denotative discourse of the beginning (“The Earth gives us precious stones, gold, silver, and other metals”). It follows, on the one hand, that “the language of art” –at least as far as the fictional text is concerned– is not uniformly figurative, contrary to what Lotman and, to a lesser extent, Zima, give us to understand; on the other hand –and this remark seems much more important– if it is true that “the connotative devices of literature tend to weaken the conceptual (and referential) dimension of language,”6 they cannot entail even a relative autonomy with respect to the socioideological structure that has engendered the fictional text. On the contrary, we have just seen that the figurative image (the symbolic in this case) becomes the signifier, the vector of ideological traces. Textual semantics is inscribed not in signs but in the relations among them, outside, beyond, or above syntagmatic sequences. Even if it is true that syntagmatic elements are semanticized at a second level, they nevertheless perform their conventional function at the first level such that this textual semantics is a duplication of conventional semantics and cannot in any way nullify it. On the contrary, it is this “complex interlacing” that permits the play of the polyvalence of the word against the background of its univocality. Thus, the fictional text encodes a first syntax of messages within its relational sys-tem: in this framework, the sign institutes its meaning in a zone of coincidence marked out by oppositions and contiguities that multiply its expressive possibilities. From this per-spective, in an analysis of two poems in Pablo Neruda’s Residencia, I bring out a number of analogical series that are then organized in a contradictory system: on the one hand, signs transcribing emptiness, but also a color (green) signifying death; on the other hand, the color red, the idea of plenitude, which, by investing the sign “coffin,” undermines the sign’s conventional semantics and makes it mean the opposite of what it means in language, that is, transforms it into a figure of life.7 On this point, one may also read the study of the Continuous and the Discontinuous in the work of Octavio Paz, observing that again this textual semantics, although founded on connotative devices, unfailingly retraces the contours of a socioideological reality.8 I thus agree totally with Zima’s remark opposing scientific discourse, “which creates a particular convention in order to avoid the polyse-mousness of spoken language, in order to render discourse univocal,” to the fictional text, in which “every word can acquire a diflerent meaning from the one attributed to it by social convention”9 in order, on the contrary, to achieve polysemousness.

[From Edmond Cros, Theory and Practice of Sociocriticism, Translation by Jerome Schwartz, Foreword by Jürgen Link and Ursula Link- Heer, University of Minnnesota Press, Minneapolis, Theory and History of Literature, Volume 53, 1987]

The Emergence of the Modern European Novel in Spain 1599-1605

* The melting pot in which the novel as a form is forged, and in which the earlier models are progressively deconstructed, is a complex space traversed by the tensions that habitually accompany every major historical process. Its emergence does coincide with a certain phase of expansion of the bourgeoisie, but the novel as a genre, from its very origins, presents itself as a conflict-ridden space and as a vector of subversive values. As a social practice it arises from the coming into relation of a certain number of social facts and from a series of constraints that give it its socio-historical coordinates, incorporating what is profoundly at stake in the history of a specific society.

Institut International de Sociocritique

In relation to the primary modelling system (language), which, by its act of denomination, marks off segments in the continuum of reality, the different discursive practices which as a whole constitute what is known by the name of literature (poetry, theatre, n essay…) are modelling systems that we call secondary because they redistribute a linguistic substance already segmented by the initial act of denomination. These secondary modelling systems evolve within the framework of their respective and always specific institutions: they are artificial macrosemiotics, equipped with sense-trajectories which are obligatory transit points that the messages cannot evade (Cros 1983, 1998). The system marks the messages indelibly with its constraints. In order to illustrate the nature of these constraints, let me refer to what I have said elsewhere on the subject in the case of epistolary exchange. We begin our letters with a greeting of the type: My Dear … and end them with a ritual formula like: Yours ever…( I am yours and you are mine, and, when I say good-bye, I am already the My Dear… of the reply that I expect to get from you.).What we write within this framework thus circulates between these two poles of a single structure which simultaneously sets in motion the desire to possess the other and to abandon oneself to him in return. That these formulas may sometimes be omitted or replaced by other less explicit formulas is of no importance: this social practice continues to be structured by the tête-à-tête of the two correspondents (Cros 1984). I assume that each individual genre is distinguished from the other genres by a series of signs of differentiation which may be similarly defined in terms of constraints, rules of the game, that are, if you like, internalized and therefore reproduced in the no conscious mode by all those who choose to express themselves through that genre. I also assume that these same constraints operate according to the historical context and are consequently subject to evolutionary processes. It is these constraints that give the genre thus defined its socio-historical coordinates. They come into being at the same time as the genre, which arises from the matrix of their emerging configuration. The term which will eventually designate the new genre is only its visible face: clear, neutral and, I would almost say, innocent. Now this configuration that I shall call form - an enigmatic structure in which social structures are codified - emerges at a precise moment in history, incorporating what is profoundly at stake in that history. As a social practice, in fact, the genre of the novel arises from the coming into relation of a certain number of social facts. It is easier to understand this process if one thinks about what happens in the case of a puzzle, which only becomes meaningful when I fit the last piece in: everything that, up to now, was only a formless and meaningless juxtaposition takes on a sense with this last piece; in that piece, the directions which up to now had not reached their goal come together and intersect; in that piece, colours acquire extension and justification in the form of objects, elements of a landscape, the outline of figures; what that piece signifies flows into all the pieces that surround it, restoring their original forms and meanings. Yet that last piece can only construct its sense from the bringing together and convergence of all the others; it is all those others pieces which have turned it into meaning, which have given it its meaning. If this comparison is accepted, one may reasonably claim that the novel, in emerging from History, gives a meaning in return to that same History.

It is on the basis of this double hypothesis that I shall approach the problem of the origin of the novel in Spain. It has been said that the novel came into being as a continuation of the epic, and that its emergence was linked with the economic and political rise of the bourgeoisie, an assertion that, formulated in this way, is content simply to observe that the two facts are in some sense concomitant and fails to enquire into the processes that articulate them. It also complicates any approach to the problem in the case of Spain, where, according to some historians, the bourgeoisie was only constituted belatedly as a class.

I want to put forward the hypothesis that it was between 1599, the date when the First Part of Guzmán de Alfarache appeared in print, and 1605, the publication date of the First Part of Don Quijote, that the European novel emerged. This thesis is not new: I proposed it in 1967 in Protée et le gueux (Cros 1967), where I pointed out that Mateo Alemán’s and Cervantes’s texts established a genuine conflicting dialogue. To bring them together into a single corpus should allow us better to understand how the various origins of the novel as a genre became the vectors of a future which was self-evidently to be plural. I propose to develop this point of view further here.

I shall first consider Guzmán de Alfarache as the exemplar of the picaresque genre in its fully developed form. I have shown elsewhere (Cros: 2001 a) that the structure of Alemán’s text - the dialectics of Justice and Mercy - reproduces that of Lazarillo de Tormes, and that this structure gives an account of the upheavals which affect the field of religion under the impact of evolution at the economic level. In order to achieve industrial growth, Europe has to draw on the pool of labour constituted by the idle population of vagabonds, and thus regulates beggary; in so doing, it calls into question the Catholic conception of charity. This controversial project, which arose in the Lutheran Europe of the north, was literally imported into Spain by Vives’s treatise De subventione pauperum, published at Antwerp in 1526. The gap separating the economic level of the Iberian peninsula from that of its neighbours is accompanied by an equivalent lack of correlation of mentalities and does explain the exacerbation set in motion in Spain by the calling into question of one of the fundamental elements of Catholic ethics. It is from this negative synchrony (dys- synchrony), in my view, that picaresque literature arises. This reading corroborates the argument associating the origin of the novel with the development of the bourgeoisie, but it is necessary to point out in addition that what happens at this moment refers us to a symbolic space in which the rise of the bourgeoisie is subject to critical appraisal. If the picaresque genre is born of the projection of Guzmán de Alfarache on to Lazarillo de Tormes, the configuration of structures on which it depends (justice versus mercy) makes visible a historical fracture and a conflict that opposes an authentic value, mercy, to a value , justice, which has been degraded by becoming merely instrumental (on the pretext of countering idleness and vice, the Reformers serve the interests of a rapidly expanding capitalism). This, then, would be the first constraint of the novel as a modeling sistem (the confrontation of degraded and authentic values), and if we extrapolate from that observation, we will find that this assertion intersects with the theses developed by Lukács in his Theory of the Novel (Lukács 1963), all the more because a similar confrontation may be seen to operate in Don Quijote, where the authentic values of chivalry are mediated by the degraded value represented by the imitation of the Amadis de Gaule (Girard 1961).

The novel as a genre thus emerges from the coming into relation of the following factors: 1. economic and social processes, in particular the development of global routes of communication , the necessity of organizing commercial channels of commerce, the corresponding development of transport by mule, of inns, roads, towns. (Braudel 1966, vol. I, 261 ff )The whole narrative architecture of the two texts rests on this primary level of reality (travel, stops-over in the inns during which the intercalated tales are told, characters such as mule-drivers, inn-keepers, travelers encountered on the way, etc.); 2. conflict-ridden situations: the rise of the merchant classes transcribed by Mateo Alemán: (Cavillac 1983), the rise of the Awealthy peasant@ class, which is in the process of being assimilated into the nobility, a development indicated in the intercalated stories** of Don Quijote (Cros 1984, 140 ff.), tensions within the nobility; 3. forms of behavior and normative systems (money, honor, chastity, wealth, poverty, asceticism, the distinction between licit and illicit love-relations, etc.); 4. modes of characterization: the typology of ruffians, pages, nationalities, humores: [ to take just one example, the opposition between el humor cálido y seco (hot, dry humor) attributed to Don Quijote and el humor frío y húmedo ( the cold, damp humor) that characterizes Sancho is articulated in the couple Doña Cuaresma / Don Carnal, thus providing an essential line of force of the narrative (Cros 1990);] 5. social practices (the organization of charity, the workings of the Ideological State Apparatuses: religion, family, education…); 6. debates that themselves transcribe the evolution of the infrastructure (debates on begging, on the reform of the bridges and roads, on luxury, idleness, etc. - see above).

The impact and the ‘sign effects’ (Ricœur) of these different factors no doubt vary according to the text under consideration. Nonetheless, they represent as a whole a considerable quantity of facts which, as history incorporated by and in the writing, are components of the genesis of the genre.

7. It remains to evoke one last factor, namely a transhistorical practice which provides a specific matrix for the production of meaning (the literary tradition with its clichés, rules, techniques…). The impact of this practice is no doubt more immediate, and it is legitimate to suppose that it contributed more actively than other factors to the dynamic 8. impetus of the novel’s genesis (Cros 1983). Certain of these aspects are relevant to each of the two texts and are relatively well known; others by contrast only implicate them in an indirect way or have not been rightly commented . In the first place, as Riley has shown (Riley 1962), almost a hundred and fifty years after the invention of typography, literature is beginning to emerge as a powerful phenomenon, generating a market which is already relatively broad, as witness the manner in which, precisely, El Libro del pícaro is distributed: while the First Part of the original text appears in 1599, the French translation is published as early as the following year, which is an extraordinary feat; there follows an edition in Latin which will form the basis of the English, German and Italian translations (Cros, 1967). The problems posed by the popularization of the printing press have thus by this time been definitively resolved, and this broadening of the reading public is apparent in the prefatory materials: from now on, authors address not only the discreto lector (the discriminating reader) but also the vulgo, ( the ordinary people)), that is to say the reader who doesn’t know the rules (vulgo: se toma también por el común modo de discurrir y opinar de la gente baxa o que sabe poco, Covarrubias) (“vulgo: also designates the common fashion of speaking and judging among lower-class people or those who have little knowledge”, Covarrubias). Whatever the strategies hidden behind this way of addressing the reader, the shadow of what will become the general public is already present. To this one may add the topicality of literary criticism at the end of the sixteenth century (Riley 1962) and, in these circumstances, the debates surrounding the question whether the epic can be written in prose. As is well known, Don Quijote touches on these problems at various points, and from that angle can be termed a farcical epic. This schema doubtless does n’t fit on Guzmán de Alfarache, but this is because, within the corpus I have isolated, the dividing line is represented by Aristotle’s Poetics, which was known in Italy by the beginning of the sixteenth century and more widely disseminated from 1548 onward by Robortelli . The first Spanish translation dates from 1626, but López Pinciano provides commentaries on Aristotle’s text in his Filosofia antigua poética (Ancient Poetic Philosophy) of 1596. Cervantes, who lived in Italy from 1564 to 1575, could read Italian and could thus have had direct access to Italian translations and commentaries. On the one hand, then, Cervantes’s fascination with the epic and the influence of the Poetics; on the other, El Libro del pícaro, which owes absolutely everything to the art of eloquence and to rhetoric (Cros 1967). Furthermore, between the two works - since the First Part of Guzmán’s writing was completed in 1597 (Cros 1967) - comes the end of the reign of Philip II, the accession of Philip III, and a radical change of atmosphere at the Court (Cf. the celebrations of the Carnestolendas at Valladolid in 1599).

From a certain point of view, it would be impossible to imagine a more diversified origin. Guzmán de Alfarache is the first urban novel, and the city will in fact become the protagonist of the modern novel. In Don Quijote, by contrast, it is the vision of the countryside that dominates: the peasant (who only appears on one solitary occasion in Alemán’s work, and then in a negative light) is at the centre of Cervantes’s text where, furthermore, the social dynamics is represented by the rise of the peasant who has acquired wealth, while in Alemán the narrator privileges the point of view of commercial environment as vectors of the aims of the bourgeoisie (Cavillac, 1983). If the two texts are considered jointly, one notices in the background of Cervantes’s text the continued presence of a medieval mode of production that lacks of all dynamism and, as I was saying earlier, in the intercalated tales, in particular in the figure of the “ campesino rico” (“the rich peasant”) , the early signs of its gradual regression, while in Alemán’s narrative, we hear only the noisy voices of the city and the feverish activity generated by pre-capitalist and capitalist modes of production in the streets and squares of the towns. Considered thus in a synoptic perspective, these works articulate the entire social formation of their time (Cros 1984 b).

Their respective indices of modernity appear as literally the inverse of one another: contrary to Cervantes, Mateo Alemán has a dynamic and prophetic vision of history (Cavillac 1983), but whereas the former’s practice of writing is astonishingly modern, the latter’s reproduces the norms of the medieval arts of poetry and of traditional rhetoric as inherited from Aristotle (Cros 1967), … apart from one thing, which is, however, far from negligible. For Aristotle’s categories seem to me to be overturned in Mateo Alemán’s narratve by the introduction of Saint Augustine’s sermo humilis, which breaks the rigid classification of styles (high, middle, low) by setting against it the mechanism of the potential reversibility of the sublime and the humble (humilis / sublimis) on the model of the figure of Christ, ‘God made flesh’. The impact of the sermo humilis affects the textual structures: is visible in the circumstances surrounding the instance of enunciation (a galley-slave who declares himself to be the sentinel of human life), is visible in the recurrent exhortations addressed by the narrator Yo ( I ) to a collective Tu ( You) as an embodiment of the community, at once corpus christi (sublimis) and massa peccati (humilis), but is visible , above all , with this “paradoxical syntagm”: A la cumbre del monte de las miseries (At the summit of the mountain of wretchedness), which inverts the lexicalized metaphor abismo de la miserias (the abyss of wretchedness) and situates Guzmán’s entire itinerary “in an ascending perspective, from the dark abysses of sin to the luminous summits of grace”, as Michel Cavillac magnificently puts it (Cavillac 1983, pp. 84, 122). A reversible dynamic of this kind, which by a kind of boomerang effect gives the trajectory “of the abandoned man to the new man” (Cavillac) its full meaning, transcribes with exemplary clarity the genetic impact of sermo humilis. I know of no other example in secular Spanish literature of a similar recourse to sermo humilis prior to Alemán’s text. The fact that such a reconfiguration of the practice of writing accompanies the emergence of the novel as a genre seems to me of the utmost importance, in so far as this reconfiguration cancels the mortgage that decorum had previously imposed on the instance of enunciation and, by erasing all social hierarchies, catapults both the narrator and the narratee into an utopian egalitarian space in which, from now on, the novel will establish itself.

