PRINT February 1979

Semiology, Sensuousness and Ian Wallace

I FIND THAT I no longer believe in semiology. Saussure’s prophecy of a general science of signs sounds fine in the middle of his book on linguistics. The trouble is, he then went ahead and set up a structure to deal with language that has so prejudiced the undertaking that it could never really fit anything else. With regard to visual images, particularly, everything I have read under that rubric either has very little to do with semiology as Saussure conceived it, or else it falsifies the sense of films, photographs, pictures, drawings, statues, whatever, by treating them as a system of hieroglyphs.

The crux of the issue is that semiology is not equipped to cope with continuity. It conceives meaning as residing in distinct “signifiers” that are strung together while respecting their own boundaries. Ironically, Roland Barthes, in his much ballyhooed “Third Meaning” essay, finds himself able

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