Significance

What is the significance of this?

This question comes up much in the latest class I’m taking called Theory and Criticism in the 20th Century. The class is designed to teach us how to apply theoretical conceptual models to a particular subject of study or literary/artistic work. While I won’t get into what I gradually realized to be, that the class is also a brutal and insanely in-depth look into Socialist/Marxist thought, I would like to clarify the characteristics of the term “significance” since I found myself considering whether or not I fully understood the meaning of the word. In other words, I need to know the significance of significance. Looks like I’m already half-way there.

The pocket-sized Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines significance as:

1. something signified; meaning 2. suggestiveness 3. consequence; importance

The second word here, “signified,” is interesting because this word is described by linguist Ferdinand de Saussure as the second part of the whole of a unit in language, the first being the signifier. In other words, signifier = a word; signified = representation of said word.

“Consequence” is also interesting in that the idea of significance must imply of something critical.

So if I ask: What is the significance of the leaves in the gutter?

I have to reply that the significance lies in the fact that the leaves will plug the drain and cause an overflow onto the street.

In relation to Saussure, however, the connection between a signifier and a signified is arbitrary. If I say the word “honey,” does one think of a sweet, syrupy substance to put on their toast, or does one think of someone in their love life?

Therefore the significance of having leaves in the gutter is only relevant to my expression of interpretation; seeing leaves in the gutter for someone else, the significance may only be that fall has arrived.

These considerations give language much power, but aside from this, I also have to consider what is worthy of significance.

If mass media has drowned the authenticity of a once considered, humble world of living, thereby reducing the state of society to a roving populous of commodity shopping consumers, what do I find significant about this observation?

Significance: Bourgeoisie powers in place are seeking to control the economy while in turn, controlling the masses.

Maybe the barrage of Print-On-Demand and profusion of blog-space has reduced the pursuit of writing fine literature to a state of writing that employs shabby plot-devices for the hope of self-glorification.

Significance: The internet has watered down the art of writing by providing a medium for every single person on earth to write and attempt to get professionally published.

Again, significance can be many things for many people, but the idea is to point out what significance is: significance is what a situation, circumstance, concept, object, art, etc., means to me, or you.

Doesn’t everyone feel better now that I have a clearer understanding of significance?

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3 Responses to Significance

  1. noranoir says:

    Hm. I think significance is more something that stands out in your mind. It makes connection, changes perception. If someone asks you about an event and whether it was significant, if you reply no, it doesn’t mean, per se, that it has absolute lack of meaning, but rather that it does not stand out boldly. It’s not merely the interpretation or meaning, but the IMPORTANCE of the meaning.

  2. LK says:

    Very good, Nora.

    I got close to your POV when I mentioned the critical nature of significance with the third definition, consequence; I didn’t expound on that as much I wanted to simply contrive examples to help identify significance.

    You’d probably do well UC.

    For my next feat, I have to write about:

    Post-Structuralist Fredric Jameson applies Marxist thought to analyze the advent of Post-Modernism.

    You wouldn’t happen to be up for writing a paper for me?

  3. noranoir says:

    Oh, hell no. I’ve had a hellacious week at work. I’m up for some serious down time. My brain is goo. Lucky for you, your collegiate banter rouses it every once so often.

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