In the period with which we are concerned, no term exists to designate what will later be called “novela” (novel). Narrative works carry the titles of “History…”, “Portrait…”, “Life…” “Book…”, etc., and this void is precisely a powerful semiotic indication that we really are dealing with the dawn of the emergence of a new model, for it tells us that no critic has pointed out the potential convergences of these various texts in order to derive from them a new poetics. This is not the case with the novella ( short story; to day, in Spanish: novela corta), which is explicitly recognized as a genre by Cervantes in his prologue to the Novelas ejemplares, where, in 1613, he declares that he was the first to write this kind of narrative in Spain. It clearly never occurs to him to consider Don Quijote as one of these novelas. Up to and including the eighteenth century (Sobrino’s Spanish/French dictionary), the term “novella” is synonymous with patraña, cuento (Cavarrubias), conseja (César Oudin), fable, conte fait à plaisir, nouvelle , (Sobrino)]. There is no doubt however that the novela in this sense (novela corta) played a role in the birth of the novel as a major genre: Guzmán de Alfarache and Don Quijote both contain intercalated narratives of this kind and this practice may be seen as the intratextual insertion of a model, a reference point in relation to which writing will periodically measure itself, situate itself, doubtless in order better to define its own specific character.

The point where are connected these two genres (the novella and the novel) belong to the field of poetics. So let us now turn to what the Diccionario de Autoridades says about the term “novella”: Historia fingida y texida de los casos que comunmente suceden o son verisímiles… (Fictional story, woven from events that commonly occur or are probable). Here, the definition first vacillates between two contradictory notions: on the one side, fiction (historia fingida), on the other one, reality (casos que comunmente suceden) , then finally settles on a middle term, verisimilitude (o son verisímiles). The same tension arises in one of the definitions given by Covarrubias for the term fábula: Rematemos con que algunas veces damos nombres de fábulas a las cosas que fueron ciertas y verdaderas (reality), pero en su discurso tienen tanta variedad que parecen cosas no acontecidas sino compuestas e inventadas de algún gallardo u lozano ingenio (fiction) (“Let us conclude with the remark that sometimes we give the name of fables to things which were certain and true (reality) but which are strung together in such an intricate way that they appear to be not simply narrated but composed and invented by some gallant, lively wit” (fiction)). What makes it possible to move from one to the other of these two poles truth and fiction belongs to the composition and the disposition, in other words to the rhetoric y/or to the poetics. [Cf. Texer (see above, Historia fingida y texida…), metafóricamente vale componer, ordenar y colocar en método y disposición una cosa…. Diccionario de Autoridades ( “To weave… as a metaphor means to compose, place in order and arrange a subject with method and disposition”;). These definitions, in fact, revert in different forms to the opposition between History and Poetry, that is to say between the particular and the universal, or again between what has really happened (los casos que comunmente suceden.., las cosas que fueron ciertas y verdaderas) and what might have happened. Juan de Mal Lara is much less precise when, in his Descripción de la galera real de Ser / Ser° Don Juan de Austria, he evokes the role given to each of these two notions in the context of an allegory of Rhetoric, holding en la una mano un libro abierto que es la Poesía de donde toma los colores de las palabras y en la otra otro libro que es la Historia de donde le vienen los colores de las cosas (“in one hand an open book which is Poetry, from which she takes the colors of words, and in the other, another book which is History, from which she acquires the colors of things”); but what he says on the subject bears witness to the same preoccupation as the dictionaries I have been quoting. The link between the novella (novella corta) and the emergent novel is to be found here, particularly if we take into account the fact that Mateo Alemán calls his Libro del pícaro both a fable and a poetic history. I have frequently emphasized the importance of the notion of poetic history (Cros 1967, 2001), which appears to me to have been imposed by the feeling that the genre which is emerging or will emerge is not reductible either to history or to poetry: López Pinciano likewise vacillates between the two terms:

el objeto (de la poesía) no es la mentira, que sería coincidir con la sofística, ni la historia que sería tomar la materia a lo histórico; y no siendo historia, porque toca fábulas, ni mentira porque toma historia, tiene por objeto el verisímil que todo lo abraza. (López Pinciano 1953, I, 220)

(“the object (of poetry) is not falsehood, which would make it the equivalent of sophistry, nor history, which would be to steal the material from the history; and being neither history, since it has to do with fables, nor falsehood, since it uses history, it has as its object the verisimilar, which includes all of that”).

This neologism (poetic history) coined by Alemán seems to me to be the most appropriate expression for defining the modern novel. For if it is true that every narrative in the novel is a discourse on the past, we still need to be clear about what sort of past that might be. I shall make a distinction here between on the one hand a past offered to the reader and read as having really existed, that is to say recognized as belonging to a collective memory, which corresponds to what we call the historical, and on the other, a past which may or may not have existed, presented as plausible, which constitutes the texture of the fictional. In the novel, the relation to history implies a constant movement back and forth between these two kinds of material, and this takes us back to the Aristotelian distinctions according to which history corresponds to what has really existed, to the domain of the singular and the individual, whereas poetry, by contrast, belongs either, on the ethical plane, to what ought to be, or, on the plane of the representation of the plot, to what might be or might have been, and implies the general and the collective. Poetry thus belongs to the domain of the possible. In this way, the possible appears as a category capable of broadening the field of the representation of the real by presenting, through the extrapolation of certain tendencies written into the primary materials that explain and justify the emergence of the historical event, a continuity and a sequence different from those which actually came into being. However, these two kinds of representation, the real and, as it were, its double, arise from the same unified whole and the same complex set of causes (Cros 2001 b, pp. 156-7). It will be evident that this concept of poetic history makes it possible to go beyond the apparent contradictions I have drawn attention to in the attempted definitions of novela and fábula provided by the various dictionaries; and this makes it abundantly clear that these contradictions were perceived, or at the very least internalized, before the question to which they apply became, in Alemán’s work, the object of an attempted solution. The French translator Jean Chapelain shows his awareness of this solution when he remarks, in his Déclaration pour l’intelligence de ce livre (“Declaration for the understanding of this book”), that, even though it is a fiction (pièce poétique… fausse), the history that follows is treated in such a way (composition… façon de la traiter) that it develops a linked sequence of causes and consequences (dont on rapporte tous les changements… au vice) that reproduces every day reality (il n y a rien de si commun):

Now although the author calls the piece poetic, it is only poetic to the extent that it is false, since in the manner of treating it, there is nothing more commonplace, so you should not expect to find here great strokes of fortune or unforeseen and extraordinary events. That kind of composition which they call the marvelous is rightly banished from this work in that it is a history in which no role is given to Fortune and all the changes and misfortunes are attributed solely to vice and to bad behavior.

Cervantes’s text too, ceaselessly, calls the established distinctions into question: the entire narrative of the supposed exploits of Don Quijote may be read as a parable illustrating the supremacy of history as the site of truth by comparison with the lies told in the chivalric romances and the fantasies they are liable to engender. But in his work the praise of “the truth of history” is accompanied by an eulogy of the credible lie: “The better is the lie, the more it appears to be true, and the more it has the character of the doubtful and the possible the more it pleases.” (Tanto la mentira es mejor cuanto más parece verdadera y tanto más agrada cuanto tiene de lo dudoso y posible.) (Don Quijote, P. I, c.47 ) . In his masterly study, Riley makes the following remark: There is in the Quixote a practical solution to the problem which taxed the wits of Italian theorists of the Counter-Reformation: how to bring the universal and the particular into harmony […] It is not history and not poetry: its centre is somewhere in between and it includes both of them. (Riley 1962, pp. 177-78) Once again, we are obliged to come to the same conclusion: the Aristotelian categories become the matter of a new approach which transcribes the terminal decline of a post-medieval way of perceiving the world under the impact of the progress made in the field of the empirical sciences.

I have up to now left aside one whole aspect of these two texts concerning the ways in which they incorporate elements of folklore, and in particular of the carnival’s folklore whose presence in Don Quijote has been demonstrated in masterly fashion by Mikhail Bakhtine. (Bakhtine 1970, 1974). But I have to emphasize that the carnival’s traditions, that belonged originally to the rural world, were taken over by the urban European bourgeoisie in the first decades of the sixteenth century. This phenomenon corresponds to a phase of the historical process characterized by the progressive rise of the bourgeoisie, which has already won its battle against the aristocracy on the economic level but which continues the struggle on the political and cultural levels. Since it possesses no class memory as yet, it cannot have any culture of its own, and in its clash with the dominant class, it finds itself obliged to take over for its own purposes a culture which is foreign to it, or which it had progressively lost, namely popular traditions. The manner in which materials from folklore function in Cervantes’s text provides clear evidence for this usurpation (Cros 1990). However, althought this material may be redistributed in new ways in Don Quijote, it preserves in its memory semiotico-ideological trajectories which transcribe a world-view irreducible to the bourgeois project and symbiotically fused with the everyday experience of the rural lower classes. These trajectories set up a series of intratextual points of view which contemplate the society “from the opposite bank”, to borrow a phrase of Juan Goytisolo, and thus take on the subversive function of all carnival’s literature (littérature carnavalisée).

Let us now recapitulate. The calling into question of Aristotelian categories and of social and moral values; the erasing of hierarchical classifications (sermo humilis);the rejection, arising from the growth of the empirical sciences, of that which is not verisimilar; the insertion of an alternative point of view at the very heart of the narrative instance: such are the principal constraints which come into being with the genre of the novel and from which the novel emerges. All of these constraints correspond, as we have just seen, to the way in which a whole mass of social facts are intergrated. The novel is thus nothing other than history incorporated in a form which is specific to it. This form tells us of the overtaking of the post-medieval way of imagining the world and of the advent of a new socio-economic and socio-cultural horizon. As far as this last point is concerned, it is difficult not to observe that the two protagonists, at the end of their existence as characters, slip into the mould of the poetic figure of the Homo novus, whether we are speaking of Guzmán, the repentant sinner suddenly visited by grace, or of Don Quijote abjuring his fantasies and becoming, on his deathbed, Don Quijano el Bueno. As it thus articulates the rejection of the past, this circular organization of the narrative opens the way not to a return to the initial position but towards a future possibility different from that which existed before and carrying new values, as is suggested by the set of connotations that traditionally accompany this poetic figure. At the narrative’s level, this new phenotext (Cros 1983, 1998) tells us what the different constraints I have been defining told us, namely that something new is emerging into and from History. But, at the same time, it attracts attention to itself and to the contrast that it sets up with another schema of narrative syntax, that is to say a relatively archaic organization which consists in juxtaposing episodes in the way that one threads pearls on a necklace (episodios ensartados). For, whatever the merits and the eventual scope of these two masterpieces, we are obliged to observe that, at a primary level, their narrative material is for the most part redistributed according to this latter schema: the successive chapters develop, for each narrative, a single identical “theme “ (delinquent deeds in the picaresque narratives, the examples of strange behavior in Don Quijote) and may give the impression of simple unconnected sequences. It is doubtless true that, beyond this level of composition, lines of force become visible (the respective evolution of Don Quijote and Sancho, the rise of Guzmán towards the moment of grace that I evoked a moment ago). These compositional lines construct in both cases a progression announcing the “circular” organization that characterizes the modern novel and of which I have just spoken. But the coexistence of these two schemas is a new indication of the process of gestation which redistributes the earlier models.

The melting pot in which the novel as a form is forged, and in which those earlier models (from the romance to the chivalric romance and the novella / novella corta) are progressively deconstructed, is a complex space nourished by three sources: the epic, the rhetoric and the carnival’s traditions and traversed by the tensions that habitually accompany every major historical process. Its emergence does coincide with a certain phase of expansion of the bourgeoisie, but the novel as a genre, from its very origins, presents itself as a conflict-ridden space and as a vector of subversive values.


BAKHTINE,, M.,1977: Le marxisme et la philosophie du langage, Paris, Minuit

BRAUDEL, F., 1966, La Méditerranée et le monde Méditerranéen à l’époque de Philipe II, Paris, Armand Colin

C AVILLAC, M. 1983: Gueux et marchands dans le Guzmán de Alfarache (1599-1604) Bordeaux, Institut d’Études ibériqus

CROS, E., 1967: Protée et le gueux – Rcherches sur l’origine et la nature du roman picaresque BIBLIOGRAPHY dans Guzmán de Alfarache de Mateo Alemá, Paris, Didier

CROS, E., 1983: Théorie et pratique sociocritiques, Montpellier (C.E.R.S.) /Paris (Éditions sociales ) (1988:Theory and Practice of Sociocriticism, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, Coll. Theory and History of Literarture, vol..53)

CROS, E., GÓMEZ MORIANA, A.1984: Lecture idéologique du Lazarillo de Tormes, Montpellier

CROS, e., 1990: De l’engendrement des formes, Montpellier, C.E.R.S.

GIRARD, R., 1961: Mensonge romantique et vérité romansque, Paris

RILEY, E.C., 1962: Cervantes’s Theory of he Novel, Oxford, Clarendon Press


A Sociocritical Reading of a news item

American Films of the Thirties - The case of Howard Hawks’s - I-Scarface e

I- Toward a Semiological Reading of Film

Study of Sequences

SCARFACE (dialogue and shooting script)* Street scene at night Medium close-up of the globe of a lighted lamp-post, in a low-angle shot; beneath the globe, a sign indicating “22nd Street.” The camera moves back, and a horse-drawn deliv-ery van comes into view, stopped in a dark, deserted street; then the camera goes around the vehicle. Next we see that the delivery van is stopped in front of a nightclub with its windows still lit up; the driver is loading crates of bottles. The camera comes closer so that it just frames the façade of the nightclub. On the doorstep, a man wearing an apron is wav-ing, and we hear offscreen the sound of the wagon going away. Then the man removes from in front of the door a large poster announcing the pleasures of the evening and goes inside to put it away.

Nightclub–interior at night In a wide-angle shot, we see the man put away the poster in a corner of the room cluttered with green plants from which streamers are hanging, and which are also strewn all over the floor. The man takes a broom and starts to clear away a tangle of streamers and party hats, in which he finds a brassiere, while he mover toward the center of the room from which light and muffled sounds of a conversation are coming. The camera follows him a moment, then passes him and reveals the empty room where only three revelers are left seated around a table laden with bottles, it comes close to them and frames them in a knee shot, while their voices become audible. A fat bald man, seated between his two guests, is telling than a story in a heavy italian accent.

BIG LOUIS: I told him: what would we do with it? Let the others have their share… I have everything I want…

His neighbor on the right, a thin, serious-looking man, interrupts him.

THE NEIGHBOR: Johnny Lovo is talking about tackling a job.

BIG LOUIS: Yeah! He’s looking for trouble? Johnny’s a damn fool. Look at me: I have eve-rything a man could want. I’m rich, I have a house, I have a car, I have the prettiest girls… (he hiccups) … I also have a rotten stomach… (he laughs).

THE NEIGHBOR: Well, I’m going to bed. (He gets up and walks around the table.)

