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Overview

floating signifier

A signifier without a specific signified (see sign). Also known as an ‘empty signifier’, it is a signifier that absorbs rather than emits meaning. For example, Fredric Jameson suggests ...

floating signifier

floating signifier   Quick reference

A Dictionary of Critical Theory (2 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2018

... signifier A signifier without a specific signified ( see sign ). Also known as an ‘empty signifier’, it is a signifier that absorbs rather than emits meaning. For example, Fredric Jameson suggests that the shark in the Jaws series of films is an empty signifier because it is susceptible to multiple and even contradictory interpretations, suggesting that it does not have a specific meaning itself, but functions primarily as a vehicle for absorbing meanings that viewers want to impose upon...

floating signifier

floating signifier  

A signifier without a specific signified (see sign). Also known as an ‘empty signifier’, it is a signifier that absorbs rather than emits meaning. For example, Fredric Jameson suggests that the shark ...
General Introduction

General Introduction   Reference library

John Barton and John Muddiman

The Oxford Bible Commentary

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2022
Subject:
Religion
Length:
4,980 words
Publisher:
Oxford University Press

...and what were the purposes of its authors. The term ‘historical’ is not used because such criticism is necessarily interested in reconstructing history, though sometimes it may be, but because biblical books are being studied as anchored in their own time, not as freely floating texts which we can read as though they were contemporary with us. It starts with the acknowledgement that the Bible is an ancient text. However much the questions with which it deals may be of perennial interest to human beings (and perhaps no one would study it so seriously if...

empty signifier

empty signifier ((semiotics))   Quick reference

A Dictionary of Media and Communication (3 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2020
Subject:
Media studies
Length:
102 words

...signifier ( floating signifier ) (semiotics) In poststructuralist theory, variously defined as a signifier with a vague, highly variable, unspecifiable, or non-existent signified . Such signifiers mean different things to different people: they may stand for many or even any signifieds; they may mean whatever their interpreters want them to mean. Those who posit the existence of such signifiers argue that there is a radical disconnection between signifier and signified. For a Saussurean semiotician no signifier can exist without a corresponding...

Uncle Tom

Uncle Tom ([Lit.])   Quick reference

A Dictionary of Reference and Allusion (3 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2010
Subject:
Language reference
Length:
117 words

...( 1852 ). > A black man whose behaviour to white people is regarded as submissively servile; anyone regarded as betraying his or her cultural or social allegiance ‘Mary Lou's being modest. She had them rolling in the aisles with her tour de force called “Black Studies as a Floating Signifier”.’ Amiss seized the claret. ‘What's the female equivalent of an Uncle Tom?’ Ruth Dudley Edwards Matricide at St Martha's 1994 I guess I'd worried it'd be full of stereotypes, the gay Uncle Toms we're used to seeing: sexless, neutered camp bits of fluff. barbelith.com ...

accents

accents   Reference library

The Oxford Companion to the Book

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2010
Subject:
History, Social sciences
Length:
204 words

...their written *letterform s. Types for *lower-case letters with accents are cast as a single unit, as are most *upper-case letters, but for the large upper-case sorts used for *display type it is sometimes necessary to use separately cast accents (sometimes called ‘floating accents ’), whose position must be carefully adjusted with leads. Sorts for letters with non-standard accents are sometimes known as ‘special sorts’ or ‘peculiars’. David...

Chomsky, Noam

Chomsky, Noam  

Dictionary of the Social Sciences

Reference type:
Subject Reference

...grammar thus seeks to move beyond the strongly culturalist position of structural linguistics (as developed by Ferdinand de Saussure , C. S. Peirce , Roman Jakobson , and others), which had demonstrated that language was a free-floating structure of signifiers that bore no intrinsic relation to the mental concepts signified. If the major thrust of this work was to reveal language as a relatively arbitrary structure of differentiated signs, Chomsky set out to scientifically describe the ground rules of that structure. Although many of his specific claims...

