3Jane's Semiotic Straylight: Repeating Derrida's Rupture in Reading Neuromancer
The work also deals with the question of a ‘rupture,’ a ‘disruption’ or ‘event.’ Derrida’s event is not something new but a repetition of a process that’s already occurred. Levi-Strauss has already done much of the work When the structurality of structure begins to be thought it became necessary “to begin to think there was no center, that the center could not be thought in the form of a being present” (2) that the center was “a non-locus in which an infinite number of sign-substitutions came into play” (2). Language has replaced God or man or whatever was before it as the transcendental signified; but language is different in the sense that language is perpetually immersed in itself. It makes no sense to think of language as outside of the totality, such as the structuralist distinction between language and speech, or the sign and the signifier. Derrida writes “If one erases the radical difference between signifier and signified, it is the word signifier itself which ought to be abandoned as a metaphysical concept” (2). Rather than reducing the sign to thought, it is by holding open the opposition between “the sensible and the intelligible” (2) that “puts into question the entire system in which the preceding reduction functioned” (2). This line of thought occurs not just in philosophy or science but is “political, economic, technical and so forth” (3). The decentering of culture and metaphysics and its concepts occurred in the moment that the processes quit considering themselves in terms of reference. Nietzsche, Freud and Heidegger wagered a “multiplicity of destructive discourses” against metaphysics, yet they could not escape the terms they sought to oppose. The moment one proclaims one is somehow outside of or against metaphysics their thought has “already slipped into the form, the logic, and the implicit postulations of precisely what it seeks to contest” (3). One necessarily makes a metaphysical claim simply be invoking the idea at all. I’m uncertain at this point, but I believe Derrida is making the argument that metaphysics as an idea doesn’t exist at all unless it exists either including or because of the concept of the “sign.” If these great destroyers of metaphysics wish to destroy any notion of a transcendental signified than they ought to extend their refusal to the “concept and to the word sign itself-which is precisely what cannot be done” (2). It cannot be done because these destructive discourses rely on the concept of the sign to leverage their assaults.
Derrida traces a movement within Levi-Strauss’ work to show how the fact that “the language of the human sciences criticizes itself” (4) is a part of the nature of this event or rupture. The earlier discussion of bricolage shows the ways in which Levi-Strauss was more than willing to substitute one means of engaging criticism for another quite readily, and that his reliance on empiricism was one of relative efficacy not an absolute methodology. These changes in approach to ethnology are symptoms of the larger linguistic disruption. Derrida analyzes the ways in which the Levi-Strauss’ analysis of myths had to be mythomorphic themselves. The analysis of the reflexivity of mythic discourse seems indebted to Adorno and Horkheimers The Dialectic of Enlightenment, in which they demonstrate the ways in which rationality and myth are entangled. Enlightenment is mythopoetic just as much as myths embody the spirit of critique. It further seems to rely on the notion that thought must become adequate to its object. Perhaps Derrida is saying that thought will always already slip into the form or logic of its object, mythic analysis being a myth in itself, but also that the acknowledgment of this aspect should be affirmed. Gibson’s Rastas are both premodern and postmodern in a sense, they believe in a form of Christianity yet they reject all forms of systemization of human life and rigid identity categories. They believe in religion but not under its modern constraints. The mythic nature of Rasta beliefs and their fragmented sayings pay testament to this entanglement. They see their relationship to religion that informs their relationship to technology and objects partly as their saving grace.
I view this line as indicating that Derrida is giving me permission to play, “And what I am saying here about the sign can be extended to all the concepts and all the sentences of metaphysics, in particular to the discourse on “structure”” (3). When the Finn is showing Case around the Villa Straylight, its structure itself speaks to him, giving a sort of meta-commentary about its own coding. Finn explains that it was an essay of 3Jane’s about semiotics that she wrote when she was twelve but never totally finished. The Straylight,
Is a body grown in upon itself, a Gothic folly. Each space in Straylight is in some way secret, this endless series of chambers linked by passages, by stairwells vaulted like intestines, where the eye is trapped in narrow curves, carried past ornate screens, empty alcoves… (172)
The essay continues to say “The architects of Freeside went to great pains to conceal the fact that the interior of the spindle is arranged with the banal precision of furniture in a hotel room” (172). Freeside is centered structure that attempts to conceal that the center exists outside of itself, that it wants to hide how it has limited free-play via some grounded or guiding principle. Whereas,
In Straylight, the hull’s inner surface is overgrown with a desperate proliferation of structures, forms flowing, interlocking, rising toward a solid core of microcircuitry, our clan’s corporate heart, a cylinder of silicon wormholed with narrow maintenance tunnels, some no wider than a man’s hand. The bright crabs burrow there, the drones, alert for micromechanical decay or sabotage (172).