BIG LOUIS: OK. (He gets up too, imitated by the third man who has remained silent, and joins his companion. He seems very satisfied with himself.) Well, it was quite an evening, wasn’t it? (he laughs). Next week, I’ll give one like you’ve never seen yet. We’ll have lots more music, lots more girls, lots more of everything… (bombastically). Everybody’s gonna say: That Big Louis. he got the world at his feet! … (he laughs).

THE NEIGHBOR: Buona sera!

He leaves, followed by the other man. Big Louis, left alone, watches them go.

BIG LOUIS: Buona sera, fellas, take good care of yourselves!

He remains motionless for a minute, then, followed he the camera, he crosses the room to go to the telephone at the rear of the room, near a glass door. Behind the glass, we make out the silhouette of a man wearing a hat. The camera comes closer to Big Louis, who has picked up the telephone.

BIG LOUIS: Hello, give me Lakeside 4173.

While he continues to ask for this number, the camera leaves him and sweeps the room, framing in the foreground the green plants near the entrance. The shadows wearing the hat passes in front of them while whistling softly, the camera follows his progress, then lets him disappear in the darkness, and frames a glass door through which the light from the room is passing. The shadow is then seen in profile behind the lit-up glass, a revolver sticks out from the end of his arm, and the soft whistling stops.* THE SHADOW: Buon giorno, Louis!

Two shots are fired, then the man takes out a handkerchief from his pocket, wraps the weapon up in it, and throws it on the floor. He runs away whistling. The camera leaves the glass door and reveals the corner of the room where Big Louis’s body is lying. Offscreen, the whistling can still he heard when the nightclub employee arrives calmly and suddenly stops in front of the body stretched out on the floor in front of a closet door. The employee quickly takes off his cap and apron and tosses them into the closet, from which he takes his jacket and hat, hastily slipping them on as lie crosses the room. He runs away.

Editorial room of the Daily Herald–interior daylight General view of the room, full of activity. A man enters, holding a printed sheet with a headline in big letters, shouting in the midst of the hubbub: “Here are the proofs, here are the proofs!” He gives the paper to a reporter sitting in the foreground, who takes it and gets up immediately. The camera accompanies him: he crosses the room and goes into the office of the editor-in-chief who is seated at a large desk and is busy writing. • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • Medium, frontal shot of the editor taking the paper, glancing rapidly at it, crumpling it furiously, and throwing it on the floor.

EDITOR: That’s no good! (accentuating each syllable). “Costello Murder To Start Gang War”: that’s what I want!

Medium shot on the reporter, from behind.

REPORTER: I’m giving it priority. I have four men on the story.

Medium shot on the editor.

EDITOR: Four? You’ll need forty men on this story for five years to come. You know what’s happening? They’re going to struggle for control of this town, you understand? Look: Costello was the last old-style gang leader. A new team is taking over. Any little guy with enough money to buy a revolver is going to try to take the place of the others. They’ll shoot each other down like rabbits. To improve their business! . . . It’ll be war. That’s it, war. Put that on the front page: War . . . Gang War.

Barbershop–interior daylight Lap dissolve. The front page of the Daily Herald. The headline reads: “Costello Murder To Start Gang War.” The camera moves back and shows the whole newspaper, lying folded on a chair in a barbershop. All the barber chairs are covered with white sheets; a man’s legs are protruding from one of them. The barber, dressed in a white smock, crosses the room holding a glass in his hand. in the background, seated on a bench in front of the shop window, a man wearing a fedora is reading a newspaper. The sound of an approaching car is heard. The man gets up with a start.

THE MAN: The cops!

But he sits back down immediately, while through the windows we see a car stopping in front of the shop and men getting out. A hand holding a revolver emerges from the sheet with the legs protruding from it. The barber grabs it and throws it into a chest full of tow-els. Close-up of the revolver lying on the towels. Master shot of the room. The man sitting in front of the window is absorbed in reading the newspaper. A policeman is seen ap-proaching the door and entering. Medium shot of the policeman on the doorstep.

THE POLICEMAN: Hello, Rinaldo!

Medium close-up from behind of the seated man, who raises his eyes placidly.

THE POLICEMAN (offscreen): You coming?

Rinaldo lowers his eyes to his newspaper again, then gets up as if resigned. Medium shot of Rinaldo and the policeman face to face.

THE POLICEMAN: Where’s Camonte?

Rinaldo gestures with his thumb toward the occupied barber chair, then takes out of his pocket a piece of change that he negligently tosses in his hand.* The camera moves back to frame the barber chair and the policeman walking toward it. Camonte takes off the sheet and reveals himself. Medium close-up frontal shot of Camonte. He has a scar on his left cheek.

CAMONTE: Hello, Guarino.

THE POLICEMAN (offscreen): Come along.

CAMONTE: You’re sure in a hurry. I’m also having a massage.

Medium shot of Guarino.

GUARINO (impatient): You’ll finish that at the police station. Put on your coat.

Medium shot of Camonte from the rear. He sits up slowly, staring at Guarino.

CAMONTE: I’ve got plenty of time.

He takes off the smock that was covering him, gets up and goes to take a cigarette from a dresser, turning his back to Guarino, who has come closer to him and is standing behind him at knee shot distance.

CAMONTE: Who wants to see me?

GUARINO: The boss.

CAMONTE: That idiot!

He turns toward Guarino.

GUARINO: Have your laugh … Come on, let’s go.

CAMONTE (to the barber): I’d like to see how it looks in the back.

He takes a mirror from the dresser and shifts it, turning his head to try to see his haircut better.

BARBER (offscreen): You look real good.

Camonte grunts with satisfaction. He puts the mirror down, puts a cigarette to his lips, takes a match from the dresser and brings it up close to the star shining on Guarino’s chest. Close-up of the hand striking the match on the star; the flame leaps out. Medium shot of Camonte and Guarino face to face. Camonte peacefully lights his cigarette and blows the smoke in Guarino’s face. Medium three-quarter frontal close-up of Guarino punching Camonte, turning into a three-quarter back shot. Medium shot of Camonte, from the front, falling backward near the linen chest. Flash on Rinaldo, in the middle distance near the door, who starts to move forward. Medium shot of Camonte getting up. Guarino approaches him and grabs his collar.

GUARINO: Come on, you bastard!

Camonte frees himself and straightens his shirt. The barber appears, looking stupefied, holding out Camonte’s jacket and hat. Camonte puts on his hat and takes his jacket. Guarino grabs his arm.

GUARINO: Come on, let’s go.

They cross tile shop, tile barber takes several steps after them. Rinaldo, still in front of the door, is the first to leave. We see through the window that a crowd has been forming. Scarcely have the three men left when they disappear behind the crowd of curiosity seek-ers. We hear the car’s motor starting up. Dissolve out.

Methodological Principles

(1) We shall consider that every element of the various levels of the filmic message (visual, linguistic, auditory) is part of one semiotic system and plays an equal role in the production of meaning.1 (2) This system is itself composed of a set of texts, each of which is defined by a coreferential relation existing among the various signs involved. (3) Every element selected by analysis as being pertinent2 will be separated from the visual or linguistic context that had given it a contingent primary meaning, and will be placed in a different network in which it occupies an autonomous position with respect to this primary context. (4) Within this new network, reductions of meaning are effected by the concor-dance established among themselves by the various signs, regardless of their nature or level. Every confrontation of a sign with another sign effectively reactivates certain mean-ings of both, but neutralizes most of them. The multiplication of these confrontations gives the whole system a coherence of meaning that must not be confused with that of the con-tingent or opposite meaning of each of the different levels. These successive confrontations have the result of producing increasingly narrow semiological reductions, leading, in the-ory, to the discovery of a coreferential relation, which will be translated, as far as possible, in terms of bipolar concepts. (5) When each point of coreference, around which the semiotic text is ordered, has thus been formulated, it will be considered in turn, in a second phase of grouping, as a per-tinent sign capable of entering a second process of semiological reduction, marking off a new field of coincidence. (6) It has been posed as a hypothesis: (a) that the results of these various operations should permit us to discern the principal components of the filmic genotext; (b) that this composite is deconstructed by each of the different levels, according to its specificity, in the form of diverse actualizations –phenotexts– that a subsequent analysis should permit us to verify.

Semiological Reading

1. Interior/Exterior Camera outside in the street  camera moves: cabaret interior; doors, successive entrances and exits of characters (first sequence); camera:  interior newspaper office, transparent cubicles, entrances and exits of characters, voices and sounds offscreen (third sequence). We pass successively from exterior  interior (first sequence); to: ——— interior  interior (second sequence); then to: ——— interior  exterior (third sequence). The systematic aspect of this back and forth movement makes it a pertinent element around which two specific spaces are arranged, governed by distinct laws and, ultimately, by different codes of communication. If we study the modalities of functioning that permit us to pass between these two spaces, we observe several phenomena of reversal: in the first sequence the camera, which is outside in the street, ostensibly passes through a wall (Ph. 5)3 to enter the interior of a cabaret, thus placing in relief a visual obstacle shown as unsurmountable at the very mo-ment it is nevertheless surmounted. On the contrary, the series of glassed-in cubicles (Ph. 13 and 14), which are easily perceptible as so many indexes of a sort of visual continuum, become masks of a closed space, a space presented as such by the lettering on the door, seen in reverse that is, from a space that has already been crossed and that can be inter-preted as describing spaces forbidden to the public. A system of obstacles standing out against transparency consequently establishes a perfect correspondence, though now with a negative sign, to the camera movement noted above. Opacity and transparency thus appear, within a coreferential relation, as signs signifying the opposite of what they are supposed to signify. This ambiguity of the sign designates it as a locus of problematization capable of opening up two areas of possible subsequent semiotic correspondence: no doubt what is involved is passage, but it is a questioning of the visual realm and suggests a reversal of the concepts of the visible and the invisible.

2. Night/Day  Lamp going out (Ph. 2 and 3), hour of the milkman and the streetcleaner (Ph. 6), end of a night of revelry, poster announcing the evening brought inside (Ph. 5, 6, and 17), “Well, I’m going to bed,” “It was a great evening,” shadows of artificial light, empty room, ves-tiges of the party (first sequence) (Ph. 6).  Production of the early edition of the paper (previewing the proofs) (second sequence) (Ph. 14 and 15). Close-up shot of the headline of that edition of the paper in the barbershop (third sequence) (Ph. 20). We are thus at the dividing line between day and night (Ph. 2 and 3). Contrary to what one might think at first, this boundary does not separate the first sequence from the subsequent ones but is inscribed deep within each sign from the very first frames. It is a part not of the temporal organization of the episodes, but rather of a thematic whole. A comparison of the leave-taking formula Big Louis uses with his friends (Buona sera) with the one the killer uses a few seconds later (Buon giorno) demonstrates this. Significantly, then, the first character is part of a semiotic set connoting night and the past, whereas the second looms up from a pale dawn connoting an ambiguous future (Ph. 7, 8, 10, and 11). In this way, the opposition night/day is, at a second level, a symbolic representation of the old and the new explicitly expressed by the words of the editor in chief (old ways vs. new team). Thus, hinging upon this text, a new space of reading opens up marked by a brief lexical field (next week, start, [five years] to come, changing of the guard, takeover).

3. Work/Festivity  Milkman, streetcleaner, wagon, “I’m working,” team, smock, barber, barbershop, po-liceman, towel, sheets (Ph. 5, 6, 16, 17, …).  Revellers, dancing, party hat ( exotic plant), brassiere, champagne, whiskey, glasses (Ph. 6, 7, 8, 9, …) It is a question here not of a mere confrontation of two worlds, but rather of the overlapping of the first inside the second, as if the reverse of the images were systemati-cally being seen through their transparent obverse.

4. Hiding/Displaying  Hiding by the janitor of a brassiere and an unidentified object (Ph. 6), killer in hiding (Ph. 10), hiding of fingerprints, hidden revolver (Ph. 18, 19), towel as mask, newspaper as mask (Ph. 20).  Gestures of pointing (Ph. 19), revealing of the headline (Ph. 20), the newspaper per-ceived as the instrument of unveiling (Ph. 20). This list does not take into account a number of phenomena that are difficult to formulate in terms of signs. Such is the case of the two scenes in which Camonte hides behind pretexts to avoid police action: having a massage and examining his haircut in the mirror (Ph. 25 and 26). The mirror renders this scene metaphorical: at the same time it is being used to make the back of the neck visible, it is also presented as one of the expedi-ents used by the gangster in a game of hide-and-seek and provocation. This is tantamount to saying that the mirror functions as an instrument both of hiding and of revealing. We shall find an identical problematization of this sign in the dual role assigned to the newspa-per. Added to its function of denouncing scandal and crime, emphasized tn American film tradition, particularly in so-called gangster films. are the orders of the editor-in-chief (Put this across) (Ph. 15). On the other hand, however, in the barbershop, Rinaldo twice hides behind his newspaper (Ph. 20). This is certainly a stereotype, hut it must be linked with what I have said about the mirror, in that the meanings of both are being reversed in paral-lel fashion and, consequently, as I have said about transparency, are being problematized. This is all the more true since these reversals occur several times in the text. Thus the cam-era, which must be seen in the context of the analogical series (camera-newspaper-mirror), by describing the gesture of the barber throwing the revolver into a chest full of towels (Ph. 18 and 19) in order to hide it, conspicuously unveils this will to hide.

5. Power/Submission  Let the others take their share. I have all I want. I have all that a man can want. I am rich. I have… I have… I have… I have… He has the world at his feet, gang leaders, boss, series of coercive orders of the policeman (You coming? Come on! Come on, you bas-tard!) Big Louis’s gestures of power (Ph. 7 and 8), those of the editor (Ph. 15), and the po-liceman (Ph. 22). Displays of power (punch) (Ph. 23), typology of the leader (gang boss, editor-in-chief, police chief).  Fellas (as index of subordination), I’ve got plenty of time, stage business of Camonte’s resisting police power, his final capitulation (Ph. 22 and 23). When these signs are put back in their respective textual contexts, we observe that several instances of power are playing against one another. In other words, power and domination are definitively perceived less with respect to submission than with respect to various struggles that allow them to be won or preserved. This is as valid for Big Louis’s liberal strategy (We must let the others take their share) as for the leaders of the new team aiming at taking the place (thus the share) of the others, or for Camonte’s attempting to dominate the policeman (Ph. 27). We are thus witnessing multiple power confrontations. This manifold repetition of confrontations prevents us from setting the place of confronta-tion at one level or another (among the gangs, between the police and the gangs) and leads us to generalize this problematic. Camonte’s gesture of striking the match on Guarino’s badge –a sign of social order– is an obvious challenge to power, and the most spectacular actualization of this problematic.

6. Distance/Assimilation Several convergent phenomena are grouped under this rubric.

(a) At the level of dialogue, the opposition I/others (in Big Louis’s discourse), we/others (in the editor-in-chief’s discourse). We observe in this connection that discourse about oneself can be distanced: thus Big Louis refers to himself in the third person (Everyone will say: Big Louis, he has the world at his feet!), whereas the reporters and newspaper editors are presented, initially, as readers of their own text beside the editor-in-chief, who is being informed of it.

