Signs, Objects, Mind, and Reading

“The brain does much more than just recollect. It inter-compares, it synthesizes, it analyzes, it generates abstractions.” — Carl Sagan

It interests me that one cannot think about thinking, without thinking about thinking about thinking. It gets more complex from there; metacognition, to me, becomes something like that weird effect you get when you open your bathroom’s medicine cabinet and point its mirror toward another reflective surface. This endless hall of mirrors springs up, a matryoshka-doll-mirror-continuum.

This came to mind when I was looking over Rosenblatt’s “Writing and Reading” and her discussion of how reading seems to work. She first mentions the French semiotician Ferdinand de Saussure and his assertion of the “signifier and signified” (Dyadic) relationship in communication; she then compares it to Charles Sanders Peirce and his own interpretation of language as a three-way connection, between object, signifier, and the mind (of the individual examining the concept).

What further interested me was the examination of the reading process later on in the article, examining the ‘transaction’ occurring between the writing and the reader, and comparing it to McVee et al.’s ‘Schema Theory Revisited’ wherein they talk about “mental structures … activated and organized during the reading process” (p.542), an idea developed in 70s/80s era schema theory.

The thing that stands out to me is that reading, as an attempt to create meaning from a text, is a metacognitive act in and of itself. It seems that it’s not about an interaction between mind, sign, and the object, but about mind <–> sign… or, since schema and language are things constructed in the mind from experience, then mind <–> mind, a back-and-forth transaction between one part of the reader’s mind and another that examines the part doing the reading.

Reading and the construction of meaning, then, isn’t so much about interacting with text as it is about interacting with oneself (or at least, oneself’s experience or point of view). Perhaps this is just another way of looking at Peirce’s Mind <–> Sign <–> Object interrelation, but I can’t help but think there’s something else here. Am I missing something? Has much examination been done regarding this idea? Since I myself haven’t had a great deal of exposure to semiotic-semantic studies, I can’t really say as yet…


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