Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Book Informed Me of the Existence of "How to Read Donald Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic," so at least it wasn't a complete loss..

I'm desperately trudging through the last few books I can cram in before the exam. Sadly, my slow reading rate is really catching up to me at this point. Is it petty that I'm feeling smugly superior about the fact that the text I'm currently reading is very theoretically difficult, but rife with spelling errors?

Well, yes, it is, but at least I have the theoretical basis to justify my pettiness. See, according to Hodge and Kress' Social Semiotics, texts exert a certain level of modality that signals the appropriate affinity group that it is trying to appeal towards. Modality in this case means a claim towards truth and reality. A person can claim to have a high level of modality by using nothing but logical propositions and high level jargon (like, say, the term modality), but he or she is clearly aiming an affinity towards high-level discourse and logic-based arguments. Also, probably academics. On the other hand, a person could claim a high level of modality by appealing to simpler, language, the kind of down-to-earth tones that regular people understand--it's still a level of modality, but the audience you're appealing to is different.

Or to rephrase, modality = truthiness. Thanks, Stephen Colbert.

Now, spelling and grammar in general indicate that the person using it belongs to a certain social group--Kress and Hodge argue that not using double negatives sets up a social group every bit as much as using the term "fo'shizzle." So the text I'm reading is attempting, through its high grammar, to signal an affinity towards an academic group, and create a modality based on this affinity and high level. But because the spelling errors are so rampant, the affinity fails. Now, it could be argued they are deliberately introducing mispellings, which signals their commitment to an anti-affinity, an anti-domain outside the scholarly norm. (Like some guy who tries to write humorously about academic theory on his blog, thus creating a rapport with his readers while striking against the academic institution.) But this destroys their effective modality, which lends me to believe it's just an error on their part, and that thus the theory isn't as much of an all-encompassing truth as it pretends to be. Considering that the book is part of a long list of comp texts that all try to inject a high modality into my reading, to the point where I feel like I've been institutionally enveloped, being able to take the text to pieces feels like, in communist terms, taking apart the Master's house with his own tools. (Yes, I know that the communist point was that you can't actually do this. Didn't stop them from using hammers to break down a bunch of houses.)

Oh, and by the way? That text with all the spelling mistakes? It was Hodge and Kress' Social Semiotics.

I just blew your minds.

Note: I'm pretty sure very little of that made sense. So here's a panel of the week to clear everyone's palette. Actually, a cover, but never mind.

Oh, that Spider Jerusalem. What a card.

Later Days.

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