(b) Group frames systematically organized around one individual: Big Louis  vs.  his two guests (Ph. 7) Editor-in-chief  vs.  reporters (Ph. 14) Camonte  vs.  the other characters in the barbershop. (Ph. 18)

© Problematization of social integration. From the very first frame, we know what to think: the camera puts us on “22nd Street,” that is, at the edge of the Italian neighbor-hood (Ph. 2 and 3). The majority of the characters belong to minority even if they are de-fined by distinctive textual markers: some (Big Louis) have an Italian accent, whereas the origin of the others is revealed by either the occupations (the barber) or their names (Guarino, Camonte, Rinaldo). The diversity of these markers seems to reveal another bar-rier, that of generations: the young gangsters, unlike the old, speak English with a perfect American accent an obvious index of their integration into American society. But this new generation, at the same time that it is inscribed within the new national collectivity, in turn, undergoing a process of diffraction. The individuals who make up this new generation are divided on both sides of the ideological inclusion, a division that cannot be more clearly marked than by the typology of the characters (policeman/gangster). Once again, we are led to deduce from the repetition of this phenomenon that it must he generalized. Consequently, we shall see in this generalization the transcription of a recurrent opposition of inclusion and exclusion, an opposition that the French version of the film placed in extraordinary relief (Ph. 1) by presenting the facts narrated in Scarface as the expression of an “implacable struggle among these men, scum [exclusion] of society [inclusion].” By limiting myself to a microtext, I cannot judge a priori the pertinence of certain signs that are isolated and apart from my groupings. Thus, when the killer is silhouetted in profile behind the glass door, a revolver in his hand, the shadows form a cross (Ph. 11). This cross is found again in the gash on Camonte’s left cheek when he unmasks himself in the barbershop scene (Ph. 24). From that point, it is a veritable “plastic leitmotif.” But there is no need to anticipate the ensuing frames. The title (Scarface) is there to program, at least on an elementary level, the explicit production of meaning and to synthesize the mes-sage by focusing not only on an actant, but also on physical (mark on the face) and sym-bolic (marked with a cross) characteristics. In fact, when this phenomenon is perceived as a preconstructed element belonging to a long series of antecedents, it is marked with a des-tiny that transcends the individual level. Even though it may be isolated in this microtext, this sign, which refers to a point external to the narrative but internal to the film and explic-itly given as center of focalization of meaning, is thus linked to a zone of coreference. This zone of coreference will be clearer if we approach the second process of semi-ologic reduction, which is capable of marking out a new field of coincidence and which takes into account the first coreferential relations. The latter, it seems to me, need to be grouped around certain points for which I propose the following formulations:

(A) Problematization of the crossing (edge; frontier; transition; old vs. new) (Texts 1, 2, 6c) (B) Hiding vs. unmasking (Texts 1 and 4) © Inclusion vs. exclusion (Text 6) (D) Reverse vs. obverse (Text 3)

We shall link the center of polarization to the specific status of the signs identified as being the most pertinent and that constantly reverse their respective primary meanings (transpar-ency/opacity; instruments of revelation! instruments of masking, etc.). In such a semiotic context, an isolated sign that we have deliberately neglected until now orders these apparently unconnected elements and gives them all their meaning. I re-fer to the party hat Big Louis is wearing (Ph. 8 and 9), a paper crown or ridiculous mon-arch’s hat designating him as the comic king of carnivalesque celebrations, dooming him to being dethroned. That this dethroning is in turn presented as the result of a generational conflict is another index of the social practice invested in the textual circumstances of the film. Whether it be the role traditionally played by age groups in the organization of these festivities, or the rites of the passage of power shaping certain carnivalesque festivals (fes-tival of the king of roosters, or of the king of crossbowmen), it is certainly a social practice that is involved. In light of this fact, the various structural elements we have uncovered clearly appear for what they are –namely, specific actualizations, each of which decon-structs, at the various levels of the filmic message, that composite, the genotext: time flow-ing backward, systematics of reversal, problematics of crossing (of life and death, winter and spring), overturning of phenomena of inclusion and exclusion– all are components of carnivalesque rites. In that case, we shall give to the symbol of the cross the full symbolic meaning conferred upon it by its insertion in the carnivalesque world, which entails a dis-placement of the signified, since, situated as well in such a point of convergence. it is no longer the premonitory sign of atonement and redemption but functions as an index signal-ing the latent presence of a dynamics of exorcism. It is here that hypotheses of a sociocritical reading open up perspectives to us that broader studies (extended to the entire film) and more complex studies (examination of the articulations linking textual structuring to social structures) should allow us to confirm, to nuance, and to describe in detail. At this point, however, how can I not compare, on the one hand, what I have presented as the possible outline of a genotext in which is invested a state of serious economic and social crisis running through the society implicit in Scarface with, on the other hand, what I have said about the thematics of exclusion, which desig-nates as scapegoat not merely a group defined as morally and socially marginal, but an entire unintegrated ethnic minority? Has not history taught that every society confronted with real or imaginary threats attempts to exorcise them by seeking in its own heart or, more precisely, at the periphery of its unitary structures, victims chosen to appease des-tiny?4

Far from being limited to the message alone, my analysis is concerned with the his-tory of film as consumer product. Indeed, this initial discourse on power structures, which, however, seems to cast a critical gaze on the marginal universe and, thus, to reproduce the revelatory function of the press in a successive nesting of discursive structures, has had, in turn, to submit itself to the laws of another repressive space, the Hays Code. The Code surrounds the first message, a possible vector of evil threatening the collectivity, with a second message whose function is essentially redressive,5 by imposing a subtitle (“A Na-tion’s Shame”) as well as an ideological interpellation addressed to the spectator and de-signed to reconstitute an ideological inclusiveness.6

[Notes at the end of Scarface III]

American Films of the Thirties - The Case of Howard Hawks’s Scarface III

These economic determinants are, however, not the only ones worth mentioning, Higham notes two other factors that are part of the superstructure. (1) The shock of foreign cultural models. In contrast to the first wave of immigra-tion, which was predominantly Protestant and British, the second wave, extending from 1820 to the National Act of 1924, was much more heterogeneous: it consisted largely of southern European Catholics. This second wave played an important role in the shaping of an urban industrial mentality; increasingly, these new arrivals settled in the cities. (In 1890, 62 percent of foreign-born citizens were city-dwellers, whereas only 26 percent of whites whose parents were born in the U.S. lived in cities.) In contrast to the individualism of an older America that was not amenable to city life, the immigrant cultures, by nature, impelled the new arrivals toward collective action. Thus the labor unions were dominated by first –or second– generation immigrants; their most effective leaders were Irish, German or Jewish; they did a better job of attracting im-migrants than the political parties. The immigrants succeeded in forging, as well, an urbanized mass culture to replace the traditions they could not transplant intact. It is not surprising that they found the sub-stance of their collective life in the stimuli of mass media. They were the pioneers of the production of a mass culture: in 1835 James Gordon Bennett, a Scotsman, launched the New York Herald; a Hungarian, Joseph Pulitzer, presented himself as the immigrants’ spokesman in the New York World; in the 1850s an Irishman developed advertising tech-niques in the first high circulation weekly, the New York Ledger.

The prominence of immigrant editors in the creation of mass circulation newspapers and magazines suggests that the need to adjust to a cosmopolitan society and an unfamiliar cul-ture nurtured a burning passion to communicate and an instinctive feeling for what is im-mediately transmissible to an amorphous public. Americans became a nation of newspaper readers because what they shared was not a common past but rather the immediate events of the present: the news.18

(2) The influence of certain currents of thought. (a) Social Darwinism, which is responsible for the confusion between natural history and national history, and which justified the theo-ries held by certain Anglo-Saxon thinkers, according to which nations are analogous to species struggling for their survival. (b) “Eugenic” theories resulting from the development of the science of genetics, and which encouraged other thinkers to call for the improvement of society through the preventive elimination of negative traits. © A new anthropological vision that, in William Z. Riplay’s book The Races of Europe (1899), distinguished three European races: the first, Nordic (northern Europe); the second, Alpine (central Europe); and the third, Mediterranean (southern Europe).19 The importance of Riplay’s theories in America in the 1920s and 1930s can be seen in the American novels more or less contemporary with Scarface. It figures importantly, for example, in the following passage from The Great Gatsby:

“Civilization’s going to pieces.” broke out Tom violently. “I’ve gotten to be a terrible pessi-mist about things. Have you read ‘The Rise of the Colored Empires’ by this man Goddard’?” “Why, no,” I answered, rather surprised by his tone. “Well, it’s a fine book, and everybody ought to read it. The idea is if we don’t look out the white race will be –will be utterly submerged. It’s all scientific stuff; it’s been proved.” “Well, these books are all scientific,” insisted Tom, glancing at [Daisy] impatiently. “This fellow has worked out the whole thing. It’s up to us, who are the dominant race, to watch out or these other races will have control of things.” “The idea is that we’re Nordics. I am, and you are, and you are, and—” After an infini-tesimal hesitation he included Daisy with a slight nod….” — And we’ve produced all the things that go to make civilization—oh, science and art, and all that. Do you see?” (p. 17)

In a more or less close connection with this intellectual climate, the partisans of restrictive measures tried to explain that southern and eastern Europeans, who comprised the majority of the new waves of immigration, were not only dangerous but also unassimilable at the racial level; the dangers threatening the nation thus came from a change in the migrants’ countries of origin. I have dwelt for some time on this situation of historical conflict because it gener-ated ideological systems that were, in turn, invested in the textual structures of the film in forms that are interesting to analyze. There is no doubt that observable reality underwent a process of transfirination in passing though the two inicrosemiotic systems we have de-scribed, and which encoded them in textual structures. But why these microsemiotics and not others? How can we explain that it is precisely these two codes of transformation that are at work here? Everything I have just said answers such questions. The narrative in-stance reconstructs the totality of a new urban way of life and a new culture based on col-lective action. Whatever the reality behind that vision, we cannot help seeing in the organization of the beer racket the transparent caricature of a syndicate whose objectives are being diverted and perverted for the sake of individual self-interest. But perhaps we can even better understand this vision (ecological well before its time) of urban life presented right at the start of the film in its least seductive aspects –a bleak dawn sullied by the city’s trash– and that throughout the film gives us only negative images of the city (the sordid atmosphere of bars, streets taken over by gangs). The journalistic writing I have termed a microsemiotic is integrated into a larger system which appropriates everything that is said, everything that is thought about this marginal world of the 1930s. This example, like my study of a text from the Spanish Golden Age, leads me to think that codes of transforma-tion are selected by the cultural object according to their contiguity with respect to observ-able reality and to the collective vision of it. In Scarface, this vision is organized around the value system of white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant ideology. The authentic values (in the Goldmannian sense) that are oper-ating most obviously in the film include puritanism, glorification of work and thrift, and family. Let us pause for a moment on this last point and remember that Prohibition was a focus for the fears of the dominant group. The leaders of the Anti-Saloon League delighted in pointing out the correlation they established between the rise of the number of saloons and the rise in the immigrant population in the 1 890s. Often it was the newly arrived im-migrants who ran them and who frequented them. The ASL saw the saloon as a place of perdition for the worker who wasted his money and his health there, and as a threat to the “Victorian” home. Thus the struggle against alcoholism –which involved a loss of physical and moral control and gave rise to vulgar, blasphemous drunkenness unleashed on the streets– was linked to the struggle against prostitution. It was a matter of protecting the “American family.” In this connection, Camonte’s mother’s home serves as a fiil, for it is the setting for a number of countervalues: the inarticulate mother humiliated by her own children (“She told me: ‘Shut up and mind your own business’ just like you told me!” [AS, p. 30]), the marked absence of a father (she is presented as Camonte’s mother and not as Mrs. Camonte), wine on the table, Cesca described by her mother as an “easy woman” (“I’m always telling her, Come home. … She met a man and they both came home to-gether” [AS, p. 31]). Her home’s lack of conformity to the American model makes it a breeding ground for vice. Thus the image confirms the fears of the Prohibition party, which, in l87O, asked the government to do something about the saloons, white slavery, gambling, and, in gen-eral, all the “worthless, dangerous, disorderly, unproductive elements within the United States threatening the purity, the tranquility and happiness of the American home.”20 “The purity of the American home” –that is the leitmotif of the pietists who asked the State to take charge of public morals and protect the essentially pietistic characteristics of the American way of life.21 Thus we are touching upon a final aspect of this situation of conflict: the religious component. In the course of the nineteenth century, and probably as a response to the sec-ond wave of immigration, generations of Americans were incited to a more or less virulent anti-Catholicism by Protestant preachers such as Lyman Beecher, who, at the same time as he fought alcoholism, predicted a war between Christianity and “popery” for the posses-sion of “the American soul and soil.” Even if they did not share this apocalyptic vision, many Protestants nevertheless considered Catholic immigrants to be members of an infe-rior class, illiterate and vulnerable to the temptations of evil. “They seemed,” writes Nor-man H. Clark, “in need of directions to honor the Sabbath, to resist the liquor traffic, and to assimilate the bourgeois lifestyle. They seemed too much given to an open and public qual-ity of life –they congregated in saloons– than to a private dignity, and too much given to a priestly rather than a bourgeois family discipline.”22 This last point of conflict as well as all the other elements of the sociopolitical and sociocultural situation we have described were timely again in the presidential campaign of 1928 opposing Alfred E. Smith, the defender of the cultural traditions of the recent immi-grants, representing the cities and the abolitionist tendencies, to Herbert Hoover, whose victory represents, in the view of some American historians, “the last major victory of the country over the city, of the old American over the new”: to this Clark replies that Smith lost essentially because he was not born in the United States. In the course of this violent campaign, James Cannon, a Methodist bishop, called Smith “bigoted” and typical of “the Irish Roman Catholic hierarchy of New York City,” declaring that Smith’s goal was to bring to power “the kind of dirty people that you find today on the sidewalks of New York.”23 Clark summarizes the political atmosphere of the time:

The implication for the older Bryanites was that these men –wet, Catholic, urban, and fabu-lously wealthy– were about to take over the party and the White House and deliver both to Jews and Catholics who were determined to overwhelm the traditions of the Protestant Re-public. During the campaign of 1928, the Reverend Bob Jones was speaking throughout the South to crowds wherever he found them: “I’ll tell you, brother, that the big issue we’ve got to face ain’t the liquor question. I’d rather see a saloon on every corner of the South than see the foreigners elect Al Smith President”.24