Bel Geddes, Norman

Bel Geddes, Norman (27 April 1893)   Reference library

The Grove Encyclopedia of Decorative Arts

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2006
Subject:
Art & Architecture
Length:
490 words

...He gained international attention for his stage set ( 1921 ; unexecuted) for Dante ’s Divine Comedy , which revolutionized theatrical and operatic productions; it was conceived as a single, massive set with lighting coming first from below, signifying Hades, then, as the play progressed, from high above, signifying Paradise. This led Max Reinhardt, the distinguished German producer, to commission him to design the settings for a production of The Miracle in New York ( 1923 ), and for this Bel Geddes transformed the entire interior of the Century Theater...

Gondhal

Gondhal (literally ‘commotion’)   Reference library

The Oxford Companion to Indian Theatre

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2011
Subject:
Performing arts, Theatre
Length:
600 words

...also contains narrative songs like the *Povadas celebrating tales of valour and heroism. The main Gondhali dances and sings to fixed conventions, in circular, spinning movements, performing mudras with his fingers. The huge skirt-like expanse of his garment, flowing and floating around him in waves, creates a beautiful visual impact. It can serve as a sari pallav (end), or the pleats gathered together to suggest a sleeping child. After the akhyan , the arti is sung and the load on the Yajamana's shoulders metaphorically lightened. Rajarambhau...

Bel Geddes, Norman

Bel Geddes, Norman (27 April 1893)   Reference library

The Grove Encyclopedia of American Art

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2011
Subject:
Art & Architecture
Length:
909 words

...He gained international attention for his stage set ( 1921 ; unexecuted) for Dante's Divine Comedy , which revolutionized theatrical and operatic productions; it was conceived as a single, massive set with lighting coming first from below, signifying Hades, and then, as the play progressed, from high above, signifying Paradise. This led Max Reinhardt, the distinguished German producer, to commission him to design the settings for a production of The Miracle in New York ( 1923 ), and for this Bel Geddes transformed the entire interior of the Century Theater...

Japanese-American Writing

Japanese-American Writing   Reference library

Gayle K. Fujita Sato

The Oxford Companion to Women's Writing in the United States

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2005
Subject:
Literature
Length:
1,858 words

...art. Among the compelling new Japanese-American voices are playwright Velina Hasu Houston ( Tea , 1987 ) and novelists Cynthia Kadohata ( The Floating World , 1989 ), Holly Uyemoto ( Rebel without a Clue , 1989 ), and Karen Tei Yamashita ( Through the Arc of the Rain Forest , 1990 ). Their multicultural settings and characters, and indirectly expressed or apparent lack of Japanese signifiers, emphasize a long-standing need for theoretical articulations of “Japanese” ethnicity, as Henry Louis Gates in Figures in Black ( 1987 ) and others...

Water

Water   Reference library

The Oxford Companion to the Bible

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2004
Subject:
Religion
Length:
866 words

...void ( Gen. 1.3–5 ). Next he restricted the waters, creating a bubble bounded by water below and the firmament above ( Gen. 1.6–8 ; cf. Amos 9.6 ; Pss. 104.3 , 5–9 ; 148.4 ; Job 26.8 ). The lower waters were restricted, and the flat earth emerged, surrounded by seas and floating upon the deep ( Gen. 1.9–10 ; cf. Pss. 24.2 ; 136.6 ). The dry land and the crystalline firmament were semipermeable, penetrated by springs and precipitation ( Gen. 7.11 ; 8.2 ; Deut. 8.7 ; Isa. 24.18 ; Mal. 3.10 ; Pss. 74.15 ; 104.10–13 ; Prov. 3.20 ). Water has four...

Hunt, William Holman

Hunt, William Holman (1827–1910)   Reference library

The Continuum Encyclopedia of British Philosophy

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2010
Subject:
Philosophy
Length:
850 words

...of spiritualism . His later paintings attempt to make the equal realities of the supernatural and natural realms palpable for the viewer. This is most evident in The Triumph of the Innocents in which the spiritual forms of the children murdered by Herod are seen floating around the figures of the holy family, who are on the flight into Egypt. The flesh of the spiritual children is painted as more fully palpable than that of the living figures, who are partly obscured by the gathering dusk. Such pictures are influenced by Hunt's appropriation of...

eroticism

eroticism   Reference library

The Oxford Companion to the Body

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2003
Subject:
Science and technology, Life Sciences
Length:
1,444 words

...‘straight’ sexual romps could not provide. Anything can become eroticized. Different parts of the body signify the erotic in different cultures: the example usually cited is that of the bound foot which exercised such a strong influence over the erotic preferences of the Chinese for many centuries. Fashion both follows and creates new areas of erotic interest. Clothes or habits which were associated with prostitution became themselves erotic signifiers — for example, make-up, bright lipstick. The actual allusion to sexual activity may be exceedingly...

