By Louise Schleiner
This booklet makes use of suggestions from A.-J. Greimas to investigate Spenser's Shepheardes Calendar as a discourse and as a definitive textual content for the Elizabethan "political unconscious." It unearths, besides an evidence of the libidinal and political functioning of the Calender, an "ideologeme" generally observable within the 1580s and 1590s, that of the captive/capturing lady.
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Extra resources for Cultural semiotics, Spenser, and the captive woman
Spenser is therefore a culturally definitive strong writer (Harold Bloom's term) or "stylist" in Kristeva's usage, one who through calling into play the mirror-stage resources of his own "semiotic function," within a libidinally energized relation to ideological group identities of his historical moment, was able to coalesce and propagate viable macro-units of meaning or "desiring machines" for a given society and time span. 9 By thus recognizing the functioning of particular influential texts or cultural productions in contributing to the emergence of new ideologemes that will function for a limited time span, we can begin to work on questions of transition between periods and sub-periodsa matter that has proved difficult or impossible to theorize within most approaches to historical periodization.
L. 28 Kristeva's view of semiotics mentioned above, namely that it is a definedly self-questioning set of projects that continuously critiques Page 25 its own procedures and marks some of their limitations, is her version of a perspective that each researcher in semiotics needs to have in some form, and that distinguishes current semiotics from structuralism of the 1950s and '60s. In other words, each researcher will have some concept of both the exterior boundaries of semioticsthe borders of what it, as the study of potentially all human and animal sign systems, may usefully treatand its interior distinctions between greater and lesser (and variant kinds of) reliability for different studies.
In short, I find much to agree with in new historicism as so far practiced, but I am looking for ways to be in part more systematic than it has been. Cultural semiotics can help literary and textual study to draw upon many concepts of ideologically engaged discourses such as Marxism and feminism; 19 that is, it can enable study of literary and other cultural production that does not neglect, but also does not merely isolate, its class-specific and gender-specific features. For study of textuality and culture, one needs more complex models of energized interaction among people and groups than the Benthamite pan-optical one favored in much new-historicist studycirculation of social energy around a magnetic center of monarch or courtalthough that model is of some value.
Cultural semiotics, Spenser, and the captive woman by Louise Schleiner