Let us look once more at the inscription in Scarface of this view of the facts: Angelo stum-bling over the word secretary and Camonte over the expression Habeas corpus reproduce the stereotype of the ignorant immigrant; the theater scene, which is characterized by the stupidity of the gangster’s comments and which is only incidental to the story, must be approached from the same point of view. However, it is the incestuous affair betwen Tony and Cesca that may be problematic from this point of view. Let us note, first of all, that it did not shock the censors for any of the reasons that are generally put forward; in fact, ac-cording to Hawks himself (as quoted in Jerome Lawrence, Actor: The Life and Times of Paul Muni), the censors felt that the relationship between Camonte and his sister was too beautiful to be attributed to a gangster. Thus, continues Hawks, they did not recognize “the incest of the Borgias.” It is true that nothing in the film explicitly refers to the Borgias, but given the anti-Catholic climate I have just described, one cannot help being struck by the fact that this historical connotation was part of the director’s intentions; in fact, it is to Ben Hecht that we owe the comparison: “The Borgia family is living today in Chicago. And Caesar Borgia is Al Capone.”25 Since, after all, one can treat an incestuous relationship without having in mind a specific historical example, and even if a connotation of this sort were necessary, why make such a specific connection with the Borgias? If, on the other hand, Hawks notes that the “discerning spectator” may perceive this connotation, it is be-cause the character must be treated in a certain way. How and why is it appropriate to see in Camonte the image of a sovereign (“The World Is Yours!”) who bases his domination on a perverted doctrine? What is clear in any case –if we leave the film momentarily– is that once again, filmic writing has been ideologically marked, and that the projection of these “precise and specific facts” is being filtered through a mental structure, itself codified by a microsemiotic. The strong points of this microsemiotic fuse with what I call a discourse of the sa-cred and the demonic. At its heart is the illuminated sign working at several levels as the symbol of temptation, in the sense, first of all, that it is an invitation to a voyage and solic-its desire by its very nature as advertising and by its function; second, by what it says at the mythic level, echoing the diabolic tempter’s words in the biblical text: “The world is yours, all its wealth is at your feet,” as if this social function revealed itself for what it is, as if it were saying that, as advertising, it is but illusory temptation, illusion, source of sin and evil, in a perfect match of signifier (the medium) and signified; “I am what I say and I say what I am; I give expression to illusions and I am illusion myself.” It is an ambivalent sign both of that stretch of the filmic text in which things are hidden, deformed, or perverted, and of that other one in which they denounce themselves as perverse or deformed; marked in this way by the same stigmata that condemn all the media invested in Scarface (journal-ism, film, advertising), a text written in letters of fire, like his own name, which Tony Camonte wishes to write above the city in machine-gun bursts (“I’ll write my name over the whole city, and in big letters! [AS, p. 22]). The correlation the filmic text itself estab-lishes between these two phenomena denounces the demonic nature of the protagonist, who, at first fascinated by diabolical messages, later symbolically inscribes them himself in the sky over the city. Let us refer to the levels involved: in the first two cases (AS, pp. 19 and 30), the shot shows Tony and Poppy reunited, with the sign in the background, and significantly marks the evolution of their love affair in the context of the gangster’s strat-egy of seduction; the first occurrence precedes the notorious shirt scene); it defines a desire and a dual effect of temptation –direct in Tony’s case, indirect in Poppy’s case– through the intermediary of a Tony who is both tempter and tempted, and who, because he is a temptor, takes on the diabolical function. But Poppy is the true stake of the contract: she is included in the totality of the world that is coveted: “Some day, I’ll look at that sign and I’ll say, it’s true, it is [you are] mine” (AS, p. 19). The contract is accepted and honored by the two parties (Satan and his instrument). After Lovo’s death, Tony reminds Poppy of that implicit commitment: he goes to her place, shows her the illuminated sign, and asks her if she remembers what he told her (AS, p. 30). Poppy smiles, and they leave together for Florida. Here one cannot object either that the psychological evolution of the young woman was already broadly outlined (the preced-ing dancehall scene in which she indicates that she has made a choice), or, a fortiori, that no explicit mention of any contract is made. A contract is, in fact, inscribed in the filmic text through the whole mythical text that is invested in it, a mythical text already presented as such in Big Louis’s first (and last) words: “Everybody will say: Ah! Big Louis, he has the world at his feet!” (AS, p. 7), and which as such denounces the gangster boss, whoever he is, as the chief usurper of the world. This biblical text coincides significantly with the ending of the filmic text; the last shot thereby authenticates its message. In fact, the camera ascends vertically on the policemen and then on the buildings rising up behind them, and frames the illuminated sign. The low-angle shot, obviously signifying here Camonte’s Lu-cifer-like fall, is the penultimate sign of this demonic discourse; it repeats, but at the level of filmic syntax, what was said more explicitly by Camonte’s lamentable descent of the stairs, arms open, in a kind of inverted Calvary. But this low-angle shot is itself the support for a final sign: the diabolical phrase, after having flashed, goes out, and only the lighted globe remains visible in the darkness. One cannot better express the idea that Camonte’s death liberates the Earth from Satan’s power! Having thrown light on this semantic focalization, we may bring out certain of its semiotic ramifications. We note that in this context the various textual traces which define a character –in particular, the fact that when the killer is about to strike he whistles a well-known tune of the period whose first words evoke a storm (“Stormy weather…”), a doubly significant phenomenon, first of all, because storms and tempests, in social imagery, estab-lish the habitual contexts in which ghosts or devils make their appearance (in the theater of Shakespeare or Ca1derón, among others), but also by the very fact that this supernatural object is accompanied or preceded by a sign associated with it which then functions autonomously as a delegated power of the sacred, its threatening force commensurate with its impalpability (in sound or odor). Related to the code of death, which functions here in the narrative only because the successive deaths of Big Louis, Lovo, and Rinaldo have sacralized it, this sign transforms these settlements of account into something more, not valorizing them but, rather, giving them a semantic surplus value. Death here surpasses the anecdotal level, not that this sign, at the level of the character’s experience of reality, can transform the irruption of the unexpected into an anguished expectancy of its fulfillment, but more simply, because in this way it is the materialization of a force that is beyond us: the concrete and brutal act of crime is transformed into an act programmed by a will supe-rior to the criminal. This semantic modification will be clearer if we relate it to two other phenomena. (1) Rinaldo’s habit of tossing a coin in his hand, which might be alluding to the Chicago killers’ practice of placing a nickel in their victim’s hand and, more generally, to the ransom the dead have to pay in order to cross the river to the beyond. Thus the same sign can function in a maleficent way, as a foreboding of death, or in a beneficent way, as a propitiatory element; in both cases, it is an index of the beyond. (2) The series of predictions uttered either by the police commissioner (“Some day you’ll make one false move and go downhill … and fall to the bottom, you understand, to the very bottom” [AS, p. 9]) or by Guarino (“Take away your gun, and you’ll fall to pieces just like all the other punks” [ibid.]), or by Camonte’s mother (“Some day, when he needs you, he’ll use you … just like he’d use anybody” [AS, p. 12]). All these textual phenomena consequently define a predetermined text and refer us to the notion of destiny. An obvious index of destiny, the tune Tony the killer habitually whistles makes him subject to forces beyond him. Thus it is that Tony, “inhabited by Sa-tan,” bursts out in diabolical laughter at the end of the film, in a blind unleashing of de-structive will, at the very instant the floodlights of the authorities bathing the scene in glaring light symbolically represent the struggle of light against darkness. Thus we can see in the background of the narrative the outlines of a Manichean perspective, emphasized even more by the scene the censors had the director add, and which gives an apocalyptic vision of the situation (“The city is full of machine guns … Children can’t go to school in safety anymore” [AS, p. 24]). The values being threatened by this state of affairs (family, school, social order), precisely because they are caught in the orbit of Evil become the foundations of Good. Thus, by plunging into the heart of a Manichean struggle between Good and Evil, a specific social group sanctifies the moral categories it honors. The sacred and the demonic define themselves with respect to each other in this manner, as shown by the two following obvious indexes of the functional modalities governing them. (1) The dancehall where Tony and his gang go in tuxedos and where scenes of vio-lence successively take place (the expulsion of a killer, the threatening rivalry of Tony and Lovo, the expulsion of Cesca by her brother, who teaches a lesson to the dancer with whom he has caught her in the act) bears the name Paradise, a paradise where –at least if one accepts my interpretation in which Camonte represents a demonic character– the gang-ster is flattered and recognized as king of the festival. All the elements that tightly weave one scene to another (the name of the place, the definition of the gang leader, Big Louis, as monarch of the underworld –“he has the world at his feet”; the shape of the streetlamp that reproduces from the very first frames, on the doorstep of the cabaret, the vertical and hori-zontal lines [22nd Street sign] of the Latin cross) establish a relationship of identity be-tween the two places. Both are presented in this way as latitudes of perdition, despite (or by the intermediary of) signs that apparently present them as contradictory to what they are. The gangster himself is escorted by two bodyguards; one of them is named Angelo and the other will end up by repenting on the threshold of a new life (Rinaldo). I cannot help seeing in this threesome, taking account of the semiotic context in which it is function-ing, the distorted projection of Christ surrounded by the two robbers. (2) This allusion is all the more persuasive since Camonte has a scar on his face in the form of the Latin cross. There is no doubt that this sign echoes the mark of the super-natural that is already inscribed in the killer’s tune (Stormy Weather), but it is worth noting that it makes it more specific, and that, in conjunction with those I have just mentioned, it illuminates remarkably well the function played by the whole text that has thus been con-stituted in the course of the film. Thus we see a discourse of the sacred (Paradise, Angel, Christ, Cross, calvary), but of a sacred that is subverted –as we have steadily seen– by the demonic. The Latin cross, which seems, curiously, to be related by contiguity or superimposition to the character of Camonte, thereby functions as an index of perversion. Do these modalities of the functioning of the sacred indicate an investment of dog-matic and theological problems? One might cite in this connection the series of textual marks in which the narrative instance condemns a number of infractions of the fundamen-tal virtues of the Protestant ethic (luxury, lavish spending, idleness, deceit, violence), but it would seem, nevertheless, more correct to see in them only the rejection of a cultural model related to Catholicism, without any deeper matter. Faithful to the nature of the me-dia, Scarface avoids the conceptual level and is content to move the viewer by means of a number of effects systematically employed. I turn now to the immediate historical context of Scarface. Hoover, the winner of the election, was forced by those who had brought him to power to take restrictive meas-ures against alcoholism; these measures reinforced the provisions of the Volstead Act and became law in March 1929. A wave of arrests took place in 1929 (more than four thousand people were imprisoned for violations of the law), and this repression provoked a violent protest movement. The economic crisis intensified this anti-Prohibitionist feeling: the pub-lic became less and less willing to pay federal agents to fight alcohol drinkers; economists noted that the taxes on alcoholic beverages could allow the repayment of the foreign debt in less than fifteen years; the Association Against the Prohibition Amendment, led by sev-eral dozen millionaires and a large number of former brewers and distillers, was fundamen-tally motivated by the realization that a tax on alcohol would greatly reduce the taxes they paid. Thus, after 1926, the Association spent a million dollars a year in its campaign for the repeal of Prohibition. This campaign had the support of the business world and intellectu-als. In 1929, a feminist organization was created, the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform. In 1931, the commission on Law Enforcement and Observance, chaired by George Wickersham, submitted its report to the President; it did not propose amendment but did recognize that the situation was difficult and that nothing could be done to improve it. In the next presidential election, the AAPA financed Roosevelt and the Democrats, favoring the creation of a liberal, anti-Prohibitionist coalition representing urban industrial interests. In 1933 a number of states repealed their dry laws before the Twenty-first Amendment –repealing the Eighteenth– was voted on. A new society was being affirmed. In this battle against Prohibition, the young generation of the middle classes played an im-portant role. Clark writes “that middle-class young people in the United States and in Western Europe were rejecting the social conventions, ideals, and values of their elders.”26 I shall be returning to this question. Thus we can see that the problems posed by Scarface were of burning interest at the time the film was being made; this is why it is presented to us in the form of a space of projected conflicts. For its message cannot be reduced to a single meaning, and we can understand why, despite the difficulties Hawks had with the Hays Office, he published at the time a declaration, reproduced in many newspapers, in which he claimed that the first showings of his film had been delayed by the opponents of Prohibition. We have discerned certain semantic traces in the text of these conflictive zones; but we should particularly note the reflection on the mass media and their social functions, which I link to the polarity revealed by this semiotic analysis (hiding/unmasking), as well as to the intersections of the two microsemiotic systems. We should also note that it is in a chaotic form and as an effect of displacement (in the Freudian sense) that ideological traces are invested in structures. Each of these traces seems to be disconnected from the ideological system to which it belongs, and to enter into a new configuration to which it transfers its own capacity to produce meaning. It is these ideological traces, in the pure state, which, in abstract form, enter into the combinatory complex of the genotext, and which I believe I have seen in the course of this semiotic analysis. I shall illustrate this hypothesis by considering the fear the new generation exer-cised over the old in the l930s in America. No doubt this social dynamic was transcribed in Scarface (as we saw in semiotic text no. 2), but the ideological structure, which undergoes this dynamic, projects it outside of itself by identifying it with all the evils it intends to exorcise. In order to emerge from the collective unconscious, avowal must undergo a dis-placement. But the problem of the renewal of generations is not the only locus of anguish. The determinants we have passed in review (economic determinants, shock of foreign cul-tural models, intellectual currents) develop in a certain context; they only illuminate, de-fine, and furnish an intellectual foundation for fears and anxieties that are already widespread. At a deeper level, what made the restrictionist movement develop in the early dec-ades of the twentieth century was the discovery that immigration was undermining the unity of American culture and threatening WASP dominance.

The mounting sense of danger –even dispossession– among millions of native-born white Protestants in the period 1910-1930, is not hard to understand. A people whose roots were in the towns and farms of the early republic saw great cities coming more and more under the control of strangers whose speech and values were not their own. A people who uncon-sciously identi lied Protestantism with Americanism saw Catholic voters and urban bosses gaining control of the industrialized states. A people whose religion was already badly damaged by modern ideas saw the compensating rigors of their life-style flouted in the sa-loons and cabarets of a more expressive, hedonistic society.27

Clark brings out in his study on Prohibition the profound fear of dispossession experienced by older American Protestants. I see this anguish operating in what I call (to use a concept of René Girard’s) the mimetic rivalry enacted in Scarface, through a sequence of over-throwal (Big Louis dethroned by Lovo, who will be deposed in turn by Camonte, whose supremacy is threatened upon his return from Florida), systematic repetition at the erotic level (Camonte–Poppy–Lovo; Camonte–Cesca–Rinaldo) as well as at the metaphorical level (advertising billboard The World Is Yours; plot of the play the gangsters go to see). On this very points however, we should refrain from thinking that the ideological instance is content to project these phenomena on the Other, by attributing to the Other those behav-iors in which it is not involved itself. On the contrary, it is the ideological instance that seems to generate this sequence, since in every case the provisional victor of these strug-gles for power seems only to have as objective the imitation of the ideological instance, to be its grotesque parody, and to climb to the social rank it occupies. The conquest of power in the Chicago underworld appears, for that very reason, only as the means of attaining power of a very different nature. Parodic devices, in such a context, are essential to the framework set in place by the narrative instance. On this point, it is useless to dwell on the exaggerated antics of Camonte, whose gestures are magnified by the parodic reflections of Angelo, his double, and which make him a veritable clown. Signs here and there in the filmic text, as well as my semiotic analysis, suggest carnivalization: problematics of cross-ing; oppositions between inclusiveness and exclusiveness and between right side and wrong side; portrayal of Big Louis as farcical king; latent presence of a dynamic of exor-cism. This last secondary modeling system seems to recover and redistribute the mi-crosemiotic systems generated by the mental structures I described earlier. In passing from mental structures to a secondary modeling system, that is, from one level to another, the sign is not abolished in another sign, but it acquires a supplemental meaning, a semantic surplus value resulting from this new phase of the transformational process observable reality undergoes. At this point in my analysis, it is clear that all the observations we have accumu-lated confirm René Girard’s relation of the mimesis of appropriation (mimetic rivalry, Carnival) to the mimesis of the antagonist, which “converges two or more individuals on one and the same adversary they all wish to kill” (exorcism represented by Carnival crema-tion or by the representation of Camonte’s death). In Girard’s words:

It is a community’s unity that is affirmed in the rite of sacrifice, and this unity rises up in the paroxysm of division when the community claims it is being torn apart by mimetic dis-cord condemned to the endless circularity of vengeful reprisal. The opposition of each against each is brusquely followed by the opposition of all against one. … We readily un-derstand what this sacrificial resolution consists in: the community recovers its wholeness altogether, at the expense of a victim not only incapable of defending itself but totally pow-erless to arouse vengeance.28

In my interpretation of Camonte’s death, the fantasized reconstruction of the community’s unity constitutes the authentic value of the film at the heart of the mechanisms for the gen-eration of meaning. The detours we have taken make this hypothesis perfectly plausible. One might object that this general conclusion and the description of carnivalization in Scarface recall too closely what I have said about Quevedo’s Buscón to be entirely credible.29 Far from rejecting this comparison, I think, on the contrary, that it opens up a new debate and a new inquiry: although dependent on quite different determinants, the mental structures generated by the collective anguish of the ruling class in Spain at the beginning of the seventeenth century seem to me strangely similar to those in America during the early decades of the twentieth century. Must we not conclude from this that spe-cific historical facts, both localizable and localized, are capable of reactivating archaic pat-terns buried deeply in the heart of the cultural context and of being redistributed by the fictional text?30