Intention

Intention   Reference library

Mark Vareschi

The Oxford Encyclopedia of Literary Theory

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2022

... Knapp and Michaels, “Against Theory,” 728. 30. Knapp and Michaels, “Against Theory,” 728. 31. Peggy Kamuf, “Floating Authorship,” Diacritics: A Review of Contemporary Criticism 16, no. 4 (1986): 8. 32. Kamuf, “Floating Authorship,” 4. 33. Kamuf, “Floating Authorship,” 8. 34. Walter Benn Michaels, The Shape of the Signifier: 1967 to the End of History (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006), 58. 35. Michaels, Shape of the Signifier , 58, 59. 36. Anscombe, Intention , 84. 37. Paul de Man, Blindness and Insight: Essays in the Rhetoric of...

body decoration

body decoration   Reference library

The Oxford Companion to the Body

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2003
Subject:
Science and technology, Life Sciences
Length:
2,898 words

...This transforms material things into ‘pure’ signifiers which signify each other thus blurring and finally cancelling the difference between function and style — between, say, sport clothes and sporty clothes. There is a striving towards both the natural and the artificial. The ideal of ‘the natural’ dominates the body image more than ever — even if it may be cultivated into caricature-like ‘unnatural’ dimensions ( body building ) — while the reversible body marks are transformed into ‘floating signifiers’ overthrowing the whole distinction between natural...

Army Corps of Engineers, U.S.

Army Corps of Engineers, U.S.   Reference library

The Oxford Companion to American Military History

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2004

...as Robert E. Lee , George McClellan , and George Gordon Meade , the Corps of Engineers played important roles in mapping, road and bridge construction, fortifications , and siegecraft. The 2,170‐foot pontoon bridge built across the James River in June 1864 was the longest floating bridge erected before World War II. Army Engineers continued the construction and modernization of coastal fortifications in the second half of the nineteenth century on the Pacific Coast and on the overseas territories acquired in the Spanish‐American War . They also continued...

buttocks

buttocks   Reference library

The Oxford Companion to the Body

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2003
Subject:
Science and technology, Life Sciences
Length:
1,435 words

...site in the body. They are associated with the organs of reproduction, with the aperture of excretion, and with the mechanism of locomotion. Never do they represent themselves. Indeed the very problem of whether they are singular or plural is a sign of their nature as a floating signifier. Sander L. Gilman Gilman, S. L. (1985). Difference and pathology: stereotypes of sexuality, race, and madness . Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY. Hennig, J. L. (1995). The rear view: a brief and elegant history of bottoms through the ages , trans. M. Crosland and...

Lacan, Jacques

Lacan, Jacques (1901–81)   Quick reference

A Dictionary of Critical Theory (2 ed.)

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2018

...we have what we want, it doesn’t stop us from wanting more, so in theory we never really have what we want. Desire is in this sense impossible to fulfil. Lacan was a prodigious inventor of concepts, many of which have passed into the standard idiom of critical theory, e.g. floating signifier , imaginary , phallus , objet (petit) a , symbolic , and real . Perhaps his most famous statement was his rallying cry that we must return to Freud. He meant two things by this—firstly, and obviously, that we should read Freud’s texts (and not those of his followers),...

The Status of the Morpheme

The Status of the Morpheme   Reference library

Thomas Leu

The Oxford Encyclopedia of Morphology

Reference type:
Subject Reference
Current Version:
2021
Subject:
Linguistics, Language reference
Length:
9,804 words

...over many centuries with those languages. Developments in semiotics observed a loosening and broadening of the signifier-signified relation. From the Saussurean bifacial unit, the sign grew into a complex function of solidarity between hierarchically structured categories on two planes in glossematics. The semiological problem then radiated beyond linguistics in the narrow sense, such that Lévi-Strauss ( 1950 ) invoked a floating signifier , which is “like an algebraic symbol which has no immanent symbolic value” ( Chandler, 2007 , p. 79). And Derrida...

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