Wednesday, August 29, 2007
The Semiotics: Alex and Scott
This semester I'm teaching a course with my old friend Alex Caldiero called, after a line by Holderlin, "Language, most dangerous of possessions." The delicate song and dance that is teaching (lowest paid branch of the entertainment industry) becomes even more delicate when it's Alex and me dancing cheek to cheek. We've thought of several names for our act: Abbott and Caldiero, The 49'ers (both born in 1949), The Poet and the Madman, HUMISPHILCOMM (the departments sponsoring the class) -- but have settled on The Semiotics, neatly fracturing a noun meant to describe a scholarly discipline.
Don LaVange made a wonderful poster for the class, using a miniature painting of the Tower of Babel from a medieval manuscript.
With about 30 students able and eager to discuss 18th-century European theories of the origin of the language, a novel by Goethe in which the main character shoots himself because he can't escape the conventions of language, the language of religious mystics, the everpresent and omniscient DADA, Nazi use of language, obscenity, The Goalies Anxiety at the Penalty Kick, and so on, we're having great fun thinking about semiotics of all sorts. (Great fun with suicides? Nazis?)
The high point of the class will be a November performance by Alex featuring poetry in and about, for and forswearing, within and without language. Watch for a new flier and come hear and see and possibly smell a master of the semiotic arts.