. American Films of the Thirties: The Case of Howard Hawks’s Scarface (1931) -Footnotes

1. This section presents the results of a research seminar on film criticism that brought together, under the direction of Edmond Cros, the members of the Jean Vigo Club. 2. On these principles of textual analysis, see Cros Edmond : Theory and history of Literature Chapter 6, pp. 75-92. 3. The notation (Ph.) refers to the numbers of the photograms, which are by Henri Talvat. 4. On the relations between carnivalesque festival practices and the thematics of re-demption and exorcism, see E. Cros. Ideología y genética textual, el caso del Buscón (Madrid: Planeta, 1980), pp. 17-33. 5. See Jean Delumeau, La Peur en Occident, XIV-XVIIe siècles (Paris: Fayard, 1978). 6. The reader may find it profitable to compare these discursive interplays with certain phenomenal have analyzed elsewhere (Edmond Cros, “Effets sur la génétique textuelle de la situation marginalisée du sujet –Eléments pour une synthèse,” Imprévue, 1 [1980], 23-30). 7. L’Avant Scène (AS), 132 (Jan. 1973), 24. Henceforth, references will be cited di-rectly in the text. The text of AS does not use the French subtitles but is based on the trans-lation of the original dialogue. 8. Jerome Lawrence, Actor: The Life and Times of Paul Muni (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, l974), p. 161. 9. See John Kopler, The Life and World of Al Capone (London: Coronet Books, 1973), p. 65. 10. Geo London, Deaux Mois avec les bandits de Chicago (Paris, 1930), pp. 101-102. 11. We see only the other side or the aftermath of the party in Big Jim Colosimo’s cabaret, after the girls have left. 12. Bernard Berelson and Patricia J. Salter, “Majority and Minority Americans: An Analysis of Magazine Fiction,” Public Opinion Quarterly, 10 (2) (1946), 168-190. 13. F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (New York: Charles Scribners Sons, 1925). I thank C. Richard for drawing my attention to this intertext. 14. Fitzgerald, Great Gatsby, p. 24. Henceforth, all references will be cited directly in the text. 15. See Law and Contemporary Problems, 21 (Duke University, 1956), especially “American Immigration Policy in Historical Perspective.” In the following discussion, I am indebted to Norman H. Clark, Deliver Us from Evil: An Interpretation of American Prohibition (New York: Norton, 1976), and more especially, to John Higham, Send These to Me: Jews and Other Immigrants in Urban America (New York: Atheneum, 1975). 16. Higham, Send These to Me, p. 37. 17. Ibid.. p. 43. 18. Ibid., p. 26. 19. Ibid., pp. 46-47. 20. Clark, Deliver Us from Evil, p. 89. 21. Ibid. 22. Ibid., p. 88. 23. Ibid., p. 188. 24. Ibid., p. 186. 25. Lawrence, Life and Times of Paul Muni, p. 156. 26. Clark, Deliver Us from Evil, p. 152. 27. Highans, Send These to Me, p. 48. 28. René Girard, with Jean Michel Oughourlian and Guy Lefort, Des choses cachées depuis la fondation du monde (Paris: Grasset, 1978), p. 32. 29. On the mimetic crisis and the mimesis of the antagonist in the Buscón, see Chapter 11. pp. 225-230. 30. See note 28.

From Cros Edmond, Theory and Practice of Sociocriticism, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis Theory and History of Literature,1988

American Films of the Thirties- The Case of Howard Hawks’Scarface II

In a first approach to Scarface I had reconstructed the semiotic system of the initial se-quences of the film before proposing the outlines of a sociocritical reading. The problemat-ics that have emerged may now be submitted to new analyses conducted from perceptibly different and, for that very reason, complementary points of view. Our point of departure is the major semiotic text that emerged from our analysis, namely, the polarity of hiding and unmasking, which seems to run through the whole system. As the film unfolds, this dialectic is explicitly articulated at the denotative level by a scene that the Hays Code censors required from the producer and the director: the inter-view that takes place in the offices of the Evening Record, opposing the apparent editor of the newspaper, Mr. Garston, to people who seem to be representatives of a pressure group. The latter reproach Mr. Garston for giving publicity to gangsters, for “keeping their activi-ties spread all over the front page,” for thinking that “our children must be saturated with violence and murder.” The editor tries to convince his interlocutors that one cannot “get rid of gangsters by ignoring them; by removing them from the front page,” and he draws their attention to the danger involved in “hiding the facts.” “We must arrest them, unmask them, and rid this country of them. That is how they will disappear from the front page.”7 This coincidence between the formulations of the ideological instance and the in-terplay of textual structures is extremely interesting to follow. From my methodological point of view, I can deduce a series of remarks. For those who have followed my semi-ological analysis, the remark of the editor will seem only a redundancy, a gratuitous repeti-tion of what the film is constantly saying. For the Hays Office censors, on the contrary, what was involved was the requirement that something finally be said that up to then had not been said. In my view, ideological instances are profoundly invested in the cultural object, which ideology itself refuses to admit and which, by this very refusal, reveals itself for what it is. By entering the film in this form, the ideological instance, paradoxically situ-ates itself as outside cultural production. I shall not, however, take this coincidence as confirmation of the results of my se-miotic approach. That would be to ignore the fact that the two chains of meaning shaping the text –that of the sign and that of the signified– are distinct and autonomous. Seen in the context of their theoretical autonomy, the coincidence that makes the two chains of mean-ing cross here needs to be investigated. The scene at the Evening Record marks out a zone of ideological conflict, appar-ently banal and relatively secondary in importance, bearing upon the role generally played by the media: the media are invested in the film in such a way that it may be immediately assumed that the characters assembled around Mr. Garston are making a negative judg-ment on the film from inside the film itself. However, the point of view of Mr. Garston’s interlocutors is shared by the police commissioner, who sharply reprimands the reporter who has come to interview him about Camonte: “Colorful! What is the color of sewer rats? Listen here, your attitude is that of too many people in this country: they think these criminals are demigods. And what do they do about someone like Camonte? They sentimentalize him, romanticize him, joke about him. It was all right to glorify our bandits of the Old West; they met in the street at high noon and everyone went for the draw. But these creatures sneak around shooting peo-ple in the back and running away… When I think about what must be going on in the heads of these people, I want to vomit” (AS, p. 24). This scene, which immediately precedes the Evening Record scene, draws our at-tention to the importance in the text of the little world of newspapermen. Thus, one of the first sequences of the film (the editorial room of the Daily Herald) provides a commentary on the brutal images of Big Louis’s assassination; the failed attempt on Meeham’s life is commented on in the same way (AS, p. 16). The gangsters keep close track of newspaper reports and are obviously flattered when they see their photos and accounts of their crimes spread all over the front page (“LOVO: What do the papers say? CAMONTE: I brought them [medium frontal shot of Camonte holding the newspaper]. They tell an awful story. There’s a picture of you… [he leans forward to give the paper to Lovo] …and one of me, too” [AS, p. 16]). They eagerly welcome reporters who want to interview them –as Gaffney does, for example, after the St. Valentine’s Day massacre. In their idle moments, they read newspapers (in the barbershop; at the start of the war of reprisal by Camonte against O’Hara’s gang: “A man is reading a newspaper when gunfire bursts from an approaching car… He sinks behind his newspaper”) to the point where, in the film at least, the newspa-per seems to be part of the iconography of gangsterism. At least three newspapers are men-tioned in the film: The Daily Herald, The Evening Record, and The Journal. From the point of view of narrative technique, moreover, the newspaper a remark-able role to play, to the extent that, on several occasions, it takes over the narration. Thus, it is the newspaper that explains the circumstances of Big Louis’s death (“Do you know what happened?… Costello was the last of the old-style gang leaders. … They’re going to shoot each other down like rabbits”). The newspaper fills gaps left in the narration, sum-marizes diegetic ellipses: it is the newspaper that informs us simultaneously of the attack on Meeham, its relative and temporary failure, and the fact that it is part of a series (“An-other failed assassination attempt: Meeham, riddled with bullets, escapes death” [AS, p. 16]); it is the newspaper that allows an indirect summary of another action not witnessed by the spectator, namely, the absence of Tony, who has gone to spend a month in Florida, and the changes in the criminal underworld during his absence. (“A newspaper office: In the foreground a seated man. … A man approaches him and offers him a newspaper. THE MAN WITH THE NEWSPAPER: Big Tony is back from Florida. SEATED MAN [taking the news-paper]: Well, he better be careful [AS, p. 30]). The newspaper thus seems linked to the narrative instance, either because it is the means used by the latter to advance the action (as when Camonte learns through the newspaper that Meeham is only wounded), or because it takes the place of the narrative function. If the newspaper cannot be identified with the narrative instance (N), it is, at the very least, a narrator (n) that is, it plays a role within the narrational level. But the newspaper is a narrative at the second degree, a mirror of events; elsewhere, it appears only in its status as mirror. Though what it says precisely may escape us, it is itself commented upon, and this commentary corresponds to a second projection of the event, a projection that, in turn, will be given visual form in the film (event  report-age  commentary  film). This is the case, for example, of the story of Big Louis’s mur-der and of the announcement of Tony’s return. The newspaper loses its informative function in order to become integrated with narratological programming. But in its manner of integration (when it is seen only as a mirror of the event), it presents itself essentially as observation, literally as medium. In this role, it most clearly resembles other media in-scribed in the text: first, advertising (“The World Is Yours”), which metaphorizes Camonte’s ambition and his social ascension and reflects in this way the thematic struc-ture; second, the theater, which reproduces the dual mimetic rivalry whose stake is, or has been, women: (“CAMONTE: I want to know which one of the two guys Sadie chose” [AS, p. 25]), thereby reflecting as well the interplay of the film’s two love triangles (Camonte–Poppy–Lovo; Camonte–Cesca–Rinaldo); and third, the film medium itself, which merits closer study. The reader will have no doubt noticed the abundance of frames within frames: doors, windows, balconies cutting the depth of the visual field into spaces enclosed within one another: the curtains of Poppy’s bedroom defining a forbidden space; the rear window of the car in which Rinaldo and Camonte return after Camonte’s interview with Lovo, in which we see passing street scenes, and so on. Two textual phenomena give meaning to this series: (1) the murder of Big Louis at the very moment he goes to the telephone: be-hind a window, we see the silhouette of a man wearing a hat; a few seconds later, the kil-ler’s shadow is etched in profile, behind the lighted window, and it is through this window that his murderous gestures are seen (the pointed revolver, the cleaning of the weapon, etc.). We do not witness Big Louis’s assassination directly, that is, we do not see him fall the moment he is hit; we discover his body lying on the floor. Between the action and our seeing it, a window, that is, a screen, a medium, has intervened. We have not witnessed an assassination; we have witnessed the projection of an assassination. Just as the newspaper is presented as “mirror of the event,” the film is being presented here as mirror, reflection, gaze. (2) The first image of Scarface, in this context, has a certain a posteriori function. This first image bore the mark of a St. Andrew’s cross standing out in black against the screen or rather, against a screen that is at the same time that of the movie theater in which we are seated. and a screen that strikes us as such from inside the film, a screen that is signed, marked in its materiality as screen by a sign inscribing in it an idea of projection, and, probably, a message. Thus the film opens with a symbolic reflection of itself. Whether it is a question of sexual rivalry whose stake is first Poppy and then Cesca, or a general thematics of social ascension and world domination, or of the function and nature of the media, or even of narrative processes in general, the film creates systematic reflections of textual phenomena, presented as reflections, shadows, projections. At this point, I shall discuss a sign that has undoubtedly been misinterpreted thus far: the St. Andrew’s cross, which Eliane Le Grivès (in Avant Scène), too quickly reads as a Latin cross. Jerome Lawrence, in The Life and Times of Paul Muni, cites an interesting comment by Howard Hawks in this connection:

Newspapers at the time always labeled their photographs of killing and accidents with a point of reference. X marks the spot where the body was found. … I got the crew together and I said: “We’re having a lot of killings and I want each to be labeled ‘X marks the spot’ in a cinematic way. So anybody who comes up with a notion we can use will get fifty bucks. No, make that a hundred.”8

The X thus belongs to what I shall call a specific microsemiotic –to that secondary model-ing system constituted by journalism. This comment justifies a posteriori the observations we have just made and allows us to interpret them. In fact, it is this microsemiotic that is vested in the film and that functions as a code for the transformation of observable reality. This microsemiotic accounts, in particular, for the following: –The sensationalistic style of the film (the striking series of killings and assassina-tion attempts, the incestuous relationship between Cesca and Tony, the spectacular attack by the police at the end, automobile chases, machine-gun attacks, etc.). –The status of the narrator, who bases the credibility of his omniscience on the sug-gestion that he possesses an impressive knowledge of the facts, the kind of knowledge characteristic of any “well-informed” daily newspaper. –The complicity with the spectator that is established beforehand through the in-termediary of journalism. The narrative assumes, in fact, that the spectator already knows a number of facts upon which it is based. These facts are known to us only through the newspapers of the period. (We are explicitly told that the scenario is “based on Scarface, by Armitage Trail, as well as on newspapers of the period” [AS, p. 5].) The film thus situ-ates itself as an extension of written news media, and this gives it a powerful realism. To cite one example, there is the allusion to 22nd Street, notorious in the Chicago of the 1930s for its nightclubs and restaurants, whose “gem” was none other than the cabaret of Big Jim Colosimo, the obvious model for Big Louis in the film. Big Jim was murdered on the door-step of his restaurant, despite the fact that he had, in 1920, brought from New York two bodyguards, Johnny Torrio and Al Capone.9 The film’s scenario closely follows reality, thus recreating in an obvious manner a reality already known to the spectator through the daily newspapers. The principals of the drama are thinly veiled behind easily readable fic-tional names: Johnny Torrio becomes Johnny Lovo; Al Capone becomes Camonte; Big Jim becomes Big Louis; and the leader of the Northside gang, O’Bannion, lurks behind O’Hara. However, I shall mention two major differences: (1) Al Capone is a natural replacement for the Southside gangleader after Torrio leaves for Italy when his life is threatened by the Irish. This enables us to understand better the profound didacticism of the film, which makes “struggle among leaders” into a general law. (2) Al Capone, at least if we are to believe the eyewitness accounts of the period, especially that of Geo London, was neither foolish nor uncouth (“Outwardly, he was a gen-tle, sympathetic, articulate man. … In addition, he lacked neither a sense of appropriate-ness nor finesse”10). This comment heightens the importance of the carnivalization the protagonist undergoes in Scarface, which brings to the fore the way ideological stereotypes function in the film. While Scarface was being filmed, that is, in late spring and early summer of 1931, an investigation was being carried out into the activities of Al Capone, who appeared in court in October of the same year. Finally, let us remember that Ben Hecht was a reporter and that Scarface is a reporter’s film. Let us return to the St. Andrew’s cross, which I interpreted earlier as the iconogram of interdiction. Clearly, this is also its meaning, which is tantamount to saying that the X also refers to another microsemiotic opposed to the preceding one on this point: the first has as its objective to reveal, to display the facts on the front page; the second, which we have yet to describe, tends, on the contrary, to hide the facts. An X stamped on a photo-graph that reconstructs a crime, in fact, marks that photograph with the sign of censorship: it says that the body was lying there hut that the sight of this body is impossible or forbid-den. It signifies the refusal of hypersensationalism, that is, inside a sensationalist form, it inscribes an ideological trace that undermines sensationalism. It is a question no longer of a mere zone of coincidence but rather of a zone of ideological conflict. Let us provisionally call this new microsemiotic a “rhetoric of silence and hiding.” We saw it explicitly operating in the Evening Record scene, but it is inscribed as well in each reproduction of the X, that is, in each killing. This rhetoric is also discernible in all the changes the film underwent –in particular the elimination of twelve scenes, including the original ending in which Camonte is shot down by a rival gang and not by the police. This rhetoric of silence and hiding is also at work in the way killings are generally shown: either the camera momentarily leaves the victim at the precise instant of his death (Big Louis, Gaffney, Johnny Lovo), or it substantially mitigates the brutality of the scene (the anonymous gangster sinking behind his newspaper, the smokescreen masking the bod-ies of the victims of the St. Valentine’s Day massacre). Such veiling contrasts with the din of machine-gun fire and the spectacular scenes of speeding cars. This “rhetoric of hiding,”11 which reproduces, in filmic “writing,” the interdictions of the Hays Code, is linked to another ideological trace in which repressive social struc-tures are expressed. One cannot miss seeing the connection here between the police com-missioner and the editor-in-chief of the Daily Herald; seated behind their respective desks, they receive information gathered or written by their fellow workers. Obvious stereotypes, they anonymously embody two types of power. The police, at certain times, take charge of the narration: they add an important element to the reconstruction of the facts preceding and explaining Big Louis’s death by recounting Tony’s past and by pointing out that at the time of the murder he was both Johnny’s friend and the victim’s bodyguard (AS, p. 8). The police play a role in narratological programming by anticipating events in a way that makes sense of their apparently chaotic presentation (“GUARINO: Take away your gun and you’ll fall apart like all these other punks” [AS, p. 8]; “GUARINO: Lovo is practically done for; he’s scared to death!”; “COMMISSIONER [to Guarino]: Good, try to find Gaffney: they’ll probably try to get him after they get all the others” [AS, p. 24]). To a lesser extent, certainly, than journalism, the police temporarily take on the function of a narrator (n2), which allows us to assume the coexistence of (n1) and (n2) within the narrative instance (N). We may conclude that this narrative instance, itself rep-resenting a space of contradiction, redistributes two ideologically contradictory mi-crosemiotics linked to the bipolar opposition we discussed before: hiding/unmasking. Now that this zone of conflict has been isolated, we may examine it. Earlier in this study of Scarface, when I brought out other semiotic texts (problem-atics of crossing; inclusiveness/exclusiveness; wrong side/right side), I suggested that we could see functioning in the film “a thematics of exclusion that designates as scapegoat not merely a group defined as morally and socially marginal, but an entire unintegrated ethnic minority.” This directed connection with the economic crisis of 1929 was, I believe, made too hastily, and I should like to propose a more careful study of these phenomena. I shall start from an obvious fact, namely, that it is the Italian minority that is in question (recall the Italian who is, curiously, one of the Garston’s interlocutors: “It’s true! They [the gangsters] only cast dishonor on my people” [AS, p. 24]), but it is a fact whose limits must be defined. “Every incident in this film is based on fact,” according to the cred-its in the French version of the film, and indeed, we have seen how faithful the film’s sce-nario is to the actual facts as reported by the press at the time. In that case, one might wish to object, how, where, and why would ideology be functioning? And yet ideology is oper-ating, but it is true that it operates –as always– in Textuality. I have just shown this in part. Here, we might apply an approach borrowed from the sociology of content, the bet-ter to pinpoint just how a true sociocriticism of cultural objects differs from it. Thus, I shall make brief use of a 1946 study by Bernard Berelson and Patricia J. Salter: “Majority and Minority Americans: An Analysis of Magazine Fiction.”12 The corpus analyced by these two researchers consists of 198 short stories published in eight major magazines between 1937 and 1943 and chosen at regular intervals (first, third, and fifth) for each magazine. The themes generally have to do with love affairs and family and marital problems; we also find a few adventure stories. Almost all the stories are set on the East Coast, most fre-quently in New York, and practically never in the South. Rapidly summarized, the conclu-sions reached by these studies are as follows. (1) Distribution of characters. Of 900 identifiable characters, there are only 16 blacks ¿African Americans? and 10 Jews. While ethnic minorities (Mexican Americans, Italian Americans, Japanese Americans, Irish Americans, Jews, blacks ¿African Ameri-cans?) make up 40 percent of the population at the time, they appear here in a ratio of one to ten. (2) Role of characters. The important roles are most frequently held by white Americans. “Positive” roles (that is, those that portray likeable, gracious, wise, desirable, respectable, honest characters) are reserved for them. Those roles given to minorities are less positive and are most frequently onedimensional stereotypes. Certain of these charac-ters are like objects serving to create a specific ambience (thus one American heroine is described as talking politely with an Italian flower-seller). (3) Character traits. Here are a few examples of stereotypes: the ignorant and ri-diculous Negro; the Italian gangster with scars on his face; the wicked and wily Jew; the emotional Irishman; the brutish and stupid Pole. The authors of this article note than when stereotypes are applied to ethnic groups such as blacks, Jews or Italian Americans, they function as xenophobic stimuli. The authors add that studies on mass attitudes have shown that people have very set notions about the characteristics and behavior of members of marginal groups, very definite mental images of what people who are different from them-selves believe and do. (4) Status of characters. White Americans live well and their comfortable lifestyle is shown in descriptions of their clothing, food, and homes. They apparently deserve this level of lifestyle since the source of their wealth is rarely mentioned; this is not the case of members of marginal groups, about whom, when they are wealthy, the stories think it ap-propriate to mention how they got their wealth. This seems to mean that is perfectly normal for white Americans to belong to the highest strata of society, whereas if ethnics do, it calls for an explanation because it is so exceptional. Furthermore, only rarely do white Ameri-cans marry nonwhite Americans. (5) Characters’ goals. White Americans are idealistic; the others are materialistic. The best-treated nonwhite American characters are those who come closest to the white, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant type. Berelson and Salter argue that these stereotypes may be explained by the necessity of creating a style of writing at once fast-paced and conformist, as well as by the needs of a heterogeneous audience that requires the use of well-known and widely recognizable sym-bols of identification. It is obvious, however, that these stereotypes reactivate the predispo-sitions of a hostile audience only too ready to find in them fuel to feed their xenophobia. This study has been useful, for it brings out, in fact, all the stereotypes used in the film: apart from the Italian gangsters, there is Epstein, writ of habeas corpus in hand, who embodies the wily and wicked Jew. However, the most revealing scenes are the ones de-voted to the description of the Italian family: the mother is portrayed through clothing and gesture that marginalize her; she is seen in the folkloric aspect, in a home marked by pov-erty. This fleeting vision seems to be there only as a point of reference with respect to what Camonte is to become. His rapid rise to wealth is marked by a copious series of indexes (cigars, bundle of money given to his sister, jewelry, cars, apartment, shirts, grotesque self-satisfaction, etc.). As if performing the function of narrator, Poppy cruelly underlines many times the vulgarity of the newly rich: “How elegant you are. … I see you’re wearing jew-elry … an heirloom, of course?” (AS, p. 17). Tony’s leitmotif: “They don’t give them away,” incessantly reproduces the view the prevailing ideology has that the marginal per-son can get rich only by illegal means. What is said about Camonte is equally valid for Big Louis or Lovo (“Look at me … I’m rich. I have a house, a car, the prettiest girls” [AS, p. 6]). Thus, filmic writing undergoes a contamination that is all the more insidious since it seems to be perfectly adapted to its subject, and since its scenario seems to produce by itself these iconograms of stereotypical identification that Berelson and Salter’s study shows are imposed from the outside and produced by specific mental structures. The observations of content analysis must be distinguished, however, from my own on one important point: whereas my analysis is concerned with modalities of intratextual functioning of certain ideological traces that, by their intersection, define zones of conflict, Berelson and Salter’s study allows us to connect Scarface directly to the entire cultural production of a particular society. Indeed, their work demonstrates how a society is orga-nized by a secondary modeling system whose ideological traces are reproduced in Scar-face. These traces may be seen in the American novels more or less contemporary with Scarface –The Great Gatsby comes especially to mind. Camonte is in some way an exag-gerated caricature of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s hero, who is described by Tom as “Mr. Nobody from Nowhere.”13 Juxtaposing the two works, we can see explicit echoes of Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel in Howard Hawks’s film: thus, the illuminated sign The World Is Yours can be com-pared with the gigantic blue eyes of Dr. T. J. Eckleburg, which “look out of no face, but, instead, from a pair of enormous yellow spectacles which pass over a non-existent nose.”14 concrete markers of the media, with reference to which the narrative seems to unfold in both cases. One may also recall, in the sumptuous affairs staged every week by James Gatz, alias Jay Gatsby, son of “shiftless and unsuccessful farm people” of the Middle West, the grotesque spectacle of Tony drunk with his newly acquired power and wealth. Gatsby’s fortune is the talk of New York high society, and gives rise to all kinds of legends about his past as murderer, adventurer, or bootlegger. “Contemporary legends such as ‘the un-derground pipeline to Canada’ attached themselves to him and there was one persistent story that he didn’t live in a house at all, but in a boat that looked like a house and was moved secretly up and down the Long Island shore” (p. 88). In the sequence in which Camonte displays to Poppy his piles of shirts in order to seduce her, we see an explicit index of this intertext:

Recovering himself in a minute he opened for us two hulking patent cabinets which held his massed suits and dressing gowns and ties, and his shirts, piled like bricks in stacks a dozen high. … He took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them, one by one, before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel which lost their folds as they fell and covered the table in many-colored disarray (pp. 83-84)

Behind these two fundamentally different narratives, the same ideological trace is govern-ing the writing process: from the very first lines of the novel, the narrator, Nick Carraway, whose family descends, he claims, from the Dukes of Buccleuch, rejects Gatsby and his world with the scornful remark: “Gatsby … represented everything for which I have an unaffected scorn” (p. 8). Fascinated by Gatsby’s personality, at the same time he often criticizes him from the standpoint of his own values: “And I was looking at an elegant young roughneck, a year or two over thirty, whose elaborate formality of speech just missed being absurd. Sometime before he introduced himself I’d got a strong impression that he was picking his words with care” (p. 47). Nick’s comment on the autobiographical history he hears right out of the protagonist’s mouth signals his constant suspicion: “He looked at me sideways, and I knew why Jordan Baker had believed he was lying. … And with this doubt, his whole statement fell to pieces, and I wondered if there wasn’t some-thing a little sinister about him, after all. … For a moment I suspected that he was pulling my leg but a glance at him convinced me otherwise” (pp. 60-61). By juxtaposing Gatsby’s fantasy (“I am the son of some wealthy people in the Mid-dle West. … I was brought up in America but educated at Oxford, because all my ancestors have been educated there for many years … it is a family tradition” [p. 60]) with the truth about him (“James Gatz, that was really, or at least legally, his name. … His parents were shiftless and unsuccessful farm people –his imagination had really never accepted them as his parents at all” [pp. 88-89]), Nick demystifies Gatsby’s mask. In doing so, he demysti-fies the man behind the mask, thus presenting the narrative instance as though itself en-slaved to an ideological instance manipulating iconograms of stereotypical identification such as facial characteristics (“The friends looked out at us with the tragic eyes and short upper lips of southeastern Europe,” [p. 63]); or by scrupulously conforming to racial or social “models”: Gatsby, being who he is, can only be an ignoramus, and the pages of his books covering the shelving of his magnificent “high Gothic library, panelled with carved English oak,” have never been cut. One evening one of his guests comments on this fact in particularly scornful terms: “Absolutely real –have pages and everything. I thought they’d be a nice durable cardboard. Matter of fact, they’re absolutely real. Pages and –Here! Lemme show you. … This fella’s a regular Belasco. It’s a triumph. What thoroughness! What realism! Knew when to stop, too –didn’t cut the pages. But what do you want? What do you expect?” (pp. 44-45). As for Poppy in Scarface, she certainly must be compared with Daisy. But what does the choice of such first names mean? We note first of all that in Scott Fitzgerald’s novel the narrator insinuates some doubt about the young woman’s origins, presenting her as not belonging to the WASP class (“ ‘The idea is that we’re Nordics, I am and you are, and you are and–’ after an infinitesimal hesitation he included Daisy with a slight nod” [p. 17]). In a later passage, he describes another character, Benny McClenahan, as always ac-companied by four young women, about whom Nick, while having forgotten their first names, remembers that “their last names were either the melodious names of flowers and months or the sterner ones of the great American capitalists whose cousins, if pressed, they would confess themselves to be” [p. 59]). Should we conclude that these two first names, Poppy and Daisy, are functioning in the text to indicate Jewishness? I would be inclined all the more to think so, since in the logic of the ideology of Scarface, Poppy’s blondness, which clashes with the milieu of dark-haired Mediterraneans, cannot be referring us to the Nordic racial type because it is in a compromised position in the universe of Evil. In that case, the name given her would be neutralizing the iconogram of her blond hair. Does Gatsby’s refusal his family background (“his imagination had never accepted them as par-ents”) stem from the same cause? The narrator plants another seed of doubt when he dis-tinguishes between the Gatzes’ real name (which is never revealed to us), and their legal name, consequently synonymous here with inauthenticity and usurpation. In turn, however, Gatsby in some ways prefigures John Foster Kane insofar as the beginning of his rise in society is indirectly linked to the mining of precious metals. Dan Cody, whom James meets one afternoon on the shore of Lake Superior, and who befriends the boy, is a “product of the Nevada silver fields, of the Yukon, of every rush for metal since seventy-five” (p. 90). But this new paternity is itself presented here as demonic; it is in fact at the side of this “pioneer debauchee, who during one phase of American life brought back to the Eastern seaboard the savage violence of the frontier brothel and sa-loon,” that “the vague contour of Jay Gatsby had filled out to the substantiality of a man” (p. 91). Thus, from Scarface to Citizen Kane, and including magazine short stories and the novels of Scott Fitzgerald, we may observe, at various levels and organized in different systems, the features of an ideological matrix. To better understand the interaction of these contradictions in the filmic text, we shall return to the question of minority and majority in America between 1920 and 1930, and examine the whole problem from a certain distance.15

At the time the American nation was born, the concept of immigration was based on an enlightenment doctrine that was the product of northern European Protestant culture, ac-cording to which the country’s greatness resided in the diversity and the multiplicity of its origins. The idea had two corollaries: (1) America was a land of refuge, and (2) every per-son had the right to leave his native land and move to a place where he might find suste-nance and happiness. But the consequences of the application of this doctrine were to come into contradiction with the cultural traditions of an Anglo-Saxon Protestant society –a con-tradiction that was to be hidden as long as the North American economy needed labor. Around 1880, another point of view began to be heard: the immigrants were ac-cused of “increasing the rift of classes, complicating the slum problem, causing boss-rule and straining the old moralities. These difficulties, like the immigrants themselves, cen-tered in the recklessly expanding cities.”16 Moreover, with the increasing scarcity of fertile land, people began to realize that America’s natural resources had their limits, and the sa-cred principle of laissez-faire began to be called into question. The first measures aimed at controlling immigration were put into effect in 1882, just before an economic depression. As this depression became more severe in the l890s, a movement favoring a restrictive policy spread and led to the first Immigration Act in 1891. At the beginning of the twentieth century, with the return of prosperity and despite the ef-forts of the Immigration Restriction League founded in Boston in 1894, this policy of con-trol was fought by chambers of commerce and by the National Association of Manufacturers because economic expansion and the simplification of industrial techniques required an unskilled labor force. The immigrant population became larger and larger (more than one million immigrants per year from 1905 to 1914). This lull only delayed the passage of new restrictive laws in 1917, 1921, and especially in 1924, with the passage of the National Act. The war with Germany “stirred public opinion like a cyclone.” Ameri-cans discovered all at once that they could not remain apart from world conflicts and that inside the country were millions of unassimilated people. This emotional climate affected mental structures; patriotic loyalty was confused with conforming; marginality was sus-pected of potential treachery.17 Thus we see that fluctuations in the mental structures of legislation were directly re-lated to economic crises. Moreover, restrictions were to be even more severe at the time of the Great Depression in 1930.


Towards a Sociocritical Theory of the Text

Going back to the 1960s we observe a radical reconfiguration of the idea of the text, resulting from the rapid expansion of general linguistics and literary semiology. This idea was detached from the “philosophy of truth ; it defined a “new object” that was described as a “translinguistic device”and considered as a signifying practice that never ceases to work and that is irreducible to objective signification. While retaining the theoretical concepts implicit within this idea, socio-criticism is essentially concerned with that which the text transcribes, which is to say, the modalities of incorporation of history, not at the level of content but at the level of forms. For socio-criticism, the plurality which Roland Barthes describes as being “at the heart of signifying practice from the outset, in the form of contradiction” is the product of the dynamic and dialectical process of history. It is because it incorporates history in a way that is specific to it that the text presents itself as a translinguistic device. It is these paths of complex, heterogeneous and contradictory meaning that I seek to mark out and to identify both in their nature and in their effects.

Socioriticism aims to bring out the relations existing between the structures of literary (or cultural) work and the structures of the society in which this work is deeply rooted. This theory claims that the encounter with ideological traces and with antagonistic tensions between social classes is central to any reading of texts. Unlike most sociological approaches to literature which leave the structures of text untouched, it assumes that the social nature of the literary work must be located and investigated within the text and not outside. That’s why we have to elaborate a patient and exacting reconstruction of the semiotico-ideological elements in order to show how the historic process is deeply involved in the writing process. Indeed, we have to deal with the different ways of incorporating history in the text. On this point, a series of questions must be emphasized: Which kind of historic material we have to ask for? How is the text supposed to incorporate this historic material? Which theorical and methodogical approach does enable the critic to bring into view the process of the history’s incorporation? Before we answer these questions I shall recall that every theory is founded on two points: 1- a philosophical conception which implies a point of view toward history, questioning what is the process of history, 2- a poetic conception refering to the functioning of the text So,what is the process of the history? What is the text? How does the text work? Regarding to the first point, I am refering to the marxism which links the discursive formation to the ideological and social formations. There is indeed a relation between the infrastructure and the superstructure but this relation is neither automatic nor direct. Between the two levels ( and inside) we have to distinguish a series of various instances, belonging each one to various historic times. At any given moment of the history some ones look like advanced, in advance, instances and other ones like delayed, behind the time. Insofar as the delayed is always atracted by the advanced one, the gap existing between the two instances and the series of the gaps existing in the totality of the system produce the dynamism of the process. These historic gaps produce semiotico-ideological traces and various kinds of effects in the literary work, observables especially in the textual spaces of the contradictions. That’s why in my critic reading I start from the intratextual microsemiotics organized by these contradictions which enable us to reconstruct the social and ideological formations. Now, how does the text function? When it begins to start up, the text begins to set its rules of repetition: it repeats a short series of messages but it does not repeat them in a monotonous way ( o exactly similar way), it repeats its messages through the different levels o categories of the texts ( I mean: time, space, discursive material, myth, topics and so on… Every text can present specific categories…) These messages are born from an abstract intratextual space which I name Genotext.

Genotext and Phenotext The genotext is a semiotic field which appears to be ordered but at the sometime torn and ruptured by “ ideological junctures “. It is made up by a combinatory system of genetic elements responsable for the global production of meaning and vectors of conflict. All these genetic elements are functioning in a pluriacentuaded form and I assume that these contradictions reproduce the contradictions of the social and ideological formations. But the genotext does not exist in the text: in the text only we deal with the phenotexts. Materializing, actualizing the genotext , the phenotexts appear in all the categories of the text and every category tears and deconstructs the genotext acording to the specific rules of his own functioning. The expression of the time, for example, give a result, an actualization very different from the actualization operated by the expression of the space. These terms don’t refer to the J. Kristeva notions but I am borrowing them from the human geografy. In order to understand what I mean we have to recall the notions o Phenotype and Genotype. The mediterranean woman is a genotype but she does not exist, only exist various women who live on the different shores of the mediterranean sea with similar characteristics. From (and by the means of) this characteristics we have elaborate an abstract figure. The genotext is not exactly a structure but it is to become a structure by structuring itself within the different phenotextual actualizations of the same text. In the phenotext, the ungramaticalized enunciation of the genotext and the caracteristics apropiate to a given level are both operating in the framework of a signifying process to actualize in an apparently incoherent and fragmented way the semantic latencies of the same utterance: the genotext.This genotext exists only in these multiple and concrete actualization-phenotexts- and it corresponds to an abstraction reconstituted by the analyst.

Genotext and history In sofar as the genotext is the way through which the text incorporates the history we can understand that the elements incorporated, in the form of strong contradictions, are the fundamental ones which carry out the future of a given society and constitute its more important stakes.

How does operate the Genotext? Where does it come from? Using a spatial metaphor, we may imagine the point of intersection of two axes, a vertical and a horizontal. On the first axis is the interdiscourse, which materialzes both mental structures and ideological formations produced by a social formation. The discourse of time upon itself is read on this axis, in other words, interdiscourse translates into semiotic operations the sociohistorical conditions in which a speaker is inmersed. On the horizontal axis is the intertext, ( preasserted, preconstructed, preconstrained) that is all the linguistic material destined to give shape to meaning.

What do I mean by interdiscourse ? To understand what is for me, we have to recall two notions of Lucien Golman: the transindividual (collective) subject and the level of the no-conscious. 1- Each of us belongs at any moment of our life to a series of collective subjects (generation, family, geografic origin, profession…)We pass through many of them in the course of our existence. These different collective subjects, when we pass through them, offer us their social values and world vision by the means of their specific discourses.Every transindividual subject inscribes in its discourse the indexes of its spatial, social and historical insertion and consequently generates specific microsemiotics. The totality of the discursive material we use along the live is made up with this mosaic of discourses. That’s why the text does not select its signs within language but within the totality of semiotic expressions adquired/proposed by the collective subjects.This transindividual subject invests the individual consciousness of each individual participating in it by means of specific microsemiotics. These microsemiotics transcribes in signs the totality of aspirations, frustrations and vital problems of the group. They provide a kind of “readout” of the ways each group is inmersed. Reconstructing these microsemiotics enables us to reconstruct the social formation in which is inmersed the writer.

The Goldmann’s notion of transindividual subject called for further precision insofar as it seems to operate for him only at the level of the implicit values of a literary work. That’s why I sought to describe its effects in a more precise way. I tried to describe the levels where these indexes may be found. It seems to me that the most obvious traces are located on the paradigmatic axes, on the ready-made expressions and the “lexies”. The way they become lexicalized transcribes social values systems. The changes that modify them transcribe modes of living and of socioeconomic insertions, the evolution of mental structures of the milieus producing them.

How does the transindividual’s discourse (function) operate? Goldmann distinguishes three levels of consciousness; to the first two (unconscious and alert consciousness) he adds the no-conscious. The no-conscious is a creation of the collective subject. It is different from the freudian unconscious in that is not repressed and does not need overcome any resistance in order to become conscious but has only to be brought to light by scientific analysis. Indeed reproducing social and discursive practices of the collective subjects we are saying much more than we know o whish, and so we are reproducing usually the social values of different collective subjects. That is the space and the level of the genetic process more interesting for sociocriticim. From and inside this point of view we can better deal with the basic and following question: while the social and personal visibility of writer is very short, we do assume that the literary work’s visibility is some times very large. How does the critic can explain this difference? This difference, for me, results from the functioning of the no-conscious. As a matter of fact, beyond the field of social visibility properly speaking extends another one interiorized but no conscious responsable of the intratextual microsemiotics which reproduce the social values of the different collective subjects convocated by the writer. Relations with the world are neither perceived nor perceivable at the level of inmediate experience. The behaviors and the discourses of the subject always hold more meaning than they know o wish. This supplement of meaning is stocked in the intratextual micosemiotics made up by and around the semiotic material of the noconscious of the collective subject implied in the writing process. By making semiotic system work in writing, the writer always says more than he or she understands and more than he or she aparently grasps. In order to make this presentation more clear, I suggest a cursory glance over a text of the spanish Golden Century, edited between 1597 and 1604. I shall use the english translation of James Mabbe (1622-1623), emphasizing the linguistic differences, insofar as mi approach implies, as a matter of fact, the necesity of taking into account the exact verbal materiality of the signs invested in the text. First of all, let us evoke briefly the social formation in the Spanish Golden Century. If we try to give a panorama of the various social interests, we have to note the prosperous position of the commerce and of the brotherhood of the great cattebreeders regrouped in La Mesta, happening at the expenses of the clothmakers and the agricultural producers. The government of Charles The Fifth encourages the exportation of the best wool to the North of Europe and imports the clothes which Spain then exports to Indias. So, for example, the cattles have the privilege of passing through the cultivated fields of the country, devasting the cultures. The Aleman’s text is written at the very moment when the flood of silver coming from America reached its maximum, generating a strong polemic opposing two systems of thoughts that have coexisted and fought with one other concerning the role of gold and precious metals in a State’s prosperity: is the gold the “only sign of individual prosperity or of the greatness of a state? Or, quite to the contrary, it is the beginning of the dissolution of true wealth that consists only in the production of the good necessary for life?” From this point of view we can better realize the new contradiction opposing the production of agricultural and industrial goods to the accumulation of money ( by the means of the commerce or of the importation of precious metals) as the best way to create economic prosperity. As a matter of fact the interests of the cattlebreeders are linked to the trade’s and bankers’ activities. The text examined is supposed to praise the faithfull and true friend who give you all he posseses without asking anything back. It develops a commonplace, a topos, the praise of the Earth’s fecundity, the myth of th Golden Age, the early man’s life in a natural world when Nature gave its wealthes in a spontanous way (Lucretius, De natura rerum). The man only has to extend his hands and he collects the fruits. He does not need to work. This theme is loaded withe the condamnation of adventure, by land or by sea, for a commercial gain and of individual property. From it are banished effort, work and private wealth. Later, with the Georgics appears another formulation of the myth developping the idea that the Earth is fecund if it is well cultivated. This new formulation is linked to the notion of progress in agriculture owing to the beneficient intervention of the gods. I recall that the Georgics were written as a request of Maecenas who thus gave support to the Octavian’s plan to restaure in the Roman people the ancient virtues of the races, especiallly the taste for agriculture. This theme creates at the heart of the first one a space of conflict insofar as it translates the same notions (happiness and virtue) into condradictory figurative languages (effort vs idleness- private property vs colectivism). From the De natura rerum to the Georgics, the commonplace of the praise of the Earth changes from an atheistic discourse to an ethico-religious one in the service of a political project. The Aleman’s text operates in the hollow of this commonplace. The honey and he other wild fruits of the Latin descriptions have been left out; only remains the much more general form of “fruit”. Four products are added: metals, grass, cloth, water. From grass to cloth and to sheep is constructed a panegyric movement glorifying breeding. Let us observe what occurs with the water, traditionally linked to the life (“without water no man no other animal can sustain life”). Here, on the contrary, its chief merit is to permit trade and comminication among the most distant people of the world. This perspective on overseas adventures stressing on the importance of the international trade and the animal breeding unvails the point of view deconstructing the topos. The interdiction of commerce observable in all the Latin texts is being transgressed and occupies the entire textual space. The commonplace is being completely inverted. That’s why the concision of “dandonos telas” (giving us clothes) is remarkable: it erases all the process of material transformation. As a matter of fact neither the agriculture’s field nor the industrial’s one are invested in the text. This absence, this gap, reproduces obviously the lags existing in the social formation between distint historic times. Let us now investigate the writing itself. I observe, on a first reading, some phenomena of semantic and semiotic diffractions or deconstructions of set phrases: 1- the first one concerns “piedras de precio” (costly stones and not the precious stones corresponding to the ready-made expression, piedras preciosas). On the original formulation has thus been superimposed the concept of monetary exchange of valuable stones at the expenses of the metaphorical virtualities of objects that would be estimable in relation with other criteria emotional or aesthetic for example. 2- The ready-made expression “cubrir y abrigar”( to clothe and to shelter) is changed in ”cubrir y adornar” ( to clothe and to adorn). From a product of the first necessity, cloth becomes adornment, an index of social position, an object of covitousness as much as silver or god. 3- Another similar deconstruction appears in “fiel amigo y verdadero” (faithfull and true friend). The usual formulation is: “buen y verdadero amigo” (good and true friend) The spanish term used in this text is very interesting, insofar as the term fiel indicates for example the servant who does nor rob his master and is, too, the name of the people who checks officially the weights and the prices of the goods in the markets. 4-”Son contados” (litterally in english: counted). In the paradigmatic axis the more broadly used adjectives are raros, pocos, escasos ( rare, few…). In this paradigmatic axis the text selects as a matter of fact a term obviously connoted in a similar way just as the other examples we are mentioning. 5- But he more surprising deconstruction is offered with the expression : donde nos guarda en fiel depósito”( litteraly in english: where we are in a safe bank deposit) The english translator understand very well, he develops and explain that the spanish expression belongs to the bank’s vocabulary. 6 -We could add a series of set expressions belonging to the commercial law’s vocabulary ( in dotted lines in the text published here) like: “conforme a lo cual” (acording to) , “por escrito estan” ( set down in writing) The semiotic material of the discourse is thus seen as a representation of the world of transaction seen with its activities, its values, its rules of behaviors and juridicial organization. Tracing in this manner the textual markers of a dominant discourse it reveals the the ideological system responsible for the deconstruction of the topos.


The discourse invested in the text and operating as producer of the deconstruction is thus clearly brought into view: is a discourse of a given collective subject, the merchant and the merchant capitalism which implies a determined historic time. This discourse generates the microsemiotic we are stressing on and constituted by the deconstructions of the ready-made expressions we have analized. This discourse does imply a fundamental value, the exchange, that is the contrary of the gift. Meanwhile the writer claimed that he was giving us the model of the perfect friend giving all he posseses without asking nothing back, he is unveiling obviously a very contradictory world’s vision. That’s why I can define the major element of the genotext as a contradiction between to give and to exchange. This functioning is brought into view at least in my analysis in three levels or three phenotexts: the explicit theme ( the total generosity of the faithful friend vs the range of the verbal material used for describing it ), the myth and the discursive material in itself. A more detailed analysis brings into view more textual categories functioning in the same way: the religious problematic, for example, questioning the relations between the human merit ( an exchange between the human acts and the salvation) and the God’s Holy Goodness who grant us the salvation without checking if we merit it. Last but not least, I have to mention the confessed social commitment of Mateo Aleman who supports the reform of begging in Spain, pleading that we have to give alms only to the poor who can’t work. This new conception introduces the notion of merit and consequently of the exchange in a contradictory way with the catholic traditional conception that does not permit any limit to the charity. If we rely on a letter he wrote to a friend, Aleman composed his book in order to give his support to this social reform born in the protestant countrys of Europe, reform that brought about strong polemics in Spain. So now we can better understand that the historic material invested in the genotext corresponds to the major stakes of a society at a given moment of his history and observe that this historic material is the vector of the textual production’s dynamic process.